Shortly after Fat Baby was born, one of The Carnivore's clients gave us a sizeable gift certificate for The Hilltop Grille. I remember being simultaneously elated and dismayed. At the time, I was sure I would never be able to cook again (that was before I learned how to nurse a baby one-armed while stirring food on the stove with the other hand). So while I was thrilled to think of someone else cooking for me, I couldn't yet envision a day when I would be able to go to a restaurant again.
The Carnivore and I had eaten at Hilltop once before, back when we still lived in town, and long before we conceived Fat Baby. I don't remember much about that meal, not because it wasn't spectacular, but simply because it was a long time ago, back in the day when we ate out all the time.
On Monday, The Carnivore came home early and since I had to go to that side of town to pick up some work anyway (and because I REALLY did not feel like cooking), I suggested we finally make use of the gift certificate, roughly a year and a half after we received it. To this point, I still hadn't decided whether or not I would still eat seafood, and it didn't occur to me until after I read the Specials board that I would have no choice unless I was willing to eat red meat (not at all likely). I decided to throw caution to the wind and eat seafood at least one more time after nearly drooling when I saw they had bisque.
I tend to order the specials when I eat out, which of course isn't often anymore, but I've found that it is the Special which the chef will have put the most effort into, and certainly will be made with the freshest ingredients, something I learned from a local chef when I picked his brain at a party years ago.
For starters, we both ordered the Crab Bisque, a surprisingly spicy and wonderfully thick rendition of one of my favorite soups. I dipped crackers in the bisque for Fat Baby, not wanting him to eat any of the actual crab meat, and he nibbled daintily on the crackers like an upscale baby (what a ham).
The Carnivore ordered some sort of steak for his entree, after a brief discussion with the waitress over where the chef was from originally. Apparently, and here I am only repeating what I have been told, if you order your steak rare from a Northern chef, the steak will arrive completely raw, still attached to the cow. If you ask for a medium steak from a Southerner, you get shoe leather. The Carnivore thusly orders his steak medium rare from a Yankee, and rare from Southern chefs. This is yet another reason why I don't eat meat. How stinking confusing...
I had the stuffed Rainbow trout. The filet was sliced in half horizontally, and stuffed with garlic, red bell pepper, shallots and sliced lemons. The sliced lemons were a stroke of pure genius, infusing both the fish and the pepper with a fabulous light flavor. The trout was flaky, with a great texture. The side dishes I ordered were disappointing at best. The smashed potatoes were oddly sweet (too much sugar in the butter maybe?) and the roasted vegetables were lukewarm. The Carnivore, however, ordered onion rings and french fries, mainly to keep Fat Baby happy, and the onion rings alone were worth the price of admission.
As with most restaurants, the servings were entirely too large, and I had to skip part of my meal in order to save room for CREME BRULEE CHEESECAKE. For the love of all that is good in this world, I wanted to kiss the person who came up with the idea of marrying my two favorite desserts. Fat Baby and I split the cheesecake, liberally drizzled with raspberry syrup, and I nearly had to order another serving. Fat Baby is known to open his mouth, stick out his tongue and grunt loudly when he is begging for food, and his grunting was so loud for the cheesecake that I had to keep stuffing forkfuls into his mouth to drown him out.
This just reminded me of how badly I want to learn how to make creme brulee...