‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

…and this post has absolutely nothing to do with the night before Christmas. Or Christmas at all, actually. Although I have just watched Love Actually; hopefully I have gotten all of the English-isms out of my system, but you never know when one may slip in again…

Anyway, last week my roommate and I finally ventured out to a rather famous restaurant in Orlando, The Ravenous Pig. I got hopelessly lost on the way, and I blame it all on my not-so-trusty GPS, Veronica; she absolutely failed me in this instance and I was left wandering the streets of Orlando while my roommate drowned her sorrows in good bourbon.

Alas, The Ravenous Pig is in Winter Park, as I realized when I finally arrived. Although I was a bit discombobulated upon arrival, I was quickly put at ease by the aforementioned bourbon: The Pig (as I affectionately call it) has quite a large selection of, dare I say it, craft, small-batch bourbons. Quite the antidote to my GPS-gone-amuck.

My roommate J had ordered an app while I was…arriving, and I’m glad she did: the homemade pretzels were nice, but the real kicker was the Taleggio fondue they were served with. I (and I’m sure many others) would have been happy with just that for dinner. I scraped out the last bits and ate it with my knife! Very gauche, I’m afraid, but also why I have no photo to show you, since we ate it all rather quickly – you’ll just have to take my word that you definitely want to try this fondue.

For our mains, J chose the short-rib lasagna (I’m not sure when short rib became so popular, but I’m glad it did; I’ve loved the stuff ever since I cooked the cover of a Bon Appetit issue a few years ago: a short rib sandwich with quick pickled onions. Delish!) and I had the venison. After ordering, I decided probably there weren’t very many vegetables included with this venison (my clue: the name of the resto is the Ravenous Pig, not the Crunchy Asparagus), and so I amended my order to include one Farmer’s Salad. This was a salad with homemade croutons, a TON of bacon, and a soft poached egg on top. See below.

Farmer's salad with bacon and slow-poached egg

Farmer’s Salad

I think this truly may be one of my most favourite things to eat: I love when you pierce the egg with your fork and the runny egg yolk drips gooey deliciousness all over the salad leaves and melds with the dressing, and the crisp croutons and the meaty bacon serve as a savoury counterpoint to the fresh leaves. Often when I have a salad such as this, I am so disappointed: an overcooked, cold egg sits atop a salad overly dressed with vinaigrette; however, this salad hit none of these low points and all of the high. My only slight (slight) complaint may be that there was too much bacon – I know! Insanity! When can there ever be too much bacon! I only say this because I genuinely like salad, and the bacon plus the later venison altogether took away any cred I had accrued by being a bit “healthy”, but I suppose that’s really nonevermind.

J’s short rib lasagna was quite tasty; I only had a small bite but she said it was very good. However, she did mention that there wasn’t actually a whole lot of short rib in the lasagna; if you’ll have a look-see below, you’ll see what I mean.

Short rib lasagna

Short-rib lasagna

Right? I can’t see any short rib. I did manage to try a tiny piece and I can tell you it was quite good, but really, not enough: we just want more of the good stuff!

My venison was, in a word, splendid: I have now just had to revisit the menu in order to fully describe what exactly was going on on this plate.

Venison with ash spatzle

Venison with ash spatzle

You can see that there are some venison slices here on top; on the menu it says it is a venison brat, and there are definitely some pieces of sausage strewn about (to be honest, I thought they were chorizo, but they were good whatever they were), but it’s clear that there were some slices of venison loin, or breast, or…some slices of venison. Venison can be quite gamey (I’ve heard) but this was perfect: cooked medium-rare, very tender, not gamey or tough at all. The “ash spatzle” (little bits of pasta dough pushed through a sieve into boiling water to cook, and then…coated in ash?) were little nuggets of toasty greatness. As I suspected, there was very little vegetable matter on the plate, making me glad I had ordered the salad. Even without the veg, this was truly a great dish.

Both of us ordered dessert (we were celebrating a birthday, relax!). Although the desserts themselves were fine (chocolate cake: pretty decent; bread pudding: good but a bit dry), they weren’t really anything to write home about. However, the ice cream that came with the desserts (made in-house, I imagine) was fantastic. I had butter pecan and she had malt, and both were out of this world. See below for a shot of the bread pudding/butter pecan, and chocolate cake/malt:

Bread pudding with butter pecan ice cream

Bread pudding with butter pecan ice cream

Chocolate cake with malt ice cream

Chocolate cake with malt ice cream

As you can tell from my effusiveness, I really enjoyed this restaurant. There are some caveats, however: this place is kind of expensive (especially if you are on a budget). I would perhaps suggest saving it for a special occasion, but definitely somewhere you should try. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to be your local, unless your pockets are deep, in which case, invite me along :)
Also, the restaurant “respectfully declines substitutions”. This was fine for me the night I went, but I actually don’t really support this; what if there’s an allergy? Or a dietary restriction? I think food should be accessible to most everyone, not just those who can eat everything.
The Pig changes up their menu every month, in order to stay seasonal and local. This is great, because it means that there are always new things to try, but also potentially awful, if you fall in love with a particular dish! I take my hat off to the chef’s creativity, though.
Finally, the owners have put out a cookbook (which, yes, I did purchase); I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but it looks nice! It was a bit cheaper than it would have been at a bookstore, plus you get $10 off at their sister restaurant, Cask & Larder (which I posted about a few months ago). After I peruse it, I’ll share my thoughts :)
Even while we were still eating, my roommate and I decided that we must come back; now you know that’s the sign of a good meal and a satisfied customer if they want to come back before they’ve even left! We shall revisit in the new year.

And with this parting remark, I bid you adieu: happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and to all a good night! Stay delicious folks!

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