Restaurant saddled with warning after serving horsemeat

Nationally acclaimed Cure in Lawrenceville was inspected and issued an official warning by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service last week after the agency learned of a dinner in which the restaurant’s chef and co-owner, Justin Severino, served raw horsemeat.

The dish, Le Cheval, which is French for “horse,” was the second course of a five-course menu as part of Mr. Severino’s semi-regular “Cure-ated” dinner series, which features guest chefs from around North America. Monday’s dinner featured guest chefs Scott Vivian and Nate Middleton, of Toronto restaurants Beast and Home of the Brave, respectively. The horse was prepared in tartare (raw) style, with salt and vinegar chips, cured egg yolk and black garlic mayonnaise.

A UDSA FSIS spokeperson confirmed the visit and the written warning today in a statement: “On May 10, 2017, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was notified that a restaurant in Pittsburgh illegally served horse meat to consumers during a May 8th event. Within hours of notification, FSIS was onsite investigating the firm and issued a Notice of Warning for illegal entry of horsemeat into the United States. The Agency also confirmed that there were no other horse products in commerce or on the menu of this restaurant.”

According to the USDA, a ban on inspection of horses intended for human consumption has been in effect since 2006 when Congress prohibited the use of federal funds for the inspection of horses. Although the bill lapsed in 2011, there is still no inspection for horsemeat. Ergo, it cannot be sold.

An online petition on calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to ban horse as a menu item in Pennsylvania restaurants had garnered nearly 1,500 signatures as of late Monday afternoon. The petition was created by Joy Braunstein, a former executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, who resigned from that position in February 2016 after a similar petition called for her removal.

Mr. Severino said in a statement last week, “"On Monday night we hosted a collaborative dinner with chefs from Canada, a Québécois feast. One of the courses included horse tartare, which is traditional Québécois. It was sourced from a sustainable horse farm in Alberta, Canada. This dish was available for one night only and it is not part of the Cure menu.”

A request for a statement Monday was not immediately returned.

Opened on Butler Street in 2011, Cure has become synonymous with Pittsburgh’s dining renaissance. According to the restaurant’s website, Mr. Severino is a four-time James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and a 2014 and 2015 winner of Food & Wine magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic.”

In 2012, Cure was named one of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit magazine. Nearby sister restaurant Morcilla opened in December 2015, and Bon Appetit ranked it number four in the country in its prestigious annual Best New Restaurants issue. It was also nominated for a 2016 James Beard Foundation in the national Best New Restaurants category.

Dan Gigler:; Twitter @gigs412


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