January 21, 2012
My birthday dinner destination was a “surprise,” but I had a fairly strong suspicion I’d be sitting at a candlelit, marble table with a few fancy cocktails, consuming a tantalizing balance of protein and starch. When we started driving in the direction of downtown, meaning my special dinner would take place at Meat and Potatoes (bravo Jono!), my mind immediately began strategic menu planning. Little did I know there was more in store for me!
Blogger’s Birthday Bourbon
I had one drink on the table already, but the waitress appeared with yet another! “This one is a special drink, from the bar, for your birthday!” I was sipping before she even finished describing the roasted pecan syrup, bourbon and grilled peach combination. Peach and bourbon and pecan?!?! Clearly this drink had been destined for me! On top of that, there was no beating around the birthday bush and waiting until the dessert course. This was shaping up beautifully!
Sergeant Pepper Old Fashioned
As pleased as I was with my birthday cocktail, the night’s special changed my life. I’ve been to some high quality cocktail establishments recently, but the Meat & Potatoes peppery take on the Old Fashioned really distinguished itself. My foray into Nashville and brief stint at The Patterson House proved to me really talented mixologists have the ability to prevent a loss of the various drink component’s distinct flavors.
Sadly, my birthday cocktail was guilty of really enticing flavors blending too much into one, non-distinct (but overall still pleasing) flavor [please don’t mistake this sentiment as ungrateful]. The Sgt Pepper, on the other hand, burst with various distinct flavors: black pepper, thyme, orange and bourbon! It was a perfect cocktail, and I sincerely hope it finds its way to the regular menu, or in the least, I hope the bartenders put up with me when I continue to request it!
bluecoat gin / lime / lemon / soda / rosemary
No, I did not go three drinks strong, but I did take a sip of Jono’s refreshing Gin Richard with its respectable rosemary garnish.
Harvest Salad, Birthday Special
roasted beets / frisee / endive / treviso / pecans / blue cheese + smoked duck and quail egg
Technically, this was the “restaurant week” special version of the regular menu Harvest Salad (since when is there a PGH restaurant week and who is “marketing” it?), but excuse me while I revel in what was my special occasion. Quail egg! Those little eggs really burst with flavor, and they begin with a Q, as do I! As for the smoked duck, this was my first tasting. The texture reminded me of sashimi with the full flavor of a cured meat like prosciutto. Two thumbs up for this first time!
Pear Walnut Risotto Special
I can count on one hand the number of times I have eaten risotto, and I have yet to experience any consistencies amongst the various preparation methods of my past. Thus, I consider the M&P risotto to be its own entity existing somewhere between a sweet breakfast porridge and a salty autumnal dinner entree. If I were to create a dish inspired by this special, I’d emphasize the pears more, arranging them as slightly caramelized slices in a circular pattern across the top of the risotto. As I contemplated the risotto while making a sincere effort to save room for what remained on our line up, a present was in transit…
The Birthday Present: Poutine 2.0
Four times I had been to Meat and Potatoes, and I had ordered the poutine all four times.
Four times I had been compelled to order the poutine, knowing how perfect a combination it was.
This was the first time, after a lot of careful deliberation, I refrained. The only reason for the restraint was the massive ribeye we were about to share. As the manager carried a cast iron dish of poutine toward our table, I thought there was some mistake. No mistake. This was a birthday present! Instead of bows, this present of poutine 2.0 was adorned with slow cooked beef and topped with an egg. Once pierced, the yellow yolk drizzled over the beef and then mingled with the typical cheese curd and gravy toppings. Oh that Chef! He certainly knew the way to my heart!
Behold the steak knife! ‘Twas the symbol of something grand looming on the horizon, and the grandeur arrived shortly thereafter…
Look at the Meat and Potatoes menu, and this section will surely catch your eye for both its accented design and for the allure of what it describes…
The first three times I’d been to Meat and Potatoes, my dining companions and I purposefully chose the assortment/variety strategy versus the epic entree tactic. That is not to say witnessing a neighboring table attack the impressive butcher block of juicy beef and steak fries did not leave a lasting impression.
By my fourth visit, I was ready to share that magical experience with Jono, but my grand gesture, to share the most important menu item with him, was not meant to be on that occasion. The behemoth had sold out! Well omnivorous friends, on January 21, 2012, the stars, streams, planets and paddocks aligned. This was our true Meat and Potatoes night!
THIRTY-FOUR OUNCES!!! I am the daughter of a cattleman, and I dare say, I have never seen beef served in such epic proportions. Yet, it was those THIRTY-FOUR OUNCES were the perfect shade of reddish pink! How the kitchen managed to prepare THIRTY-FOUR OUNCES to that perfect shade of reddish pink- not bordering on bloody or too done- amazes me! I’m just going to say one more time- THIRTY-FOUR ounces! After the embellished birthday line up leading to that moment, we barely worked our way through four ounces combined. No complaints though because the doggie bag left us with twenty-four hours of pleasant anticipation for Sunday night’s dinner of leftovers.
The mass of meat blocks the potatoes in the above photos, but it is worth noting, the steak fries were roasted to perfection just like mom used to do but with even more fresh rosemary- an entire, flavorful sprig right on the ol’ butcher block.
The Sweetest Part…
Though the chocolate pot de crème is rich and sweet, the best part of dessert was what Jono told me during dessert. Clearly he had put some foresight and planning into the evening, and I was extremely grateful, but what I learned was the Chef and Manager of Meat and Potatoes had also put some effort into making my night memorable.
When Jono made the reservation, he had asked to speak to the manager and posed a vague request, “This dinner is for my girlfriend’s birthday, and I’m hoping you might be able to do something special like a drink or a dessert or something out of the ordinary. You probably would recognize her. She has short hair, takes lots of pictures, and she usually comes with another girl and …”
To which the Manager replied, “Oh, the blogger? We’ll take care of it!”
They knew me and this little corner of the blogosphere I call my hearth! On top of that, they really did take care of my birthday! The bourbon, the poutine, the extra attention to make sure everything was satisfactory, the candlelit conclusion… I was so thrilled with the overall positivity of the night, I forgot to make a wish (as cheesy as that might sound). What more could a foodie wish for on a special night spent with a special someone?!?
In conclusion, I hope this all reads as an extra special thank you from me to all of you!
Quelcy Trenae Kogel