I know I'm "supposed" to write about Hispanic/Latino restaurants and foods, but if you haven't noticed, I'm a fan of ALL foods. All. Hispanic/Latino is a favorite, and it's what I require my students to focus on for extra credit, but come on - Pittsburgh has SO MANY AWESOME RESTAURANTS that to restrict myself to one category and ONLY write about that would be...prejudicial.
After all, if I only liked one kind of food, wouldn't I contradict my own motto: "Try something new"?
And if I only liked Hispanic/Latino foods, would I ever consider Salt of the Earth to be one of the most fabulous restaurants in all of Pittsburgh? No.
But I do.
James took me there on a whim on a recent weekday evening. We went early, as I knew the crowd would be light and I don't like to be out late on weekdays (since I go to bed so early). We were seated at the end of a communal table (with no one else around us), and I let James handle the appetizer order.
We began with 3 appetizers, all fish-based: Escolar (which is no longer on the menu - this day was the last day), Hamachi, and Trout:
It's a shame that the Escolar is not on the menu anymore, because it was AMAZING. My favorite of the three, no doubt. The rice cakes were fried - we were told that they come as small cubes, and throwing them in the fryer makes them puff up like they did. SO GOOD. The Hamachi and Trout did not disappoint, either. The Trout contained sunchokes, which I had not tried before and found to be a great compliment to the fish. The Hamachi's blend of flavors (chestnut, mint, kelp, kohlrabi, and prosciutto) was interesting and delicious.
Of course, when I go to Salt of the Earth, I have to get the Duck - each time I go, it is prepared differently, and as I've said before, "You can never go wrong with the Duck." James agreed and ordered it as well. On this day, the Duck was prepared with flageolet, persimmon, shiso, and duck ham:
As someone who cannot eat regular ham, I found the duck ham to be a wonderful alternative. I like the taste of ham, but my body doesn't like digesting it properly, so this was a fantastic way of getting the flavor through another medium.
The sweet flavor of the persimmons reminded me of the flavor of...icing. Vanilla-y, I guess you could say. Sounds weird, but when I mentioned it to James and he tried them, he understood what I meant. Definitely a wonderful finish to the dish.
But, dessert was also in order. First, the Cheese:
Ahhh, and the Butternut:
Kevin Sousa knows what he's doing at Salt of the Earth. Although I'm not a fan of Union Pig & Chicken, and this tacos thing at Station Street Hot Dogs has me perplexed, no one could convince me that that man does not know what he's doing in the kitchen. He does. More than most.
I can't wait to see what he brings to Braddock, as I'm only right across the river....
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Salt of the Earth
5523 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (Garfield)