When I was a little girl and we drove past the Frick Mansion in the family car, I announced that I was going to live in that house when I grew up. I was more than a little daunted when my usually encouraging parents said, "No you won't." They were right.
This Fifth Avenue victorian dinosaur of a house was then owned by Helen Clay Frick, the devoted spinster daughter of the late Henry Clay Frick. (you know-the guy who called out the Pinkertons to beat the workers to death during the Homestead Strike, while Andrew Carnegie was out of the country avoiding blame) When she died, Ms. Frick left the house and grounds and wonderful out buildings for a museum in honor of Dad. The museum includes the house and all its contents.
Thanks to her obsessive preservation of everything to do with her family, the house is a fascinating and detailed permanent life size exhibit of exactly how an upper class victorian/edwardian family lived in Pittsburgh. The grounds are beautiful, and there is a wonderful art museum. The art museum has shows of just the right size, so that you can see the whole thing, without getting exhausted and glazed over.
My friend D. and I went for a second look at the super exhibit of Margaret Bourke White photos scheduled to close next weekend, and had lunch at the Cafe at the Frick. This pretty place is in a separate out building with lots of windows, a patio with tables and an arts and crafts era look. They do lunches and teas. The food is very nice, but also quite expensive for what it is. Lucky for me, D. had a coupon for a substantial discount, part of his bonus for being a member of the museum. Needless to say, I neglected to bring my camera, so could not take pictures of my food, which was very pretty, as well as tasty. Virtually all of the tables are window tables, so you sit looking at the patio and garden.
Our server brought some really nice breads, which they make on the premises, with an olive oil and vinegar thingy to eat while contemplating our choices. One bread had sunflower seeds on the top, and was especially tasty. I picked a barbequed Duck Sandwich, and D. had the Veal Saltimbocca Burger, but we agreed from the start that we'd have half of each, since we had both been undecided as to which of the two we wanted.
They were both really good. In the Saltimbocca burger, the proscuitto was apparently ground in with the veal, since you couldn't see it, but the taste was there. It had cherry-sage cheese, tomato and frisee topping, and was served on an onion bun, with a very nominal amount of excellent green-bean/ potato salad. The sandwich itself was huge and delicious.
Also huge and delicious was the Duck sandwich, served on a "panna bella" roll. This crisp crusted round roll was so good that I inquired after it, and learned that unlike the other breads, it was made at a place called "Meditteraineo" or something to that effect, not in house. Hence, I am determined to find it and get me some. The nicely sauced barbequed duck was topped with a jicama-chipotle slaw, and served with "plainain chips." I am not real familiar with plantains, but I know this wasn't a chip; it looked like half a carmelized banana. Because of my lack of familiarity with this fruit, I don't know what the texture is supposed to be like. If it was a banana, I would have thought that it was pretty, uhm, firm. I wasn't really crazy about that touch. Small matter, though. the sandwich itself was yummy and substantial too.
I had some truly delicious Russian Caravan tea, served in a pretty china cup, with a teapot, loose tea, strainer and sugar lumps. They blend their own and it is well worth drinking several cups. You can get more hot water, and go to town.
Someone of note once said that if you order roast chicken or creme brulee, and a restaurant does it well, chances are that it is a reliable place to eat. I am always quoting this chestnut to justify ordering these items, both of which are favorites of mine. The Cafe at the Frick passed this test with flying colors. D and I shared a Green Tea Creme Brulee. I consider myself something of an expert (having sampled so many), and this was absolutely one of the very best. It was served in a shallow white porcelain mini tart pan, which allowed for a good bit of carmelized surface. It was creamy, it was fragrant, and the caramel crust was thin and shattery and perfect.
I have never experienced their afternoon tea service, but I'd love to, as their tea and pastry and sandwiches are terrific, and that's basically what there is, or you can get artisanal cheese platters, which sound pretty good, too. Anyway, the whole afternoon was a treat. The Margaret Bourke White exhibit is amazing.