The 8 Tastiest Plates of the 2014 Best Restaurants Party
More than 2,000 people. 56 restaurants. And one super fun photo booth.
Photos by Leah Lizarondo
My favorite things about June:
1. The garden bounty starts coming in with a vengeance.
2. The first CSA deliveries arrive.
3. School is OUT! Woohoo!
4. Fantastic weather.
5. Pittsburgh Magazine’s BEST RESTAURANTS PARTY!!!
I knew coming into this year’s party that my experience wouldn’t quite match last year’s culinary kidnapping. Once you go blindfolded, there’s no going back.
But, as always, this year’s event did not disappoint. The crowd was buzzing and lining up for a chance to get a taste of some of the city’s hottest restaurants. Happy faces everywhere! And how can you not smile with table after table of amazing food cooked by your favorite chefs right at your fingertips? The good folks at Stella Artois even brought us a photo booth this year to capture all the fun (and cut down on gratuitous #selfies). Here’s mine with my buddy, Gisele Fetterman, who hosted Braddock’s much-awaited Superior Motors with hubby Mayor John Fetterman and chef/owner Kevin Sousa.
All the restaurants continue to outdo themselves. I was especially impressed by many restaurants’ use of seasonal ingredients. While they all had to prepare such a large volume of samples, the quality in the best of them didn’t waver.
Here are some of my favorite dishes at Monday’s Best Restaurants Party. If you weren’t there, this is very much the tip of the iceberg of what you missed!
Best of the Best: Superior Motors – Spring Salad
Spring salad is a complete understatement when you consider all the elements of Kevin Sousa’s phenomenal bowl. Each part of the composition is thoughtful, and the whole thing is beautiful. The foamy, fermented potato dashi inspired all sorts of food-nerdy superlatives. I love fermented things. And I have never had fermented potato dashi. From there, the procession of little gifts just makes your taste buds happy – from burnt-ramp puree to smoked/pickled morels and everything in between. If this is a sign of things to come, then Superior Motors’ 2015 opening can’t come soon enough.
Park Bruges – Smoked Portobello Bruschetta with Paprika Aioli
My photo just does not do this one justice, but the smoked mushroom and the creamy aioli with roasted tomatoes and peppers were perfect together.
Grit & Grace – Edamame Hummus
My favorite place to have cocktails and dinner downtown did not disappoint. I love to order the edamame hummus whenever I visit, so I was happy to see it paired with pea tendrils, spring vegetable relish, fermented chilis and the counterpunch of a masa flour crisp.
Notion – Pea Soup with Yogurt and Eucalyptus Foam
This was the first sample I tasted, and it was fantastic. There were a number of iterations of chilled pea soups at the party, but this one was my favorite – the eucalyptus foam was just the right twist.
E2 – Asparagus Spring Pea Soup
Chef Kate Romane’s version of this spring favorite represents everything great about E2 – fresh, classic, comforting. It was a nice shot of the season with hazelnuts, lemon balm and crème fraiche.
Kaya – Polenta with Spring Vegetables
I almost didn’t get to taste Kaya’s offering. Luckily, chef Ben Sloan was cooking up the final batch tableside. The creamy Anson Mills polenta topped with a spring bounty of fava beans, ramps, baby kale and crispy onions left me wishing I could scrape up the sides of the pot for more.
Best Reason to Hoard Samples: Gaby et Jules’ Macarons
I think this photo says it all. I saw you going back to the table three times. Yeah, you know who you are.
Best Way to End the Evening: Legume’s Ice Cream Bar
This is what the ice cream bar of my dreams is made of. Classic vanilla ice cream gilded with more than 20 (!) out-of-this-world toppings. From three amazing sauces to caramel popcorn, meringues, candied nuts and my top favorites – espresso figs and fermented black rice (did I mention that I LOVE fermented stuff?). Brilliant.