Sunday, January 30, 2011

Where we eat: Bricco painted with Alcoholic Faith Mission and U.S. Royalty

Here I was with punk slogans and pictures all across my jacket sitting in the same restaurant as stuffy lawyers, businessman and the governor spending his last few days in office. Needless to say, Bricco was an experience I don't get to enjoy too often. It is an upscale restaurant in downtown Harrisburg, PA. The restaurant is a collaboration between the Olewine School of Culinary Arts at Harrisburg Area Community College and the Harrisburg Hotel Corporation (which manages the Harrisburg Hilton).

Upon entrance, we were met by a hostess who offered to check our coats. I, having worn my the last six days straight, had become attached and kept mine but J-Fur and her mom and sister all checked theirs. We were seated in the dining room, right in front of the 100+ bottles of wine and in the midst of some colorful paintings. Our waitress took our drink orders. I requested water and was surprised when she said "Would you like our Natura water, either sparkling or not, or would you prefer plan tap water?" It seems that Bricco has their purification on site and they call that water Natura water. It is served in a glass bottle that is reusable. The menu says that it is a way to "promote Earth friendly ideas." So is tap water but I guess upscale needs to have an alternative for all those people that look down their noses at water out of a tap.

Our waitress brought out some bread and olive tapenade to munch on while we ordered. The tapenade combined garlic with olives and capers. A little salty for my taste but better than most tapenades I've had in the past:

Bricco has a number of small cold plates that you can start with called Sputini Freddi and J-Fur's mom and I both decided to get one. She picked a beet salad with local goat cheese and pistachios and I ordered the roasted corn, mushrooms and walnuts. A selection of two of these were six dollars. They were small mounds, beautifully arranged on a rectangle plate, and came with toasted bread. While both Freddi's were good, I liked the corn better. It was not overloaded with sauce or oil, just enough to bring out the flavor of the fresh corn and mushrooms. I plan to make my own version when corn comes back in season:
It came time to order and we all took different approaches. J-Fur's sister went with "Chesapeake Sliders" (crab cakes with lettuce, tomato and remoulade), her mom a Kennet Square Stone Oven Pizza (burrata, carmelized onion and truffle oil), J-Fur a "Soma" Margherita Pizza (mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) and I ordered Fungi Trifolati (stewed local mushrooms with Anson Mills polenta) and Bricco "French Fries" with truffle aioli:
Kennet Square Pizza
Bricco Fries
Fungi Trifolati

I'm not a big fan of brick oven pizza. I prefer pizzas with a thick crust that is not very crisp. I do appreciate the brick oven pizza places usually try different toppings and combinations that you won't find at your typical pizza place. Bricco's pizza was no exception. I ate a slice of J-Fur's and wasn't too impressed (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil will do that to me as well). The Kennet Square Pizza was much better because it had the carmelized onion and truffle oil combo which was top notch. The crust wasn't too crisp but still wasn't my thing. The Fungi Trifolati looked very liquidy when it came out, like a bunch of oil rose to the top, but surprisingly it didn't taste that way. What stood out was the fresh mushrooms that topped the dish. These were hundreds of times better than any I had ever eaten before. It made me want to take up foraging (which I've contemplated since reading Omnivore's Dilemma).

But as good as the polenta and mushrooms were it was the fries that left the best impression. They came out in a metal pedestal cup lined by newspaper print paper. Perfectly golden and inviting, the fries had a beautiful blend of crisp and soft and were neither too greasy or salty. Hands down, they were the best fries I ate all last year. The truffle aioli made me forget ketchup for one hour (which doesn't ever happen with aioli).

The prices, especially for the pizzas, might seem a bit expensive but you probably won't finish everything you order and the taste makes the extra dollars worth it. At the very least, come here and order some fries, look at the paintings and then leave without putting too much of a strain on your wallet.

Bricco is located at 31 South Third Street in Harrisburg, PA.
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Bricco on Urbanspoon

Bricco signified a return to the capital of my home state. That return, coupled with the wall of wine, remind me of Denmark's Alcoholic Faith Mission (posted about here and interviewed here). The band have announced a new EP coming our way in March. To tide everyone over, they released one of the tracks, "Running with Insanity," for free download.

Out this week is the debut album for U.S. Royalty, Mirrors. One of the songs on the album is "Equestrian" a folksy pop traipse through the mountains with some "Ohs" and guitar solos thrown in. I've seen them compared to Local Natives and Fleet Foxes but I would disagree (mainly because I don't really like either of them and I do like U.S. Royalty).

Hopefully this will quell the tumblr community.