Fig & Ash meatloaf. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

For our first anniversary, my girlfriend and I ate dinner at Fig & Ash, a farm-to-flame restaurant on East Ohio Street in Deutschtown.

It’s my special occasion spot, but not because it’s where I’ve celebrated many special occasions. I’ve interviewed chef Cory Hughes there multiple times over the years, but it’s only been open since October 2020.

I wanted my first official visit to be a meaningful one.

I’ve watched Hughes and his team overcome multiple hurdles, from construction-related grand opening delays to Covid, with grace and positivity. I couldn’t think of a better place to make happy memories.

Photo courtesy of Fig & Ash.

Also, the food is really good.

The menu changes seasonally, but Tuesday night’s selection included meatloaf, which has long been one of my favorite meals.

Hughes specializes in refined comfort food and his short rib and pork belly version of the iconic dish — accompanied by farro pilaf, baby carrots, English pea puree and horseradish crème fraîche — did not disappoint. The guy cooked for Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid crew for crying out loud; he knows how to satisfy the munchies.

Although his incarnation was completely different than my mom’s recipe, each bite made me nostalgic and downright giddy. It nourished my soul as much as my body.

Growing up, I ate a lot of meatloaf; I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

In my opinion, the best scene in 1983’s “A Christmas Story” is when kid brother Randy refuses to eat his “double-beatloaf” until prompted by his mother to devour it like a little piggy.

This cinematic moment is so integral to my childhood, I had the actor, Ian Petrella, autograph my mom’s handwritten meatloaf recipe when he attended a screening of the film eight (ate?) years ago at the Hollywood Theater.

It’s not a coincidence that Ian, my girlfriend and I all share a birthday (December 17)! (No Christmas wrapping paper on our gifts, please. Fragile boxes only.)

My mom’s meatloaf recipe autographed by Ian Petrella, who plays Randy Parker in “A Christmas Story.” Photo by Kristy Locklin.
My mom’s meatloaf recipe autographed by Ian Petrella, who plays Randy Parker in “A Christmas Story.” Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Speaking of beef-based pop culture, I’m also a fan of “Roseanne,” a show that makes meatloaf a reoccurring character. My favorite musician — former-child-actress-turned-indie-rocker Jenny Lewis — once made an appearance on the sitcom. She opens the Conner family’s fridge and comments on “the huge, disgusting brown thing” chilling on the shelf.

What’s with the hate, Jenny? Roseanne prides herself on using generic cornflakes to help turn two pounds of ground beef into an 11-pound entrée.

My tastes have changed a lot, but I still crave mom’s meatloaf.

I did not inherit her culinary skills, but I’ve tried putting my own spooky spin on her mealtime mainstay. After finding a Halloween cookbook at Goodwill, I made Feet of Meat, a severed foot-shaped entrée. The author suggested this handy (footy?) tip:

“When shaping feet, form ankles that have been cut off and fill with dripping ketchup before serving for an especially gruesome effect!”

Who’s hungry?

Chef Hughes did not take this approach with his meatloaf, but it was still scarily good.

Chef Cory Hughes. Photo courtesy of Fig & Ash.

My girlfriend was experiencing her own kind of Hannibal Lecter-style euphoria with the Elysian Fields Moroccan Lamb. The Fig & Ash crew also threw in a plateful of gemelli mixed with mushrooms from Fun-gal Farms, shiitake cream, bacon and a poached egg, on the house. We were in heaven … and that was before we ate the Cast Iron Kahlua Brownie for dessert.

Did I share the scant meatloaf leftovers with my family? To quote a famous singer: “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.