Man Food: Meat Pie Mania at Park in Harvard Square
Relative newcomer Park in Harvard Square is all about gratification; it’s a place where classic pub staples are elevated to where they belong, all served up in the lower-level confines of Harvard Square. The rotating “Meat Pie of the Day” is a divine offering for both the meat-in-crust lover and convert alike, a most irresistible and welcome menu item. Growing up, pot pie was never my thing, or so I was lead to believe. Tough, dry crusts with a gravy-smothered filling? Not my idea of comfort food. Give me a grilled cheese any day of the week instead and color me comforted.
But on a chilly late fall night, the meat pie special at Park sounded like a winner, with a filling of beer-braised pulled pork and mashed sweet potatoes. A rectangular and piping hot pot pie arrived at the table, looking innocent, until that first breakthrough of the fork, which revealed an indefinite amount of steam and earthy, hearty aromas. I was immediately drawn to the smells and flavors of fall. The seasonal beer balances the meltingly tender pork, and a touch of maple brings out the sweetness of the buttery sweet potatoes. The soft pork and the ever-so-slightly chunky sweet potatoes provide the ultimate meat-on-starch pairing. No sauce is needed, because all of the meaty juices keep the inside of the pot pie moist, and the thickness of the crust helps to hold it all together.
The crust is a perfect blend of tenderness and flakiness, which is no easy feat. It’s perfectly imperfect, with crispy knots and uneven crimps, yet clearly crafted with plenty of finesse and culinary skill. The subtle nuances of nutmeg, allspice, and clove in the filling come through in an unexpected but welcome way, and the real shock is how the pie holds together structurally. A side of mushy peas round out the dish, further promoting the Brit-pub-meets-TV-dinner theme, and they are a simple and worthy complement.
Arrive early to grab one of the limited meat pies at Park, and you won’t be sorry. A hearty meat filling awaits, engulfed in a very reliable crust, and it’s as close to comfort food perfection that you’ll find out there. Filling enough to feed two, I have no qualms about shelling out $16 for a dish of this caliber.
59 JFK Street, Cambridge, 617-491-9851, parkcambridge.com
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