Getting a taste of The Peppered Pig’s culinary profundity
By Christopher Malone
This little piggy reviewer went to the market, then to the bank, and then he got in his car and headed to Webster.
After checking out the French cuisine-inspired dishes on The Peppered Pig’s website, it was an easy (and necessary) decision to head to the restaurant located at 1759 Empire Blvd.
Like many restaurants affected by COVID-19, The Peppered Pig isn’t cutting any corners. There is plenty of spaced seating available for patrons, the bar area is spotless, and the bathroom is impeccable. They also were very transparent with making updates on their Facebook page to keep their returning and potential customers aware of any changes and even temporary closures.
To illustrate the perks of sitting at the bar, I was able to participate in conversation with other patrons (sitting at that appropriate distance), staff, and owner/chef Christopher Woods. He even shared small snifters with a shot of green Chartreuse. “Have you had Chartreuse?” Woods asked me. One of my favorite cocktails is The Last Word — so, yes.
I also opted for one of the signature cocktails, the Poblano Old Fashioned ($10). This is a concoction with Bulleit bourbon, Ancho Reyes poblano liqueur, pear syrup and bitters. A smooth take on the classic cocktail had subtle heat, a faint yet noticeable kick that allows this version to stand out.
The meal kicked off with a couple items off the light fare section of the small menu. Although the list offerings is concise, it promises to yield really tough decisions. First was the goat cheese croquette. The fist-sized goat cheese fritter ball sat upon sautéed spinach, shallots, golden raisins and pine nut butter. The lightly breaded and not overly fried cheese ball gave in easy to a jab of a knife. The warm, creamy goat cheese with the other ingredients was an experience in itself, with every bite.
The braised pork belly ($10) also produced a kaleidoscope of flavor as well. Four strips of pork belly sat on a bed of butternut squash puree and lentils, plus crispy leaves of sage sat to the side. It’s eye-closing satisfaction. The notably fatty cut of meat, or glorified bacon, was easily sliceable, even with a fork — and delicious.
The first of the two main dishes — duck confit ($16 for one leg, $22 for two). With pickled onion and greens, the slow-cooked quacker legs proved to be some of the best duck I’ve had in a while. The super tender dark meat was itching to fall off the bone as soon as the utensils made contact.
The field greens tasted incredibly fresh, too. The perfectly picked onion atop the salad was prominent and confident enough — no other ingredients were needed.
The bouillabaisse was displayed in grandiose fashion. The French fish stew was composed of white fish (haddock this time, per Chef Woods), scallops, mussels and veggies. The hot broth was seafood-based with noticeable saffron that didn’t steal the spotlight. None of the seafood bits were chewy. The grilled bread that stood tall was incredibly crispy to the bite. However, after sitting in the broth a little bit, the slices gave in easily and soaked up the bright red liquid.
Despite how filling the meal was — and taking home leftovers, too — giving in to some dessert was a must. Among three choices, the bread pudding with craisins was the literal takeaway. The dessert was both sweet and savory, very soft but far from soggy. The added dried cranberries were little bursts of extra tartness.
Before tip, the total came to $78 and change.
The Peppered Pig is a great example of enjoying and paying for a quality meal and culinary artistry. It’s fine dining in a casual atmosphere.
In times of a pandemic, you’ll feel as comfortable as dining out used to be. Plus, if you’re sitting at the bar, there’s opportunity for friendly group banter and basic human connections.
The Peppered Pig
1759 Empire Blvd., Webster
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Tuesday – Thursday: 4 – 8 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 12 – 9 p.m.
(check before you go because hours may change due to the pandemic)
Photo: The French fish stew composed of white fish (haddock this time), scallops, mussels and veggies.