Meat and Potatoes: Confirming our Obsession

December 2011

Nicole and I had been to craft stores, grocery stores, clothing stores and God knows what other stores in pursuit of supplies (and special dresses) for the large holiday party we were planning.  When hunger hit us unexpectedly at the hour when retirees typically occupy restaurants, we attempted to try some place new.  No room….  No room….  No room.  It was the restaurant version of the story of Mary and Joseph in search of a place to bear the baby Jesus (please don’t mistake my analogy for evangelizing).  There were a few last brainstorms, and then Nicole threw out an idea, “or…we could just go to Meat & Potatoes?”  She hesitated to suggest it, since both of us probably still had leftovers in our refrigerators since our last respective visits.  However, “yes” was my immediate response!  If you’re going to invest in a Pittsburgh meal, this my foodie friends, is where my dollars go and, there they go often!

Look at our little Meat and Potatoes all decked in holiday cheer!

The manager took us under his wing and helped us secure a spot at the bar, which is by far my preference for eating at Meat and Potatoes for the people watching potential, the more ample eating space and for the opportunity to see cocktail making in action.  We quickly befriended the bartenders.  Knowing our cocktail master came from The Embury, what used to be Pittsburgh’s Prohibition style cocktail bar before it went under (rumors about reincarnation have been confirmed), I challenged him to craft me something special.  Bravo new bartending friend, bravo!  He served me an adult root beer, my old time Embury favorite with Art in the Age Root, bourbon and a fresh citrus garnish.

Devils on Horseback
dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped with bacon
(thanks Beezuskiddo for the recommendation on my last M&P post!)

Here’s a little something I just learned- “devils on horseback” is a class of appetizer including bacon, a date or prune and a filling.  Prior to one little google search, I was thinking Meat and Potatoes had just been clever with their menu titles.  Regardless of how commonly understood the name is, the Devils on Horseback is a new favorite of mine, which makes things difficult because I already have so many menu favorites there.

The lamb was a new appearance on the menu since my first visit, and Nicole and I were very quick to decide upon it.  It fell off the bone as is to be desired and as is to be expected of a place like Meat and Potatoes who has yet to disappoint.  Our other options were my staples:  poutine and pork belly macaroni and cheese.  It was a little disheartening to bite into that mac ‘n cheese.  Something was off, and we finally concluded it had been overcooked.  Remember those days of over microwaved bologna in a cafeteria lunch line?  This, obviously, was far from that quality and condition of pork, but the mac ‘n cheese definitely suffered from that particular taste emanating from overheated pork products.  My deepest hope is this dish was a mere fluke.  If Meat and Potatoes starts dropping the ball, my heart shall surely go through a depressing period of separation.

Speaking of sad hearts… I asked the manager what an adjacent table of diners was enjoying at the decadent conclusion of what I assume was a really successful meal.  He told me it was the dessert special of the day- chocolate pot de crème.  I told him Nicole was going to need extra bourbon after I broke the news, as you can see the bread pudding in her eyes as soon as you say “Meat and P-.”  We took a chance for the sake of variety.

Dessert Conclusions:

1.  Nothing Compares to You!
The chocolate pot de crème is no warm bread pudding with a hot caramel sauce.

2.  Stratify.
Both the chocolate mousse and the whipped topping are indulgent, but the balance of the two layers in one bit is divine.  Both for aesthetics and the purpose of flavor combination, the dessert could stand to be layered and maybe, if we want to really keep the bar raised, garnished with cocoa, cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg.  If we really want to live and eat dangerously, why not a splash of zest or a little mint leaf?!?

3.  Lost Train.
I really thought I had a third dessert conclusion, but then my mind fixated on potential stylings and taste pairings for pot de crème.  The next tangential thought was more so a craving for a pot de crème.

And then this happened…

While we were awaiting said chocolate pot de crème, a man approached us and asked, “Excuse me ladies, how much longer do you think you will be here at the bar?”  We were both thinking this stranger was trying to secure our prime bar front property, but he had a far different request.  He and his group of friends, were awaiting a birthday boy, and their reserved back room was not yet ready.  The inquiring gent saw me taking pictures with the love of my life and wondered whether or not I might catch some of the birthday surprise in the digital realm of memory.  Of course!  That’s the happy birthday gent above, in the center of his smiling crew.

“And hey, would you take a picture of us drinking these birthday shots of absinthe?”  Sure, why not?!?  For my troubles, they sent some absinthe my way as well.

Then the absinthe hit me…

Not really, I behave that way in front of a camera with or without absinthe in hand.

My photo services ensued, capturing the entire group once their party room was available.  For my friendly cooperation, they sent a Prohibition cocktail for Nicole and me to share (we requested to share as the drive home was approaching), and due to my curiosity, our second bartender friend offered another featured drink.  The details are a little vague, but there were peaches and elderflower in the strong mixes.

I would have needed a nearby hotel room to fully appreciate the gifts bestowed upon us, but the sampling sure was appreciated!

I include this turn of events because it was a distinct break from the typical M&P crowd behavior, which can lean heavily on the old man/young flashy lady side of the “classy” downtown scenesters.  I’ve already waved my judgy flag in my last review, so let’s just dwell on a satisfying meal made more memorable by random company.

Cheers to all!  And to all some cheer!

Your Friendly Photographing Foodie,

Quelcy T. Kogel

PS: 

On a cameraless night very shortly after the above visit, I took a special someone for his first visit to what I now fondly refer to as “home.”  I realize food reviews are not as exciting without pictures, but I’d be really remiss not to point out how Meat and Potatoes really outdid themselves:

Beef Tartare
Hands down, this is now my favorite beef tartare in the ‘burgh.  High quality tartare, delivered on a massive bone with a base of marrow?  It’s the one stop shopping of appetizers.  Just when I thought I had enough favorites on the appetizer list.

Daily Special:  Fried Chicken & Jalapeño, Cheddar Waffles (with cornmeal as I recall)
Holy shit!  Sometimes the only words are the obscene ones!  It’s as though the chef read my mind that fated day.  A few hours before taking a seat at a marble table, I had lamented it wasn’t Thursday, meaning, it wasn’t fried chicken night at Kaya.  Ladies and gents, I have a new fried chicken home!  The chicken was not at all gristly.  Instead, the plate featured large chicken breasts in a crisp batter atop a slightly spicy, thick waffle with a crisp exterior.  I would have preferred a more toned down jalapeño flavoring, but overall, I was so swept away and swooning over the bourbon maple syrup(!!!!), I couldn’t have uttered one word of a complaint!  Even as leftovers (whereas Kaya fried chicken rather disgusted me by sitting number two as I would arrive at fat, gristle, muscle, etc), this fried chicken delivered flavor, texture and quality meat.  Love.  It was just love!  Should you read this and be inspired, I sincerely hope you arrive at Meat and Potatoes on a fried chicken & waffle night!

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