For 365 days, I lived just a few short blocks from a well-known Highland Park restaurant, e2 (pronounced e squared). In Pittsburgh, they’re infamous for their homestyle vibe — literally, meals are served in the first floor living room of an old home — as well as their commitment to locally sourced food products. It’s small and quaint, and for the 365 days that I lived right around the corner, I never stepped foot inside.
Last Tuesday, we made our way back to my old stomping grounds. He parked where he always used to when he’d come visit me; I even ding-dong-ditched my old roommate, who still lives in that great ol’ apartment. (Sorry, Suze.) We walked down the familiar street, taking in the overwhelming scent of the Thai cuisine wafting from the building across the street, to meet our friends Dani and Brandon for dinner.
We were quickly seated on the left side of what used to be the living room — and, to be perfectly honest, I use the term “quickly” loosely; we were late, so we happened to miss the ten minute wait that Dani and Brandon endured — and the specials were explained to us by the rather clueless hostess. It didn’t matter so much to me that she had no idea what she was talking about — they sounded delicious on their own — but I’m sure someone was mad about ordering goat cheese, only to find out that it did, in fact, come from a cow.
I popped open a bottle of Tempranillo, and Dani and Brandon ordered an appetizer of carrots, goat cheese, sausage (from Penn Mac!) and toasted bread. I truly didn’t pay much attention to the details of the appetizer they ordered because I was so wrapped up in how delicious this random bottle of Tempranillo was, but I really should have, because it was impeccable.
For dinner, I ordered Campanelle with Sage Butter, served with pancetta, melted onion, roasted corn and chicken. He chose Ricotta Ravioli, accompanied by corn, beet greens, jalapeños and hot sausage.
My dish was incredible, and it didn’t take me long to understand how e2 made it’s way onto the list of Pittsburgh’s Best Restaurants for 2014. The sweet corn and the salty pancetta, when paired together in one bite, were a force to be reckoned with. The soft, gummy pasta stood out against the crunch of the bread crumbs that seasoned the top of each bite. Even after I was full, I couldn’t stop nibbling. The other food was delicious, I’m sure. However, spicy foods are not my cup of tea, so I didn’t venture a taste of my own.
For dessert, I opted for a bottle of Syrah for the table and some sort of forgettable seasonal something-or-other. My boyfriend, however, chose beignets, lightly dusted in powder sugar, and they were almost – almost – Cafe du Monde level beignets… which is pretty darn great, if I do say so myself.
Something about dinner that night reminded me of being home. Highland Park is where I lived when I graduated college and officially entered the “real world.” And in those 365 days, it’s where I learned a lot of lessons. We ate dinner in the living room of an old home, with friends who have known us for years. So, something about dinner that night reminded me of being home.