Let Us Eat: Good Food For A Good Cause [Salt of the Earth]

February 9, 2012

This might be old news, but this little tidbit bears repeating just in case it’s new to you.  If you live in Pittsburgh, there’s a monthly opportunity to eat some of the city’s finest foods for a good cause:

Let Us Eat is a dinner series that takes place on the second Thursday of each month at a different local restaurant. The owners and chefs that participate in [Grow Pittsburgh’s] series support locally grown food and Grow Pittsburgh‘s mission to demonstrate, teach and promote responsible urban food production by donating 10% of the evening’s sales to [Grow Pittsburgh].

The site selection for February 9th gave me a really good reason to dine at Salt of the Earth, not to mention my trusty dining companion had yet to eat there.

Salt of the Earth
5523 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

I’ve mentioned Salt on here once before when I took my out-of-towners there.  Though the lamb shank on this Let Us Eat night did leave me with a more lasting impression, I stand by my initial conclusions:

After hearing positive review after positive review, I was expecting to have several of those bites that burst from the fork, cause your face to freeze then turn away from dining companions, so as to say, “please do not interrupt me right now.  I need every ounce of my concentration to focus on how orgasmically good this bite of food is.”  I have had those moments, but I have yet to have one at Salt.  It’s not a climax, but it is a worthwhile adventure and learning experience, as most of the menu items not only deliver on presentation and overall taste merits, but the wait staff will helpfully offer a lesson on “what is cardamaro?” or “what is a sunchoke?” if you take the time to question the more unique aspects of the descriptions.

Having made a reservation, we were seated on the second floor, meaning a private table (versus the main floor communal dining style) and a variant on the menu display, which takes up an entire wall on the first floor.

Bourbon Cocktail
Buffalo Trace, Green Chartreuse, Meyer Lemon, Hickory

While the fella above pondered why any bourbon cocktail would ever be served in a glass so strongly associated with martinis (is there a bartending rule we are missing?), I pondered whether or not “Green chartreuse” was a redundant title.  As it turns out, it’s not. The mix definitely had merit as a thought provoker, but more importantly, it was a smooth sipper.  It made me strongly resent the slight cold from which I was recovering because I would have loved to have partaken in a drink of my own.

Starter:  Salad
Frisee, Truffle, Poached Eggs, Beets,

The combination of the egg and the dressing gave this salad a creamy heft, accented by the sunflower seeds’ texture.  It’s safe to say, beets are never wrong in my book.

Starter:  Gnocchi
Beef cheek, tongue, chestnut, papaya

My inaugural trip to Cure taught me a very important fact about myself:  I like beef cheeks, or at least, I liked the very first beef cheeks I had ever eaten.  Thus, it seemed appropriate to challenge this recent assertion by eating round two of beef cheeks.  Safe to say, I do like beef cheeks.  If not done correctly, I tend to find gnocchi to be a soggy little pile of carbohydrate, but these gnocchi had a crisp texture around an inner burst of meaty flavor. Bravo!

Main:  Lamb Shank
Polenta, chard, gremolata

Perhaps the one caveat to my aforementioned repeated conclusion was the lamb shank.  I won’t go as far to say I was closing my eyes and savoring every morsel as if it was the last I would ever experience, but the way that tender meat fell of the bone into the gravy doused greens and polenta was indeed something to savor!

The Sharing & Shuffling Game…plate rotation…

Main:  Scallops
Scallops, Mussels, potato, sunchokes, pancetta, olive

Kudos for the use of purple potatoes for extra presentation merits.  The mussels were especially noteworthy in this mix.

Dessert:  Fruit Cake
Chestnut, pistachio, orange, amaretto, egg nog

This fruit cake was definitely a far and distant cry from those holiday versions with the bad reputation.  The amaretto and orange packed in moisture and flavor akin to the delicious attributes of an almond croissant (without reaching the pedestal that is the truly authentic almond croissant).

I would be remiss not to add this concluding critique.  If there were local foods being featured, their presence was unclear.  As an organization who promotes the local, it seems you should work more closely with the restaurants to highlight their ingredients and the significance to the local economy, their nutritional merits and their environmental benefits, especially on a night promoting your mission.  I know Salt lists local/seasonal foods as one of its values, but I only know this from reading the restaurant website.  Had I dined there without knowing it was a benefit night, my only clue would have been the lettuce token of thanks (which I do appreciate).  I want to support your cause because it is one in which I firmly believe, but this is the second time I have put money toward the organization with little educational return.

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