Birthday Eve: The Cure for What Ails

January 20, 2012

Not only am I the youngest of five, but I was my parents’ late life, “miracle” baby.  What does that mean?  It means I do not shy away from birthday attention.  Despite what someone says, I see no problem with claiming most of January as mine (I generously leave NYE to the world).  Without stress about my fabulously young age, the only thing ailing me was an overdue visit to one of the newest and most promising restaurants on the Pittsburgh food scene.  Fortunately, that desire coincided with my birthday month, so dinner was no longer just dinner.  It was my Birthday Eve dinner!

I had heard the buzz.  I had been tantalized by insider peeks from my photographer extraordinaire who was working on the restaurant’s website.  I had heard the first impressions from trusted foodies.  I had admired the values and the design, and at last… at long last, I arrived for my turn…!

5336 Butler St, (Lawrenceville) Pittsburgh, PA 15201

“Cure is a neighborhood restaurant with a small menu focused on local urban Mediterranean food. [Chef/Owner] Justin [Severino]’s vision of cure is for it to be a reflection of the seasons in Western Pennsylvania and its local farms.”

Oh Cure, I liked you even before I had arrived, but when I saw those wooden walls, you had me, you really had me!

Then I saw the tin ceiling tiles and the globe lighting feature, and I knew that we were forging something really special!

The reclaimed wood asserts its character and emanates its warm hues here and there.  This nook of the booth is part of the partition between the lower level seating and the open kitchen on slightly elevated, second level.  My curiosity has been piqued, and next time, I’d very much like to sit and watch the kitchen action.

I may have been smitten by all the wood grains, but I hadn’t yet fallen completely head over heels.  Don’t you think that hanging chalkboard menu would be even more dramatic hanging from old, rusty hooks, especially old butcher’s hooks or maybe something like this?  I would light it with exposed bulbs dangling from ropes.  I also would have chosen a bolder color for the painted wall.  A deep burgundy or a burnt sienna or a maybe even a plum.  This tangent speaks to my mounting obsession with restaurant design.  Let it be said, I will pick paint swatches in exchange for high quality, local food!

In addition to the chalkboard menu, there’s a printed menu for each diner.  I am definitely in the chalkboard menu/focal point camp, but the torn edges of the table version speak to the details in everything Cure is doing.  Sometimes chalkboards show a glare or you end up reading an entire menu to your dining companion.  This just makes sense!

Sitting in the dining room entails a wee, wee little game of I Spy.  There are little pigs in various hiding places.  One pig in particular recalled a happy memory for me.  However, once the food arrives, the pig kitsch will quickly fade into the background.

Let’s Eat…!

lardo, mortadella, prosciutto, ciccioli, chicken rillettes, pate campagnola, pickled beef tongue, cornichon, mustard, red onion

When the name of the restaurant is “Cure,” when a little pig peeks greets you at the entrance, and when the logo practically oinks, of course you order the Salumi platter.  Of course!  And you don’t regret it!  This assortment taught me two things about myself (appropriate since birthdays should be reflective times):

1.  I like pickled beef tongue.
2.  Chicken rillettes can really hold their own if properly made, and despite my typical preferences for other meats , I will like them accordingly.  Cure makes chicken rillettes properly!

Sunchoke Soup
Venison chorizo, kale, goat cheese, crispy shallots

This is more than soup.  It’s soup with a ceremony!  The bowls arrived with the kale, shallots and chorizo.  I thought perhaps I had misunderstood the term “soup” until the server arrived with a deep blue creuset to pour the creamy base over the salty and spicy contents in our bowls.

This night marked the second time in my life I have knowingly consumed Venison.  The first occasion was also a birthday month celebration, but in the form of a chilli, that inaugural consumption hardly counted.

ps:  I ate this as per the strict instructions Nicole gave me to try it on her behalf.

Beef Cheeks
Apple cider, potato gnocchi, maitake mushrooms, celery root puree

Jono was gung-ho about ordering the more daring cut on the menu, but I was truly hesitant.  I kid you not- when I saw beef cheeks on the menu, I chewed on my cheek a little and tried really hard to imagine what that cheek would look like on a plate (I shouldn’t tell people that tidbit).  Knowing full well my little cheek was not going to give me the answers I was seeking, I asked the waitress for help.

Would beef cheeks fall on the fattier side like pork belly, the thin, often tough liver side or the roast side of the spectrum?  She described the slow cooked beef cheeks like a brisket or a roast, and I finally felt the courage Jono had from the get go.  On my last day as a twenty-seven-year-old, I ate beef cheeks, and I dare say, it was a very good decision!

Citrus Chamomile Curd
Crepes, hazelnut Italian meringue, saba

When our friendly waitress told us about the desserts for the night, she mentioned the pear option.  Then she described the crepes.  As she did so, she was far, far away from us, in a dream land where she sat at a table with a fancy crepe platter just for her.  It was a beautiful endorsement, so the choice was obvious.  I do love a tart burst of citrus curd, but I must say, I can’t wait to go to Cure on an apple pie night!

I can’t say that the crepe closed my eyes and sent me to a dreamland, but don’t you think that crepe was winking at me?!?  It was giving me that smiling wink because that dessert knew none of the Curers weren’t going to sing or make fools of themselves, but they were all wishing me Happy Birthday nonetheless.

That was just perfect!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Rodzilla

    Lol, your architecture and design background certainly come through. I liked what they did with limited space. Did you see anyone sitting at the kitchen bar? If that’s an option I would definitely go for it. The lighting is better and it’s like a free show.

    I was really impressed by the Savory dishes myself. I’m with you on the rillettes but I think my favorite was the whipped lardo. If you liked beef tongue pickled, I’m willing to bet you would love it seared.

    1. withthegrains

      It’s true… I’ve had a lot of design welling inside me, so I’m busting at the seams. Minor critiques (or just minor future advancements as I like to think) aside, I was REALLY impressed with the interior. I cannot say it enough- that reclaimed wood!!! The whipped lardo was something new to me, but I dug it. One of my New Year’s food resolutions is about learning more/experiencing more cuts of meat, specifically cow and pig.

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