Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash | Pittsburgh City Paper

Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash

click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
View from our table at Fig & Ash
Fig & Ash, Friday night. We sashayed into the restaurant in our ballgowns prepped for a spectacular girls' evening of fine dining and theater. Approaching our table, the server gave us a look that said, “We absolutely do not have a kids' menu here.”

That was three years ago. My daughter was six. And I knew something our server didn’t know: my daughter has a sophisticated palate. That evening, we started with the shrimp appetizer. And to the server’s delight, my little one removed the tails properly and savored the accompanying sauce and garnish. He asked how everything tasted, and my daughter confidently replied, "Chef’s kiss."

My daughter is now nine years old, and her food knowledge has grown, and so has her ability to form well-placed opinions. On this visit, we looked over the menus, at which point I reminded her to order anything she’d like but to prepare to share one another’s meals so we could both enjoy everything, to which she replied, “Well, obviously, Mom.”
click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
Wall art at Fig & Ash
Before we ate, we were able to speak briefly with Corey Hughes, the proprietor and back-of-house operations manager at Fig & Ash. Corey is a big proponent of using fresh, seasonal ingredients and flavors, diving into braised meats and deep flavors as we turn the corner into the dark days of winter, and preparing for an upcoming Valentine’s Day menu. He also remarked on the creativity of his staff, particularly the Oh David cocktail created by F&A’s bar manager, which has become a hit with Schitt’s Creek fans.

I introduced Corey to his newest, smallest critic. He simply laughed and told us about his foodie son who had insisted on having a sushi birthday party (thanks for giving my daughter ideas, man). Corey was game for some culinary feedback from a kid.
click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
The Mint 2 Be mocktail at Fig & Ash

The Mocktail

As long as there’s nothing super caffeinated in the mix, I always allow my small person to order a fancy beverage. Luckily, Fig & Ash always has a rotating mocktail on the menu. The “Mint 2 Be” was a blend of mint tea, pickled grapefruit, lemon, and coconut water which added a lovely viscosity to the blend. My daughter enjoyed the flavor but only made it about halfway through the glass before the sweetness became too much. “Needs more sour,” was her response.

The Scallops

I couldn’t even snap a photo of the scallops before they disappeared. Both my daughter and I are huge fans of polenta, the persimmon chutney was "out of this world" (kiddo’s words, not mine), and the chili aioli added a wonderful balance to the dish. The scallops were crispy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. My daughter, who gobbled ninety percent of the dish, remarked, “Ten out of ten. My favorite scallops to date.”
click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
The chicken liver mousse at Fig & Ash

The Chicken Liver Mousse

My daughter had never tried chicken liver mousse before, and I give her all the credit in the world for trying it. She smeared some on her toasted baguette, decorated it with the cranberry orange jam and pistachio garnish, and took a bite. She said it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t her favorite thing she’s ever tried. However, she loved the baguettes and accompaniments. In her words, “It didn’t taste much like chicken. And I’ll try it again, just not today. Can we have steak now?”
click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
Strip steak at Fig & Ash

The Steak

Whose kid likes rare, dripping steak? Mine does. The strip steak was served with wilted spinach, shallot marmalade, a red wine demi, and a magical celery root puree which my daughter suggested we try to recreate at home. There was very little fat, no gristle, and it was perfectly seared. Her only remark was that the sear wasn’t quite as crispy as she likes, but otherwise, she said she loved the whole dish and nearly licked the plate.
click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
Cutler Cove salmon at Fig & Ash

The Salmon

Considering my nine-year-old consumed nearly a whole giant steak after pounding down scallops and toasted baguettes, she couldn’t be bothered with my salmon. However, she did take a couple of quick bites. She said, “Mmm. good. I like the fish with the farro: nice texture! I don’t like beets, but I like these beets. They’re good! Ask the chef how he makes them, and take notes, Mom.” Will do, kiddo.
click to enlarge Nine-year-old “food critic” samples Fig & Ash
CP Photo: Stacy Rounds
The skillet cookie at Fig & Ash

The Skillet Cookie

The skillet cookie was a surprise. Our neighbors, a couple from out of town with their grown son, bought us dessert. I will say this was probably the best cast-iron dessert I’ve consumed, mostly due to the texture (yay, crispy!) and the presentation. My daughter loved it because all kids, whether they have adult tastes or not, love cookies and ice cream. These are just facts.

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