Down time can sometimes be hard to find. When everyone in the house is self-employed and it means you don’t get paid if you don’t get the products out, taking time off can be hard to justify. It’s nice because you get to spend time doing the thing that you love to do, but there can be a lot of pressure to be productive, and taking time off is seldom the hallmark of productivity.
But when you’ve worked weeks straight without a day off, it’s time to rest. So Rich and I decided to take Saturday as an opportunity to go visit the Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh and to find a new restaurant. The first part was easy, but for us, picking a restaurant is a tough thing. We like to choose local restaurants rather than chains. And we like to choose something new.
Our search this time led us to a newer restaurant in the Burgh. It was listed as one of the best eateries there, and when we checked out the chef’s Instagram feed, we were impressed by the creativity that seemed to be on display.
We decided that we wanted the full experience, so we gave up control and ordered the five-course tasting menu, which basically meant that the chef was in charge of our meal. If we didn’t want fried duck testicles, too bad, that might be brought out to us.
We were thrilled with the first course of a caesar salad and salmon tartare, and when our server asked us how we were enjoying everything, Rich told him that it was sort of ridiculous how good it was. The waiter laughed and replied, “If it isn’t sort of ridiculous, we don’t want to have anything to do with it.”
A few minutes later, he brought out our next course, which included a dish that will probably stay in my mind forever. It was pork belly, with a strawberry and apple compote. And savory rice crispy treat and barbecued pop rocks in addition to a bunch of sweet and savory sauces, most of which I can’t remember. I don’t know if I’ve ever described food as joyful before, but that dish was perhaps one of the most joyful things I’ve ever eaten.
Sweet and salty together are a fairly standard combination. They play off one another and create a more interesting flavor. We know that from every time we’ve eaten a chocolate covered pretzel or salted caramel. It works because it tastes good.
But this chef went beyond “it tastes good” and looked for something more. Something interesting like a savory rice crispy treat. Something unheard of like freaking bbq pop rocks.
We ate entirely too much food that night, and all of it was delicious, but days later, I keep coming back to that one appetizer. I’m not a food reviewer. I’m not really even a foodie. There are probably complicated, chemical reasons why this particular dish stood out for me.
All I can tell you is that it resonated with me because it was fun. It didn’t take itself seriously.
It dared to be ridiculous.
Photo Credit: Keith Fuller