Date Night - Week 1: Wild Rosemary Bistro
Good things will come to you at Wild Rosemary Bistro.
Jeremy and I had set aside a Friday night after the holidays for our first official “Date Night” but he left the choice of restaurant up to me. Uncertain as to where to begin our culinary adventure, I asked around the staffroom at lunch for suggestions. A colleague mentioned Wild Rosemary – that she drives past it’s full parking lot often and has been wanting to pay the tiny eatery a visit. She said we absolutely needed reservations; friends of hers had waited weeks to get a table in the 28-seat dining room. I picked up the phone to call about reservations for that evening, already making a list of back-up options in my head, when the voice on the other end said that there had been a cancellation and asked for a name to hold my reservation. We were in!
I found the restaurant’s website and sent the link to Jeremy for approval. His reply was short: “Looks great, but what are you going to eat?” I’ve been a vegetarian since I was ten, and there was not a meatless option on the menu. I figured we’d wing it, and if my picky palate became an issue at least it would make a good story: “Couple throws steak at waitress and storms out of local restaurant.” It could work.
Wild Rosemary is a BYOB, and as we gave our name to the hostess (who turned out to be co-owner Cathleen Enders) and hung our coats on the swelling hooks beside the door, the group at the table by the window beside us chattered happily over empty plates and popped the cork on a bottle of champagne. The mixture of scents – spices, pine, and the fire – and the eclectic and mismatched silverware, chairs, and decorations were inviting and comfortable – this was clearly a place where meals and conversation were drawn out and enjoyed.
Cathleen led us to a table along the window next to the red-tiled fireplace, handed us menus, and promised to return. Jeremy contemplated out loud the merits of a 12 oz, aged, center-cut New York strip steak with caramelized onion and chili potatoes versus grilled scallops and bucatini in a white whine sauce with roasted tomatoes and wilted arugula. He asked for my opinion – of which I had none – and besides, I was completely distracted by the desert tray that was making its way past our table to a couple at the far end of the dining room.
A few minutes later, Cathleen returned with a complimentary appetizer – a goat cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomato tart drizzled with balsamic and accented with green and black olives, which I promptly intercepted. She promised to return in a few minutes to take our orders.
I’m always embarrassed when my being a vegetarian becomes an imposition, and though we were at a restaurant, I still felt like I was being a pain, apologizing to Cathleen upon her return and promising to be content with whatever substitutions they could make. Cathleen laughed and brushed off my frantic apologies, asked if I was vegan (which I’m not) and told me not to worry; she’d talk to the chef and see what they had on hand.
Jeremy – goodie two shoes – ordered, simply, the steak: medium well, no fuss.
Cathleen returned and told me that she had ingredients to make a vegetable pasta with a white sauce, listing the vegetables and waiting for my approval. I approved.
Moments later, Cathleen returned with another woman whom she introduced as none other than Gloria Fortunato, the chef. Gloria, excited, told me that she found some gnocchi in the cupboard and could pair it with a brown butter sage sauce, oven-dried tomatoes and parmigiano-reggiano. Her excitement was contagious and I told her to go for it – that our appetizer gave me complete faith in her and my entrée.
I was most impressed by the service at Wild Rosemary’s, and in writing this, find “service” to be a word that does not fully describe the way we were treated by these women. From Cathleen helping us hang our coats upon entering to the care and concern paid to my meal, we were treated like special guests, made to feel at home.
When our entrée arrived, Jeremy and I looked at each other, confused, and thought that I had been given the wrong plate. The gnocchi, which the plate did turn out to be, were the size of marshmallows and were perfectly crisped on the outside with insides soft and light. The brown butter sage sauce was perfect and just the right amount – enough to compliment the pasta without being smothering. Slivers of parmigiano-reggiano not only added to the exquisite presentation of the dish but also added just enough flavor to the pasta. A rocket salad dressed up the plate but unfortunately sat mostly untouched – the gnocchi were filling and I would not leave a single one behind. This was, undoubtedly, the best pasta dish I had ever had.
Jeremy, carnivore extraordinaire, said that his was the best steak he’d ever eaten – of the highest quality and grilled to perfection. Even with such an overwhelming response from a man who has consumed his fair amount of steak, I passed on his offer to share. I did, however, steal a few potatoes in the brown sauce - soft and full of flavor.
Our conversation – which throughout the evening had ranged from humorous anecdotes about my always-entertaining teenage students to the intricacies of air traffic control – completely died off towards the end of the meal as we struggled to stuff the last bites of steak and gnocchi into bloated bellies.
You don’t pass up dessert at a place like Wild Rosemary – plus, we’d already been acquainted with Cathleen and Chef Gloria, and felt we owed it to baker Lynne Bielewicz to sample her wares. Jeremy and I had been bantering about one of the desserts that was whisked past our table earlier in the evening – a petite, round cake, iced in white and coated with what looked like crushed walnuts. Jeremy’s bet was that it was some kind of carrot cake; I guessed it to be the Winter Cake that I saw advertized on the website. I ordered it, somewhat out of spite because I wanted to prove him wrong; he went with the snickerdoodle cheesecake. If dessert was anything like dinner, neither of us was going to want to share.
Our eyes were larger than our stomachs. Both desserts exceeded expectations – my cake soft and moist with a hint of coconut, sweet frosting, and walnut coating, and his cheesecake rich and delicious. However, we still ended up taking half of each home in doggie bags (which, if we’re being honest here, we consumed about an hour after returning home that evening.)
Wild Rosemary is a idyllic, a tiny gem of a cottage pulled from a fairy tale with candlelit tables, cozy fire, and homey atmosphere due to both the quaint décor and the hospitality of its hosts. Please, please, please – set aside an evening, make a reservation, gather a bottle or two of wine and some good company, and be prepared to enjoy.
Wild Rosemary Bistro is open Tuesdays – Saturdays 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
They are also available for private parties on Sundays.
Call in advance for reservations:
1469 Bower Hill Road
Upper St. Clair, PA 15241