Charcuterie Face-Off, Round 2: Braddock’s Pittsburgh Brasserie

Achievement: #21. Charcuterie Face-Off

This year we’re on the hunt for the best cheese and charcuterie plates Pittsburgh has to offer. We started last month with Vallozzi’s downtown, and this month, we’ve decided to stay in the same area to try another great spot: Braddock’s Pittsburgh Brasserie.

Charcuterie @ Braddock's
Located in the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, Braddock’s has a really strong menu, particularly when it comes to the meats.

Charcuterie @ Braddock's
Oh yeah, and they do some terrific spins on pierogi as well! Since we were already at Braddock’s for the charcuterie, we felt it would be improper to pass on a chance to try their pierogi of the month, which is filled with ricotta and hot sausage, then deep fried and dressed with bell pepper marinara and Parmesan cheese on top. It was totally awesome — almost like a wonton-ravioli hybrid — so be sure to try it out this coming week, before the featured pierogi changes!

Charcuterie @ Braddock's
Now, for the main event. We’ve distilled our charcuterie judging down to five key criteria, worth 1 point each:

1) Presentation — how does the board look, aesthetically speaking?
2) Taste Bud Balance — how distinctly, and how evenly, do we get hits on each of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami?
3) Dipping Options — what jellies, purees, or sauces appear on the boards?
4) Variety — what’s the breadth of the selection? Are there cheeses from multiple countries, made in multiple styles, or from multiple animals?
5) Personality — what makes a charcuterie board from this place unique?

Charcuterie @ Braddock's
We requested full-portion orders of both the cheese and the charcuterie; while we waited, we enjoyed delicious bread and butter.

Charcuterie @ Braddock's
Quite rapidly, out came a truly huge, brim-filled butcher board of cheese, featuring Edel bleu, sharp cheddar, Baden Swiss, and Felsa Yehr, along with Granny Smith apple slices, a berry compote, crostini, and nuts tossed in butter, sugar, and Cajun spices…

Charcuterie @ Braddock's
…and then came our cured meats! On the board we’ve got Penn Ave salami, Dirty Martini pork, Mole beef pork, duck pâté, and a tasty terrine, along with more bread, pickled veggies, a caraway mustard, and frigging bacon caramel.

With all these materials, we had a lot of fun assembling various combinations of flavors. The Edel bleu was hard but creamy, and paired well with both berry compote and with the pâté. The sharp cheddar is a cheese that most people already know; we recommend it with the caraway mustard or with the Granny Smith apples. The Baden Swiss was creamy and dense, and it was best when paired with a sweet and savory flavor, such as the caramel bacon, the mole beef pork, or the butter-sugar-Cajun nuts. The fun surprise of the bunch was the Felsa Yehr, which we’d never heard of, let alone tasted. It reminded us of Gouda in texture and flavor; its smokiness was great with the terrine or the caramel bacon (which, incidentally, was so good that we just scooped out whatever was left with bread and ate it that way).

So, now that we’ve given you the overview, how’d Braddock’s score?

1) Presentation: 0.8 out of 1.0. With so much on the board, things were a little cluttered, particularly with the cheeses.
2) Taste Bud Balance: they get the full point here. They had versatile cheeses that felt like a perfect fit with multiple parts of both boards, and no taste felt over- or under-represented.
3) Dipping Options: 0.9 out of 1.0. The caramel bacon was tremendous, and the berry compote was quite welcome; the only thing we didn’t absolutely love was the caraway mustard, which had a little too much rye flavor and not enough vinegar tang for us.
4) Variety: another full point! We’ve got an international cheese board with multiple animal sources, and multiple animals on the charcuterie board. Lots going on!
5) Personality: 0.9 out of 1.0. We enjoyed the touch of using wooden butcher boards and the fun addition of the sweet and spicy nuts on the cheese board.

Final score for Braddock’s: 4.6 out of 5. Another definite ‘recommend’!

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Filed under #21, #21-15, charcuterie, cheese, downtown, pierogies, pittsburgh, wine

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