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Bohemian rhapsody: Bistro pays tribute to France, from the pate to the padlocks

Bohem Bohemian Bistro

Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. for lunch Mondays-Fridays; 5-10 p.m. for dinner Mondays-Thursdays; 5-11 p.m. for dinner Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Sundays.

Cuisine: European comfort food

Notes: Full bar. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations not necessary. High chairs, booster seats and children's portions available. Live entertainment on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. DJ '80s parties on Wednesdays in August.

Location: 530 Northpointe Circle, Seven Fields

Details: 724-741-6015

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Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 7:39 p.m.
 

The diner who strolls into Bohem Bohemian Bistro is suddenly transported to an Old World locale.

Rustic beams, stone walls and banquettes upholstered in burlap feed sacks invoke a French farmhouse. The bar stools are rustic wood and wrought iron. Empty wine bottles of clear, green and blue glass dangle from an iron ceiling light. Wine barrel staves encircle other lights.

The doors of the restrooms are papered in yellowed old pages of Victor Hugo's classic novel, “Les Miserables.”

One can imagine the beret-capped man sipping wine in a wall portrait taking a seat at the next table.

The courtyard, which is open for dining in favorable weather, is also European-inspired, with a trickling fountain, climbing vines and potted hibiscus trees.

“We're trying to create a French-influenced European bistro,” says Markay Harlan, who owns Bohem. “Our motto is ‘eat, drink and share.' Strangers get so into the concept, they start ordering plates” and sharing them with diners at the next table.

Harlan spent a year living in Europe and was fascinated by the Old World lifestyle.

“I fell in love with the countryside bistros … and appreciated the relaxed pace,” she says.

Europe influenced her palate, choice of wines and fondness for enjoying food in a leisurely fashion, all of which she combines in her latest restaurant venture.

She named Bohem Bohemian Bistro after Bohemianism, a term for unconventional lifestyles that originated in 19th-century France. There, artists began living in lower-rent gypsy neighborhoods. Gypsies were called Bohemians because they migrated to the Bohemian region of what is now the Czech Republic, then to other parts of western Europe.

Harlan has owned the adjacent Siba restaurant since 2004, where “we have a very valued and loyal clientele,” she says. The Bohem space formerly served as a banquet facility for Siba, but Harlan wanted to offer a restaurant experience that was more casual. She says the aim at Bohem is to keep prices low. No entrees are higher than $19.50, though bottles of wine can range up to $50.

The European comfort foods include Bone Marrow with pea shoots, capers, roasted grape tomatoes and white truffle vinaigrette for $13; and Escargot in roasted garlic butter and herbed crumbs for $12.50. One appetizer that is particularly popular is the Crispy Brussels Sprouts board for $9.50. The sprouts are prepared with Italian pancetta, parmesan cheese and balsamic glaze. Even diners who have never liked Brussels sprouts rave about them, Harlan says.

Diners who want a quick bite can order various spreads, including chicken liver pate or roasted red pepper, olive and caper tapenade. Spreads are $7 each. Jars of spreads are available to go for an additional $5.

“Too Many To Count” Onion Soup is $8 and includes 14 types of onions.

Tartines, crepes and flatbreads range from $13 to $15.50. A pastry chef prepares desserts, all at $6, such as Nutella Crepe and Chocolate Whiskey Cake With Chantilly Cream.

Crispy Skin Duck Confit, with Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Yam Lyonnaise and Cherry Gastrique is a bistro classic at $19. The Bohem Burger comes on brioche and is served with herbed cheese, argula and jardinière, for $15. At $18, Boeuf Bourguignon, a mainstay of French cuisine, is prepared with carrots, pancetta, mushrooms, pearl onions and red-skin potatoes.

The bistro offers an extensive wine list, with “friendly” wines at $30 a bottle; “intriguing” wines for $40 and “alluring” wines for $50 each.

The restaurant staff encourages the French connection not only with many menu items, but also by selling “Locked in Love” vintage locks. For a donation to the nonprofit Pittsburgh Project, couples can inscribe the locks with their names, then lock them on a wall grille at the restaurant and deposit the keys into a nearby empty wine bottle. The locks are an homage to the Pont des Arts and Pont de L'Archeveche bridges in Paris, where romancing couples fasten the locks to the bridges, then toss the keys into the Seine.

Harlan might have a romantic bent in encouraging the “Locked in Love” custom, but she was practical in her choice of experienced staff for Bohem. The general manager is Lori DiMaria, 47, of Ross, who was a director of operations for casinos in Oklahoma.

Executive chef Scott DeLuca, 32, of Wilkins, was formerly executive chef at Truth Lounge on the South Side. At Bohem, he says he has “the freedom here to be creative. There, we had more small plates. Here, we're trying to have everyone share.”

He made the switch in large part because the late hours at Truth Lounge were wearing on this young father, a West Virginia native. DeLuca trained at the former Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, after graduating from Fairmont State University with a degree in criminal justice.

DeLuca now has access to homegrown heirloom tomatoes and herbs from a nearby garden in the office complex off Route 228 in Seven Fields.

Harlan, 62, of Franklin Park, grew up in Ross. She started her college career as an art and geology major, later graduating with a law degree. She lived in Europe and Tulsa, later returning to the Pittsburgh area.

“We're boomerang 'Burghers,” she says of herself and her husband, pediatrician Dr. Howard K. Scott, who has offices in a nearby building.

Harlan developed four office buildings in the Seven Fields area “and wound up a restaurateur.” She says she enjoys the artistic sides of cuisine, the plating and presentation. As a result, many dishes are served on boards. And the Pommes Frites, which cost $6, are fried with flavorful truffle oil and served in folded-over paper bags with parmesan cheese and taste-popping gorgonzola aioli dip.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

Crispy Skin Duck Confit

The French love duck, and little wonder. Fat carries plenty of flavor, and duck has more fat than chicken. Properly cooked, duck will release any oils it has absorbed, but will stay moist.

“Confit,” which comes from the French word for “preserved,” means food preserved by immersing in oil or sugar water. Duck confit is duck cooked in oil and duck fat and can be found all over France but is a specialty of Gascony, in the southwestern area of the country.

Scott DeLuca, executive chef at French-inspired Bohem Bohemian Bistro in Seven Fields, adds a cherry gastrique to give subtle sweetness to the tender, savory dish, made even more flavorful by crisping the skin. DeLuca rounds out the entree with Sauteed Brussels Sprouts and Yam Lyonnaise.

2 cups diced carrots

2 cups diced celery

4 cups diced onion

3 bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

6 (8-ounce) duck leg and thigh sections

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

6 slices of orange

4 cups rendered duck fat

4 cups olive oil or vegetable oil blend

Cherry Gastrique (see recipe)

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts (see recipe)

Lyonnaise Yams (see recipe)

Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Place the carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, cinnamon and peppercorns in a 4-inch-deep aluminum half hotel pan, which can be found at your local grocery store. Place the duck on top of the mixture, skin side up; season the duck with the thyme sprigs and place orange slices on top of that.

Then submerge the duck completely in the duck fat and olive o il . Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the heated oven. Cook at 250 degrees for at least 3½ hours.

After the duck is finished cooking,�carefully remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for about 30 minutes before attempting to handle the duck. Remember that when oil heats, it expands, and so the oil might have risen to a higher level in the pan.

After allowing the oil to cool slightly, use a set of tongs to transfer the duck out of the oil onto a sheet pan. Either cool the duck completely in the refrigerator or place the duck back into the oven to crisp the skin. This process will take approximately 10 minutes in a 450-degree convection oven but closer to 15 or 20 minutes in a conventional oven.

To plate, place Lyonnaise Yams on the dish, then top with the duck. Serve with Sauteed Brussels Sprouts and drizzle with Cherry Gastrique.

Makes 6 servings.

Cherry Gastrique

1 cup cherry juice from canned dark sweet cherries

1 cup red wine

½ cup brown sugar

Place all ingredients into a small sauce pot and place over a low flame. Allow the liquid to reduce for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Be careful to keep the flame low so as not to burn the liquid. If it cooks for too long, it will burn very easily. After the liquid has reduced to the right consistency, enough to coat the back of a spoon, it is good to go. You can keep it warm, or, if you allow it to cool, heat it right before you use it.

Lyonnaise Yams

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup diced or sliced red onion

3 cups quartered or large diced yams, blanched and shocked (partially cooked and cooled in an ice bath)

2 tablespoons white wine

2 tablespoons roasted garlic butter (Should be available at local grocery stores.)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the red onions. Saute the red onions until they begin to caramelize slightly, then add the yams. Saute both ingredients for about 3 minutes or until the yams begin to gain a little bit of color. Deglaze the pan with white wine ; add in roasted garlic butter; season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

8 ounces cleaned Brussels sprouts

Water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine

1 tablespoon roasted garlic butter, optional

To clean the Brussels sprouts, trim the bottom ends of the sprout and peel a couple of leaves off the sprout to remove any dirt. Split the Brussels sprouts down the center, from top to bottom. More of the leaves might fall off, which is perfectly fine; reserve those for plate decoration.

Rinse the sprouts extremely well in cold water to remove any remaining dirt. Bring a medium saucepot of water to a boil, and add a few pinches of salt to season the water. When the water is boiling, add the Brussels sprouts and allow to cook until tender but still maintaining that bright green color. Carefully strain into a colander and transfer the hot sprouts to an ice bath. Allow the sprouts to sit in the water only long enough to cool them completely. If you allow them to sit too long, they begin to absorb some of the water and become waterlogged.

After they have cooled completely, remove them from the ice bath and place them on some paper towels, split side down, to allow any water to drain and be absorbed by the towel. This is also a preparation for sauteing the sprouts, as hot oil and water do not mix.

After the sprouts have dried, heat the oil in a saute pan. When the oil is hot, remove the pan from the flame and add the sprou ts. (You are removing the pan from the flame just in case there is any excess water in the sprouts that causes oil to splatter and create a flare-up.) After any water has left the sprouts, place the pan back on the flame, saute for about 1 minute, then deglaze with white wine and season with the salt and pepper.

Add roasted garlic butter to these, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

 

 
 


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