I didn't know such amazing food existed in Pittsburgh.
I write mostly about the Hispanic/Latino foods in this town, yes, but that does not mean that I don't enjoy foods from other cultures - which should be obvious from some of my more recent, off-topic posts (Pho Van, Root 174, and Dozen, to name a few). In addition, most of those visits have been courtesy of James, who has opened my eyes to the non-chain restaurants that are NOT Hispanic/Latino, as I have opened his to the ones that are.
It's a pretty awesome partnership, to say the least.
After our visit to Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina, we walked about a block to Salt of the Earth, where James is a regular, and to which I was a foreigner. I have followed both the restaurant and their chef, Kevin Sousa, on Twitter for some time now, and given their interesting postings on the menu items, I was curious to see what it was like. We ventured in and sat at the bar to talk to Maggie, whom James follows on Twitter, and ended up ordering dessert.
We couldn't resist, despite our fabulous and filling meal at Verde.
|The enormous chalkboard menu at Salt of the Earth|
We ordered the S'more. This was the fanciest S'more I have ever seen in my life, not to mention the most delicious:
|S'more at Salt of the Earth|
The "graham cracker" part was actually Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the chocolate was delectable, and the marshmallow part was nice and well-toasted (just like I like it - I always set my 'mallows a-flamin' over a campfire!) The ice cream was a maple-flavored variety that helped to cool down the warm cereal and marshmallow fluff.
And then we ordered another dessert: Honeycrisp.
|Honeycrisp at Salt of the Earth|
I liked this a lot, but I was not a fan of the thyme in the dessert - thyme is probably my least favorite herb, so that is just my personal taste bud preference. Besides the thyme, it was prepared amazingly.
So, when James and I were trying to decide where to eat on our night out the next week, there was no question that we had to go back and try the appetizer and entree portions of the menu.
|Loft version of the menu, Salt of the Earth|
We made reservations for the loft, or upstairs seating area, which offers a great view of the downstairs seating (picnic tables and bench-like individual seats, essentially) and food prep area - not to mention the larger version of the menu that takes up almost the entire side wall.
|View of the downstairs seating from the loft|
I let James take the lead on what to order, since he was a regular, after all (although the menu does change periodically). For our first appetizer, we ordered the Risotto, made with octopus, prosciutto, cantaloupe, and miso:
This is probably, no exaggeration, one of the most amazing, fabulous, out-of-this-world things that I have ever eaten - EVER. I felt like I did when we visited Root 174 - I can't believe that food this fantastic exists in Pittsburgh. I have only ever eaten octopus in Mexico, at a restaurant right on the Gulf of Mexico - and this was so much better. The prosciutto was crispy, the octopus was tender, and the flavor of the risotto itself was indescribably, insanely excellent.
For our other appetizer, we ordered the salmon, made like lox on an everything bagel, sans bagel:
This appetizer was made from salmon, caper, roe, cream cheese, and poppy seed and sesame seeds (like on an everything bagel). Although the Octopus Risotto completely stole my heart, this was a commendable appetizer, as well as creative. I would never think to combine the ingredients quite the way that Kevin Sousa did in his creation.
I was torn on my entree choice. I wanted to try the duck, as I have never had duck, but so did James. We agreed that he would get the duck, and I would get the scallops, a usual selection of mine in most restaurants of the same type.
However, I never had scallops - or mussels - quite so fabulous:
Both types of seafood were partnered with red potatoes, olives, sunchoke, artichoke, and pancetta. There is no way that anything in any chain seafood restaurant would ever taste as savory as this did.
And the duck? Wow.
I tried the duck, and fell in love. As cute as ducks are, and as much as I kept remembering my many visits to South Park to feed the ducks as a kid while I ate it, I will eat duck at Salt of the Earth again. Tender, flavorful, and so much better than any land animal meat. This came with parsnip, haluski (the hunky in me appreciated this), brussels sprouts (a new obsession of mine, due to Keith Fuller's version at Root 174), apple butter, and pomegranate.
I was tempted to swap plates with James. I controlled myself.
And do you think we could resist dessert? No way! We ordered the S'more again, and it was as sweet and rich as the first time.
|S'more, take two|
I have run out of adjectives to describe my meal at Salt of the Earth, so I will end with this: Bravo, Kevin Sousa, bravo. If there is anything that the Pittsburgh City Paper's Reader's Poll got right, it is that you are "Pittsburgh's Best Chef".
I can't wait to see what Union Pig and Chicken (his next restaurant venture) will have to offer.
Salt of the Earth
5523 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (Garfield)
For more on Union Pig and Chicken, click here and follow them on Twitter.