Saturday, March 29, 2014
The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park, Florida
My kids are on spring break this week and we are enjoying a long-deserved Disney vacation. But that does not mean that I take a break from my search for gastronomic delights. Lucky for us, four Central Florida chefs recently earned honors as James Beard Foundation Award semifinalists. Two such chefs, James and Julie Petrakis, have made their culinary mark in the upscale Orlando suburb of Winter Park with their restaurants, the Ravenous Pig and Cask & Larder. Both feature seasonal fare from local farms, fishermen and purveyors, following the current farm-to-table trend. Today, the Ravenous Pig was the ideal location for a reunion with a friend.
The one-page one-sided dinner menu features seasonal items. I ordered Gruyere biscuits to start. My love of cheese and biscuits made me curious and I'm thankful for my curiosity. The buttery flaky squares come served in a basket with generous pots of butter. Hints of Gruyere were definitely there but not obvious or overwhelming. That was a good thing because I love to slather butter on my biscuits and the mix of butter with Gruyere is a good one.
For dinner, I order Florida pompano paired with black lentils and rigatoni. The pompano was nicely browned and properly cooked. But I didn't find the fish to be a standout on the plate. I was much more satisfied by the lentils, generously mounded atop what is billed as a romesco sauce. I tend to be attracted to high flavor profiles and the romesco sauce satisfied that part of my palate, making it a nice compliment to the otherwise delicately flavored fish. For me, the only miss on my plate was the rigatoni. Others may not mind it, but the bite of this pasta was just too toothy for me. I would have been just as happy without it on my plate.
Now usually I don't comment on what others at the table have for dinner, but I'm making an exception today for the steak frites. Because I was on vacation I ordered dessert and while waiting I took the opportunity to finish off the last bit of this flat-iron steak straggling on my husband's plate. I don't typically order steak for myself but, if I ever come back to the Ravenous Pig, I will certainly order this plate for my own enjoyment. The porcini mushroom rub that coated this steak is really very good. But more than that, there was a tender texture to this meat that I still have trouble describing. I swear it has something to do with the way that it must have been cooked although the method is evading me. The look and texture of the steak was not what I would expect of something cooked on a grill. And if I wasn't concerned about embarrassing myself with my novice appreciation of the science of cooking, I might say this was made sous vide. I suppose it will just remain a mystery to me, at least until next time.
And the next time, I am most likely to order the cannoli for dessert again. This is no traditional cannoli so true die-hard fans of the Italian treat might think twice about this dessert. All others, however, may enjoy this reinvention. This cannoli is much more delicate than its traditional inspiration, much more like a tuile. Good for me, because I happen to love tuiles (which are so reminiscent of the Filipino barquillos I grew up with). These sweet thin cookies were still filled with mascarpone although in a consistency of a whipped cream rather than a soft cheese. Dusted with pistachio powder, set atop minced strawberry and honey (another one of my loves) and accompanied with a tart spoonful of strawberry sorbet, this sweet treat was an ideal capper to my dinner. It's that kind of dessert that sates my sweet tooth without overwhelming it. Perfect.
How much we spent: With tip, we spent about $200 for our party of five, about $40 per person. Our check did include, however, a glass of chardonnay for myself (yes I took my antihistamine), a couple of pints for our friend and three desserts. A more dollar conscious diner could spend less.
My overall rating: 3 1/2 spoons. I liked this restaurant. I definitely loved the dessert.
When you have a minute, check out Anna's mini review.