Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fun Playing With Boxty in Pittsburgh

A favorite venue in Pittsburgh PA is Piper's Pub. Bob and I recently returned to visit near Pittsburgh (it was the 20th anniversary of our first meeting, which, like our most recent visit, took place at a Mensa Regional Gathering). Piper's, located across the street from Fathead's, in the popular South Side bar and restaurant district, came onto our radar because Drew Topping, the Executive Chef and owner, is the son of our friend Sandra. Sandra would often attend the Pittsburgh RG and organize a dinner trip to Piper's - but it had been a few years since Bob and I had partaken. 

This year, after sleeping in and missing both breakfast and lunch served at the event, we decided to take advantage of Piper's Sunday Brunch (served 11am to 3pm, which for us was most fortunate). 

We rolled in around 2:30pm. Though Piper's has a fabulous beer and scotch selection, we stuck to iced tea. Piper's also offered its full regular menu at that time (which is a rather eclectic mix of Scottish, Irish and English, together with some American favorites) - but we both gravitated to the brunch-only offering of boxty. According to Wikipedia, "Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. . . . There are many different recipes but all contain finely grated, raw potatoes and all are served fried."

Over the years, I've sampled boxty a number of times, and to my palate, they mostly resemble potato latkes, served in Eastern European and Jewish-American cuisines. I've noticed as much variation in different interpretations of boxty as I have with latkes - many restaurants grate the potatoes with a standard grater hole, and the result is more hash brown than pancake in texture. Piper's version was much closer to my own dear latkes, with the potatoes grated with a very fine or small grating hole, which enables them to get a truly "pancake" type consistency (with a little flour and baking powder added as well, I'm sure). 

And so, our boxty:

Irish Boxty

The crispy, yet creamy potato pancake was folded over bangers (sausage), ham, scrambled eggs and provolone cheese. The sausage was of exceptionally good quality, and the sum of the parts equaled a great whole - I had to steal a second bite from Bob! As you can see, the portions at Piper's are generous and the cost about $10 a plate for all of the brunch items, and most of the regular menu items (except the "entree" section of the menu, which averages closer to $15). 

Creamed Corned Beef Boxty

My boxty was folded over corned beef and covered with a rich cream sauce. Truthfully, I've had better corned beef; this version was average. But I've never enjoyed a boxty more than I enjoyed this one. Not only was the pancake exquisitely fresh and perfectly made, but the cream sauce made up for any profundity lacking in the corned beef without overpowering the plate. 

Both plates were served piping hot (you should pardon the expression), and both included some wilted greens and food service grape tomatoes. They'd have done better to have just left the greens off, but no harm done.

Piper's remains our favorite "go to" for fun food and drink when visiting the Pittsburgh area.

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