It’s that time of year again — time for that affair more glorious than the driven snow, Winter Pittsburgh Restaurant Week! We kicked things off this week at one of our favorite spots in town: Kaleidoscope Cafe in Lawrenceville.
That was where this season’s Blogger Dinner was held. The Blogger Dinner is an event held at the start of every Pittsburgh Restaurant Week; it’s an opportunity to taste great food and mingle with some fellow food bloggers in the community — and to take ostentatious photos of your meal without fear of shaming!
And there were plenty of opportunities for food photography; the blogger dinner consisted of seven courses of deliciousness served family style, with huge bowls and platters of food being passed around for the roughly-dozen of us to share.
We started light, with an Autumn Harvest Salad that had mixed greens, dried cranberries, crunchy soybeans, apples, and frizzled sage with a tangy roast squash vinaigrette. It had a delightful combination of the sweet and the tart, with a hint of bitterness from the greens. Along with the salad we enjoyed a garlic pesto dip served with triangles of fresh pita.
Soon after that, out came a platter of pine nut crusted salmon with a basil caper aioli. The salmon was right in that sweet spot where it’s flaky but still plenty succulent, and the pine nut crust and the aioli were terrific compliments to the savory fish.
The next course was polenta with a winter vegetable ragout; polenta is one of those dishes we can never seem to get quite right when we’re at home, so it’s always a treat to have it executed as well as it was here. It had just the proper amount of springiness to it — and the ragout was out of this world. I mean, as soon as its aroma hit your nose you knew it was going to really pop. Its tangy acidity and the natural sweetness of the vegetables paired well with the buttery flavor in the polenta.
The next course featured a pork tenderloin with pumpkin spätzle and cider-braised red cabbage. The tenderloin had just a touch of pinkness to it and could pretty much be cut with your fork, and while Chef Dan warned us that the cabbage had come out a little more vinegary than he’d intended, Fox and I both thought it really balanced well with the rich cheesiness and slight sweetness of the spätzle. The variety of food textures in the dish also gave it a nice mouthfeel.
After the tenderloin, we were treated to a course of Michigan chicken pot pie with shiitake mushrooms, roasted squash, and Michigan cherries, all topped with a buttery, flaky puff pastry. Oh man, was this thing heavenly.
As the meal wound down, Chef Dan came out to speak with us about some of the dishes and his philosophy about creating an excellent dining experience. In our opinion, he’s a great example of what a chef-owner should be doing; Dan’s connected closely with the food, of course, but also with what it’s like to be in the front of the house. He puts a lot of thought into what it’s like for diners to spend time in his place, and he’s a great host.
And that was our incredible Blogger Dinner. Kaleidoscope is BYOB, so we brought a bottle of Tempranillo out to enjoy with the meal; we’ve found that on the huge spectrum of reds, a nice dry Tempranillo can pair with a lot of stuff, due to its relatively neutral flavor profile. We recommend it when you’re out for a many-coursed meal where you’re not exactly sure what all is on the menu until you get there.
Of course, the evening didn’t end there — while the pot pie and the mashed potatoes marked the finish of the pre-planned part of the meal, we did have a chance to wrap up with a dessert round. We went with two of the three available options.
…and rosemary shortbread (!!!) with a thin layer of custard and lemon curd. While I love me some flourless chocolate cake, this was just the perfect grace note to an already splendid dining experience.
So that was how we kicked off Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. We highly recommend that you get a table at Kaleidoscope this week (or really, any time). Kaleidoscope’s restaurant week special is a steal at $20.15, with plenty of options for you to enjoy. You’ll definitely need a reservation, so call ahead!
Kaleidoscope Cafe is located at 108 43rd Street in Pittsburgh, PA 15201. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-10pm. Reserve a table by calling (412) 683-4004. BYOB.