Beer Emporium offers brews, 'American fusion' fare
The Sharp Edge Beer Emporium in East Liberty has a prolific, award-winning brew selection, and the suds spill over into many of the restaurant's menu items.
Beer sauces such as Lindeman's Framboise, for instance, top several desserts, including cheesecake and Belgian waffles. Executive chef Mindy Heizler's chosen dish for "Cooking Class," roasted pork tenderloin, has beer in the sauce. Sauces for several other dishes have the same zing.
A vast selection of domestic and international beers -- including some from Belgium -- is a major draw for the Beer Emporium, says owner Jeffrey Walewski, but he also credits a unique menu of "multicultural and down-home cooking."
The fare is "American fusion's comfort food ... a cultural, eclectic mix of stuff," Walewski says. He owns Crafton-based Sharp Edge Beers, which operates the Beer Emporium and Creekhouse, a sister restaurant in Crafton. "The menu runs the gamut of nationalities."
Popular items at the Beer Emporium, in business for 14 years, include London broil, buffalo meatloaf and ribs, and a "Belgian burger" with ground lamb and ground beef. Other unusual but best-selling "hybrid" sandwiches include an abbey burger, beef mixed with veal; a buffalo burger, buffalo and pork; and an ostrich burger, a blend of ostrich meat and beef.
Heizler, 26, is in charge of the menus at the Beer Emporium and Creekhouse; she divides her time between the two, presiding over two other chefs at each location since August 2002. The Carnegie resident formerly worked at the Valhalla Microbrewery & Restaurant in the Strip District, which closed in September and is set to re-open next year under new management, and at the former Sweetwater Flatbread in Sewickley.
At the Beer Emporium, Heizler is working in more luxurious and spacious quarters -- the management recently finished an $800,000 makeover. The renovation included installing a new kitchen under Heizler's supervision, doubling the bar, creating a 500-square-foot game room and adding two rooms that increased the restaurant's seating capacity from 70 to 148 and doubled its size from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.
Heizler, who grew up in South Baldwin and started at the Beer Emporium two years ago as a kitchen manager, is like many chefs: She always had a passion for food and cooking but didn't make the connection between the hobby and a restaurant vocation until she got her first job working at a country club snack bar when she was a teenager.
"Once I started cooking, I knew I had to do it for a living," says Heizler, a 1995 graduate of the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, Pittsburgh. "If you're going to work every day of your life, you might as well enjoy it."
Executive chef Mindy Heizler is an enthusiastic fan of pork tenderloin, which costs about half as much as beef tenderloin at an average of $6 to $7 per pound. Contrary to longtime assumptions, cooks need not cook pork until well-done and tough, she says. Cooking the meat to medium or medium-well doneness is safe and, as in this recipe, the meat tastes better and is more tender.
Heizler loves to flavor this recipe's sauce with Bornem XX Belgian Bier because of its dark brown consistency and sweet and mildly spicy taste. If you can't find this beer, available at both the Beer Emporium and Creekhouse, try any Belgian double bier or Newcastle Brown, or use brandy or Cognac.
Serve the pork with mashed potatoes and your favorite vegetable.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin
with Portobello Mushroom Sauce
- 1 whole pork tenderloin, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, cleaned and trimmed
- Salt and black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 2 portobello mushroom caps, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 1/2 cup Bornem XX Belgian Bier, or 1/4 cup brandy or Cognac
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 cup diced ripe tomato
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Use a boning knife to remove all fat and silver skin from the pork tenderloin (although if the meat was purchased marinated, it should be ready to go). Season the meat with salt and pepper (unless it is marinated).
Place a 10-inch ovenproof saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat and heat it almost to smoking. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and let it heat. Place the pork tenderloin in the pan to sear, using tongs to evenly brown it on all sides, turning it 4 times and holding the narrow sides of the meat on the pan's surface for a few seconds between turns.
When the meat has a nice crust (this should take no more than 4 minutes), place the pan in the oven to finish cooking, uncovered. Flip the tenderloin over periodically while roasting. The pork is finished when it is firm to the touch at the thickest sections, is a pale pink in the center and has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees. When the meat is done, remove it, place it on a cutting board and let it rest while you make the sauce.
Take the saute pan in which the pork cooked and return it to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the cubed butter and swirl it to melt. Once it is melted and bubbly, add the garlic and shallot and cook until tender, using a wooden spoon to help deglaze the pan.
Add the mushrooms all at once and reduce the heat to medium. Let the mushrooms sit for a little while and begin to soften. Then gently toss them so they cook evenly, being careful not to smash them.
Once the mushrooms are about half-cooked, add the beer or brandy and deglaze again. The liquid will finish cooking the mushrooms, and you should start to see the beginnings of a good sauce.
Bring the heat up until the liquid simmers, and let the mixture begin to reduce. Add the soy sauce, tomato, parsley and heavy cream, if desired. Stir well to combine and bring back to a simmer.
Reduce again to a nice bubbly sauce consistency (about 7 to 8 minutes if using beer, and 3 to 4 minutes for brandy), then lower the heat to medium and whisk or stir in the softened butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper.
To serve, pour the mushroom sauce onto the bottom of a plate or platter. Slice the roasted pork tenderloin into 1/4-inch thick slices. Fan the slices on top of the sauce in an arch pattern. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Makes 2 servings.
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