Jul 01 2005

OH! And I had my 6 month review this morning. Nothing to worry about. A little constructive criticism and some uncomfortable talk about maternity leave but overall just fine. I’m far from fired! YEAH! Happy to have that over- now I can enjoy my last THREE DAY WEEKEND without kids!!

Jul 01 2005

Dinner last night? AWESOME!!! I just can’t say enough about the decor, the staff , the FOOD. It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll start with the one negative thing: The one waiter decided that because John was finished that I was finished too. He cleared my plate as I was hovering over it with a piece of bread still in my hand. There were precious bits of food still left on that plate that needed sopping up with that piece of bread, dammit! It almost could have ruined my whole evening! But it didn’t- not even close, really.

We walked in and the place was fantastic already. It gives the illusion of lots more space than it really has by having a loft. On the one end of the bottom floor there is a slightly more casual dining area that has a different menu (which we didn’t get a chance to peruse) and on the other end is a gorgeous bar. The stairs in the middle took us up to the loft where they have the more formal dining. The wall across from the loft has a room with all clear walls where they store their wine in these really cool upright racks that swing out when they look for bottles. The tables were beautiful- hand-made from wood with no need for tablecloths. The seating was a combination of cushy benches and chairs (I got the bench, John got the chair). The tables were generously spaced, but the feeling was cozy anyway. The table was already set for the two of us when we got there and the server knew our last name. After settling in we got our menus (in really cool, heavy covers with removable menu listings since the choices change often) and the server gave us a run through with her recommendations before leaving us to make our decisions. It was not easy. We had heard really good things about the gnocci, but other options drew us away. The mahi mahi looked wonderful, too. In the end we decided to share an appetizer of a crab cake and John decided on the beef tenderloin while I went for the Elysian Fields lamb.

After we ordered, the bread man came by with a basket of our choices. There were several different types and all looked good. John got two slices of the parmesan and roasted red pepper and I got a slice of the same and a piece of the sea-salt foccacia. YUM. They had good butter but not as good as the french restaurant (Le Pommier) we went to about 6 months ago, sadly.

Then they brought out two tiny little “appetizers” that were “compliments of the chef”. They were smoked-salmon mousse (I couldn’t help but think of Monty Python) on poppyseed crackers with bean sprouts on top. I gave mine to John because I wasn’t sure it was entirely safe for me to eat, being pregnant and all. He said they were really good. Damn these food restrictions!! Then they brought out our appetizer.

The crab cake was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside just like you always hope for from a good crab cake. It was mildly spicy with really good flavor- nothing overwhelming, all blending together nicely. It was served on a bed of lightly steamed spinach- a choice I wouldn’t really have thought of but was wonderful with the crab. It was all in a very light, delicate sauce, something with a great flavor but hard to place. Maybe a hint of carmelized shallots? Even sharing the plate, I felt satisfied with the amount I had gotten but was left wanting just a little bit more the way you should be with really excellent food.

We got another round of bread (at least, I did- I’m a carb fiend!) and I tried the apricot, the sesame and another piece of the parmesan. YUM again.

Then came the main. WOW. John’s beef tenderloin was perfectly cooked for him (a little raw for me) and came with half a small carmelized onion on top. On the side was an amazing bleu cheese bread pudding (which I HAD to try, despite the food restriction- it was cooked at least!) and lovely slender asparagus. His beef was tender and wonderful. I didn’t pay much more attention though because I was too busy with my plate.

The Elysian Fields lamb is so named because it comes from the local Elysian Fields farm which means FRESH. It was served on the most delicious, creamy, buttermilk polenta I have ever tasted. The polenta was so flavorful but so well balanced with the meat. I thought it couldn’t get any better but then I tried the rhubarb-mint chutney. OH. MY. GAWD. It was… indescribable. Sorry, I just can’t do it justice. The lamb was so tender I could have eaten it with a spoon. Seriously, if somebody had forgotten their teeth at home that night they still could have enjoyed this lamb. The vegetables on the side were delicate little lightly cooked haricots vert with crispy shallots sprinkled on top. Delicious.

When our plates were cleared (too early…ahem) they brought out the dessert menus. Again- everything sounded incredible but John had to have the molten chocolate cake and I had to try the key lime pie.

Because John’s cake was going to take 6 minutes to bake we had a little down time. They brought us each a tiny little strawberry dipped in vanilla sugar. It was like eating a jewel.

The dessert came out and they had found a little candle and written Happy Birthday in chocolate on John’s plate. It was such a nice touch, especially since I hadn’t really done that kind of thing for him the night before (I bought him a great present instead!). John’s cake was oozing with dark chocolate when he cut it open. It was excellent chocolate, too. It had none of the harsh back edge to it and, instead, the flavor just sort of drifted away until you could barely taste it any more. It was chocolate heaven. It came with a giant curl of dark chocolate and a scoop of sweet cream ice cream. My Key lime pie was a tiny little tart instead of a slice of a bigger pie. It came with a scoop of coconut sorbet on top and fresh blackberries and kiwi quarters on the side. The pie was amazing- tart but not sharp with a bright delicate flavor and great texture. But the star of the show was the coconut sorbet. I thought I had had good coconut sorbet before but it pales in comparison now that I’ve tasted this. I could eat that sorbet every day until I die and never get bored. It was almost as creamy as ice cream with a wonderfully strong coconut flavor. It wasn’t icy at all in a bad way. The combination of the sorbet and the pie with the blackberries was unlike anything I have ever had before and was incredible.

We were both totally satisfied when we left. I can usually find little things that I would change when I come away from a meal, but I had no complaints about the food whatsoever. The whole experience was fantastic and I think they deserve every one of the four stars that critics have been awarding them. I would go back any time I could afford it (really, the prices weren’t quite as bad as I expected). I recommend it to anyone in the Pittsburgh area wihtout question.