It is an unfortunate fact of life that all (fun, thrilling, exciting, and wonderful) things must come to an end (while all terrible, boring, and annoying things shall stretch on forever… it’s a proven fact). And this, of course, is the case with my first Pittsburgh Restaurant Week.
But not to miss out on one last day of fully-approved restaurant indulgence, I called up my dear friend Jon (he’s my bud who participates in all of the Dave Matthews Band madness with us) and we made some lunch reservations at Kaleidoscope Cafe in Lawrenceville.
Unfortunately for this wonderful little shop, our lovely city of Pittsburgh decided that all the winter it had been holding back on this year was ready to be thrown from the skies and onto our streets. Between the dumpage of snowflakes Thursday and Friday nights, most parts of Pittsburgh ended up with five or more inches of snow when we woke up on Saturday morning. The news stations were warning people to stay home until late afternoon if possible, and I think that sadly kept many potential diners away.
However, I had a commitment to eat a LOT of really incredible food at 1pm, so we braved the snowy side streets of Lawrenceville and arrived without even having to move a single Pittsburgh Parking Chair to get a space.
I’ve been to Kaleidoscope once before, but this was Jon’s first visit. One of the best things about this place is that it’s a fine BYOB establishment. Since it was lunch, after all, and I didn’t have my designated driver around to safely get me home if I managed to put away too much of the bottle on my own, I got these bitty bottles of chianti. Each was under 200ml of wine, so just enough to support our meal, but not leave us sloppy.
After we got our glasses and settled into the first few sips of wine, it was time to tackle the complicated issue of reading the menu. Imagine opening a simple, three-fold restaurant menu only to find that it sends you into an elaborate series of desperate ‘eenie-meanie-miney-mo’. It was like the Hunger Games of dining options. I wanted to take all 24 options home with me, but I knew that in the end, there was just one plate that would survive (or at least survive the amount of time it took me to eat it).
Through Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, Kaleidoscope was offering a deal of a salad and entree for $20.12 for dinner, but in the kitchen, Coleman and Chef Dan were more than willing to accommodate our dinner wishes during the lunch hour. It was a tight choice for me between three dishes, one of them being the Cow Jumped Over the Blue Moon pasta, which I’d had on my previous visit. But, since I’d stuck with the Restaurant Week specials at all three of the previous dinners, I kept with the consistency. Jon and I each got different combinations off of the Restaurant Week sampler.
I, on the other hand, saw the B word among the salad options, so I sprung for the Farmhouse salad. This was a bed of mixed greens with strips of juicy beets throughout, mingling amongst walnuts, tender apple slices, cheese chunks, and a balsamic viniagrette. You know you’re in good hands when a place serves you a beet salad.
And then it was on to the entrees. For Jon’s plate, I’ll just give you the restaurant description: sweet and spicy seared tuna with mandarin orange, lavender yogurt sauce and pineapple risotto. That tuna was perfectly cooked, you can tell just by the color of the meat. Jon was really impressed.
After a rather involved mental debate, I settled on the pork tenderloin plate. As on Jon’s plate, I got the vegetable side of snap peas, which were flavored so well and had a satisfying crunch every time you bit into one. In the middle is the butternut squash and pancetta hash. It was so light but full of a burst of different flavors. I could imagine this working not only alongside a dinner-ish plate as this, but as a delicious brunch side with an omelet. (I, of course, had to sneak a little nibble home in a napkin for Miss Lucy, who was just as thrilled as I was!)
Finally, since we just couldn’t deal with the thought of our lunch ending, we each ordered one of these heavenly flourless chocolate tortes. This dessert took on one of those rare qualities where something gluten-free tastes even better than the real thing. The drizzle and little dunk-piles on the side are white chocolate, and it was a burst of different chocolate flavors with each bite. Our wonderful server, Ellen, kept the coffee refills coming as we lapsed into our standard excited discussion of upcoming DMB news.
Kaleidoscope is not on the main drag of restaurants and shops in L-ville of Butler Street, but nestled back on 43rd Street, so you can be assured of a quiet, charming, hipster-free dinner, accompanied by your favorite BYOB wine. The music inside Kaleidoscope comes from an iPod stereo, and I was pleased to hear some Grateful Dead slipped in amongst the other tunes. Our chef came out and introduced himself midway through the entrees and asked if we had any questions. I love a hands-on chef like that, and I love seeing someone who truly enjoys their work and puts their heart into it. I really can’t wait to go back.
I think it goes without saying that even though Pittsburgh Restaurant Week 2012 has come to a close, I have found four restaurants that we will definitely return to in the coming days. And, there were even more restaurants that I’d wanted to visit but had simply just run out of time (Bite Bistro, I’m looking at you!). Even though the official week is over, let’s keep the spirit of the celebration alive all year by visiting the amazing restaurant scene in our lovely city!