You might expect the Café at the Frick to be strictly for society-matrons. I mean, they serve tea and scones in the afternoons.
But while it's priced for the capital-gains set, you won't find a lot of fussiness here. The nouveau riche may put on airs, but old money, like that represented by the Frick estate itself, doesn't need to show off.
So on a recent lunchtime visit, my wife and I found the tomato-and-garlic soup's roasted heartiness perfect for a winter day. A Canadian bacon sandwich was similarly flavorful, followed by a whiskey-laced chocolate confection whose kick even a Scaife would feel.
"We try to keep things not exactly simple, but focused," says executive chef Curtis Gamble. "We're trying to take 'comfort food' back about 30 or 40 years ago. We'll [serve] something like pork shoulder because we want to remind people what a good piece of braised meat is like."
Much of the café's produce is grown inside the estate's greenhouse, a few yards away, and Gamble too has stayed close to his roots. He's worked in local restaurants like Six Penn and Bruschetta, but says his real inspiration came from growing up in an Ohio farm town. His mother was "a big proponent of cooking from scratch," he says. "Looking back, I think she just did it because it was cheaper."
She might have blanched at prices at the Frick's café: Salads and sandwiches cost $11, entrees $13. Eating local was once a necessity, but today it's a luxury. Such are the contradictions of capitalism in the 21st century ... and what better place to contemplate them than here, on an estate spawned by the capitalists of the 19th?
Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup
Prep time 30 minutes. Makes 2 quarts.
1 Spanish onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tbl. honey
4 oz. cream sherry
3 cups of canned plum tomato
1 head of garlic, roasted
1 pint heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Caramelize onions over medium heat until a light golden brown. Add garlic and sauté briefly. Add honey and sherry and reduce until almost dry. Add canned tomatos, roasted garlic, heavy cream and simmer for roughly 20 minutes. Puree with immersion blender until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze
412-371-0600, ext. 522