Thursday, August 21, 2008

'Pig'ging Out

As much as I love to cook, I also deeply enjoy going out to great restaurants, and last Saturday Hubband and I tried a new one: The Ravenous Pig. After having read great reviews in various magazines several months ago, we'd put it on our list of places to try. We still hadn't gotten around to it until we found out that Bottle Shock (a movie about the headline-grabbing 1976 California wine victory) was in limited release and playing in Winter Park, just down the street from The Ravenous Pig. It seemed serendipitous. 
We arrived just after 5:30, opening time, and were seated right away without a reservation, although typically I would recommend one; this is a popular place. The decor was warm and cozy, and we immediately felt comfortable. The restaurant, which prefers to be known as an "American Gastropub", has an ever-changing seasonal menu, sourced locally and organically as much as possible. We started with a house-made Salumi platter, which included traditional prosciutto, fennel salumi, chorizo-mole salumi, duck breast prosciutto, and tallegio cheese, along with garnishes of toasted bread, pickled okra, and arugula salad. All delicious, and of high-quality. We followed with salads; the Gatherer for me and the Gardener for him, but of course we shared. Sharing is caring, people. The Gatherer consisted of greens tossed with beets, goat cheese, pistachios, avocado and an herb vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious. The Gardener, however, was a totally different animal. It was more of a tart: a thin round of crisp, buttery dough topped with soft onions and oven-dried tomatoes. The tart itself was then topped with a small salad of greens, fennel, almonds, roasted garlic, and a sherry vinaigrette. The tomatoes though...oh my heaven those tomatoes. Obviously of perfect quality to begin with, they had been slowly oven-dried for hours, resulting in dense, sweet, RICH tomato flavor. They were closer to the flavor of tomato paste than fresh tomatoes. Hubband immediately asked that I experiment with that technique at home. That tart/salad was so good, I could eat one for lunch every day, no problem. 
Our entrees followed, and didn't disappoint. I had seared diver scallops with pork cheek hash and charred corn relish. But honestly, how could I be anything but happy? So many of my favorite things on one plate! And done so well! The scallops were seared to perfection, the hash was tender and and deeply porky, with the body to stand up to those buttery scallops, and the smokiness of the charred corn pulled it all together. Hubband had black grouper, with a saffron-chorizo broth, clams, and fingerling potatoes. It was just as great. Tender clams, moist fish, and a rich, lip-smacking broth. The fingerling potatoes were drizzled with a tiny bit of lemon aioli, which added a really nice acidic contrast. We of course perused the wine list as we made our way through the meal, and it was a very interesting one. They prefer organic and biodynamic wineries, and our server was very knowledgeable. He had great recommendations, and very generous pours. As we wanted to be sure we were going to make our movie, we skipped dessert, but I have absolutely no doubt we will be back again and we will be sure to make time for it. 
The Ravenous Pig, overall, was great. Cozy and friendly, with smart staff, imaginative food, and an eclectic wine list. It's a little pricey, but in my view, it's worth it. 
I do apologize for the lack of photos, and I hate to leave a post so unadorned, so here's a little one to make up for it: 
"Did you bring home a Doggy Bag?"

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