Comfort food shines on The Commoner's new fall menu | Food Events | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Comfort food shines on The Commoner's new fall menu 

Executive chef Brian Barcus takes on comfort food with confidence to produce a uniquely delicious, enticing fall menu.

click to enlarge The Commoner Burger - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
  • The Commoner Burger

Restaurants usually mark seasonal changes with a new menu. In fall, salads turn to soups, root vegetables anchor main dishes, and cinnamon starts to reappear on dessert menus. For The Commoner at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, fall marks a different change: a new executive chef.

Brian Barcus was named executive chef at the beginning of October. Barcus, part of the Hotel Monaco team since 2015, debuted with The Commoner’s 2018 Fall Menu.

The menu features Barcus’ love for comfort foods, “traditional fare with a twist.” City Paper had a chance to taste the chef’s spin on timeless classics, paired with selections from the fall cocktail menu.

Potato dauphinoise and a milk and honey pork belly started things off at the tasting. The dauphinoise layered sweet potatoes, with caramelized onions and a gorgonzola foam, was finished with a baked cheese crisp. The top was slightly caramelized, the foam light and sharp. Each flavor flowed well to the next. The pork belly was stunning. It sat in the center of pale Vermont cheddar grits, the honey glaze dripping down the sides.

click to enlarge Potato dauphinoise - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
  • Potato dauphinoise

The Commoner burger, the pork chop, and seared scallops followed the first plates. The burger is one of the city’s best. It’s placed on a housemade sweet potato brioche, balanced with crispy onions, gouda, and a horseradish cream. It isn’t crazy, it’s simple. Simply fantastic.

click to enlarge Pork belly - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
  • Pork belly

Barcus pairs the pork chop with a fennel and orange salad and drop dumpling. Drop dumplings are an unusual addition to pork. They worked. Barcus adds Asian flavors while still keeping the feel of a pork chop.

Scallops can be easily overpowered. Here, Barcus pairs the seared scallops with mellow ingredients: parsnip, cranberry, barley, and beech mushrooms. The scallops stayed in the spotlight with mild supporting flavors that melt together.

Though curated to pair with the meal, the cocktail menu could have stood on its own. 

click to enlarge Livin' La Beeta Loca - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
  • Livin' La Beeta Loca
The first offering, the Turkducken, was made with a duck fat-washed Wild Turkey Whiskey. It was smooth and surprisingly light, with every element in harmony. Next, the Livin' La Beeta Loca maintained the earthy, bitter flavor of a ripe beet. The fall drinks were capped with a citra-hopped IPA and a funky, gose-like, orange pinot grigio.

click to enlarge Turkducken - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
  • CP Photo: Maggie Weaver
  • Turkducken

Barcus takes recognizable dishes and throws in unexpected flavors, still holding to the familiar aspects of each classic. He keeps your taste buds guessing, with each bite exposing a new, unexpected, satisfying aspect of the dish. Barcus takes on comfort food with confidence to produce a uniquely delicious, enticing fall menu.

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