The atmosphere inside Cure was warm and welcoming. The natural wood motif was reminiscent of barbecue chips which I thought was incredibly appropriate. The open kitchen in the back of the room made sure that the sweet scent of mesquite smoke was never far away.
It was pretty much a four-way tie between small plates to start off the evening and while I'm still kicking myself for not giving the Butternut Squash Soup with goat merguez, goat cheese, crispy shallots and cilantro a try, PID was dying to taste the Salumi plate -- and so we did.
I tend to gravitate more toward carefully crafted dishes that show finesse and artistry than a "meat plate," but this was PID's night so I wanted to make him happy by ordering. To my pleasant surprise each of these meats was surprisingly detectible. Specifically the incredibly flavorful mortadella (5:00 on the meat-plate clock) which paired astoundingly well with the pickled onions and herb-infused, Mediterranean butter. Sadly, my least favorite item was the one I was most excited for was the Pate Campagnola -- which is essentially a pâté made from pork shoulder and liver (dead center). It was a bit too reminiscent of turkey for me. The prosciutto, though? Amen! And when was the last time you had a gherkin? 20-1 you say "never."
We moved on from the Salumi to our main courses, PID with the Beef Cheeks and I with the Choucroute.
|Beef Cheeks, $25|
Never have I been more envious of PID's cheeks. One bite and I was completely sold on Cure. Though PID noted that some of the larger pieces were slightly tougher than the shreds, we found that the meat was as close to perfection as we'd tasted in the 'burgh in a long time. The apple cider cut through to the core of the beef shreds making each bite juicy and bursting with sweet, smokey barbecue flavor. Even the mushrooms and Gnocci melted in your mouth and we savored every bite. I caught PID sopping up his plate with a slice of my pork shoulder when his was all gone.
I went with the Choucroute because it was a fun word to say out loud...and also it promised three types of pork for me to sink my teeth in to: pork shoulder, pork belly and Boudin Blanc -- a white, bloodless smoked pork sausage. This dish -- a traditional French peasant dish perfect for cold winter nights like this one -- put the "fire" in spitfire. The pork belly was crispy beyond believe which locked the flavor right into the meat and added a texture that a barbecue fanatic drools in his dreams over. The shoulder fell apart beautifully and had a rich, smokey aroma that was reciprocated in the skin. Though I was least excited over the Boudin Blanc -- which just proves I'm part Vampire -- it still tasted delicious with the juicy bitterness of the cabbage and the bite of the mustard sauce.
For dessert we had two choices... and couldn't choose at all. I learned something new about PID that night, and that is that he apparently enjoys plates of meat and cheese (OK, so maybe that isn't' remotely surprising at all...). He was dying to try the cheese plate (for one -- you can order for two if you'd like) while I was aching for the apple pie. Our solution? We tried both.
|Cheese Plate, $6|
|Apple Pie tart, $6|
PID was beyond pleased with his cheese plate which was composed of Pennsylvania cheese and rounded out the evening quite nicely. As usual, I thought the blue cheese (native to Lancaster, PA -- near my home turf!) tasted slightly reminiscent to feet, but I've never really been a fan and that's my own, personal, non-cheese loving opinion. The prunes and honey helped cleanse my palate for my pie and the toasted almonds were a shockingly great pair to the creamy cheeses.
But as I mentioned before, it's really tough for me to "review" a plate of cheese -- no matter how much thought goes into the pairings. I was more interested in the apple pie! What a great end to my evening. The pie-tart was just big enough for me to enjoy while allowing a bite or two for PID and contained a kick of the cinnamon and sugar that was cooled down by the creamy creme fraiche and glued to the buttery, flaky crust with a sticky, salty caramel sauce to die for.
Address: 5336 Butler St, Lawrenceville
Reservations: Taken and suggested on Friday and Saturday evenings
Hours:Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to "close" (approximately 10 p.m.)
Starter: Salumi @ $12
Entrees: Choucroute @ $22
Beef Cheeks @ $25
Dessert: Apple pie @ $6
Farmstead Cheese Plate @ $6
Tax: Food AND drink tax @ 7% (Allegheny County only) @ $4.97
Total for two: $94.99
Total for two: $94.99
The decor was homey, the staff was friendly, knowledgeable and eager to please, and the food -- in case you couldn't tell -- was out of this world. Who'da thunk that I'd be so in to a place that spotlights pork as the star of the show? Not me. But Cure has quickly climbed my list of my favorite dining experiences in the 'burgh. You may be asking "how the heck did you still spend nearly $100 at a BYOB joint? Well if you're looking to be more frugal, leave off a dessert and try a different starter -- we chose the most expensive one. The website claims that they serve "urban Mediterranean," but I found it to be extremely barbecue-esque and noticed a number of French references. Mostly they tout locally sourced delicacies and I am beyond excited to head back with a few FORTS and try out a few more dishes. Go hog wild! Give this place a try! Whether vegan or hipster, you will NOT be disappointed.