I had been reading a lot of buzz re: The Ravenous Pig (which bills itself as a "An American Gastropub") both online and in food and wine rags, and was dying to try it. Driving 100 miles each way has never deterred Underdog and me from sniffing out a new gastronomic experience, so we carped the diem and made the haul over to the east side of Orlando to check it out.
My Saturday lunch reservations had been easily obtained (perhaps a bit TOO easily) only a few days prior via OpenTable.com. When we arrived, we couldn't help but notice a huge wood smoker sitting in front of the restaurant, along with obviously available tables (Oh, and I should not forget to mention the heavenly scent emitting from that smoker. <3). C'mon...I've read tales of brawls breaking out over available tables at this place. Something didn't seem right, and we soon found out what it was.
Once inside, we were informed that the regular menu was not available on the first Saturday of each month because that was their "Pig Roast Day", where a $20 BBQ plate was the only offering. Oh, noooooooooooooooooooo...I so did NOT drive almost two hours for barbecue (regardless of how tasty it might be). I was incredibly bummed, but we decided to stay and eat there anyway 1.) because we were starving and 2.) the restaurant was visually quite lovely and inviting.
UD started with a very nice microbrew...Terrapin Side Project Hopzilla. Lovely in color, alcohol content and faint orange flavor, he deemed it a fine and dogworthy libation. He later tried the Northcoast Scrimshaw Pilsner, which also garnered high marks.
The Ravenous Pig has a decent little wine list, and all but a few bottles are available by the glass at 1/4 of the bottle price. Even the least expensive Chardonnay (The Crusher "Wilson Vineyard", Clarksburg '07) was very nice at $9.00 glass.
Cheer up, DogGirl...with wine comes hope!
Sorry...the heart wants what it wants...and THIS heart was set on some of the regular menu offerings like Gruyere Biscuits with Smoked Sea Salt Butter, Lobster Tacos and Charcuterie Plate.
A few regular menu items were offered in addition to the barbecue plate, so we started with the Gatherer Salad, which was comprised of an astonishing variety of mixed baby lettuces, chopped avacodo, beets (and no, beets are not usually at the top of either of our respective wish-lists as far as salad ingredients go, but these were thinly sliced and really tasty), toasted pistachios, goat cheese and herb viniagrette. At $7.00, there was plenty for two to share. Was it one of the best salads I've ever had? No...but I think that's because the dressing was a little lighter than I prefer (I am the happiest when my otherwise healthy greens have been totally transformed into artery-clogging health hazards by the addition of fat). But it was well above average, pretty, unique, refeshing and tasty...and the many lettuce varieties were just beautiful.
When the barbecue plates arrived, I almost lost consciousness. Each contained a hearty portion of tender, flavorful pulled pork and ribs atop what I can best describe as a slice of homemade potato bread. The sauce was pretty amazing...a unique blend of thick, sweet and slighly acidic, with a really spicy afterglow. Side dishes were collard greens (which were freaking amazing...so fresh, with pepper-heated kick...and I'm originally from Middle Tennessee, so I KNOW collard greens); really tasty, nutty black-eyed peas and a wedge of jalapeno cornbread. This was a different take on cornbread...it was moist and dense, and the cornmeal was ground to a very fine consistency (it was almost, but not quite, like a corn pudding). The final touch was a luscious, two-bite Red Velvet Cake micro-cupcake, resplendent in its cocoa bottom-note and traditional crown of cream cheese frosting. Underdog was so enamored of the micro-cupcake that he threw himself on the mercy of our stellar server, Kristina, who brought him another one with no upcharge.
One of the other (very few) side dishes available on Pig Roast Saturday was French Fries, so we decided "what the heck" and threw in an order. These crunchy, matchstick-cut, skin-on delights were presented to us in a 16 ounce glass and quickly became my own personal ruffies. The taste was inexplicably wonderful...I could not for the life of me figure out if it was something that had been sprinkled on them, or something they had been fried in. Before I could even form the question, Kristina (nodding knowingly) explained that they were seasoned with Truffle Salt. Yes, I have a new drug.
When the bill came (which was about $85 for two beers, three glasses of the "low-end" Chardonnay, the salad, two barbecue plates and an order of the ethereal Truffle Salt Fries), I had to admit that I was glad that I hadn't had any other alternative...I would've never ordered barbecue here, and UD and I both agreed that it was some of the best we'd ever had. It may sound strange, but it was actually pretty unforgettable. The Ravenous Pig totally turned my preliminary frown upside-down! Our lovely Kristina encouraged us to come back for dinner soon, with the promise that they'd "knock our socks off"...and I believe her. Like Arnold, we'll be baaaaack.