For kosher-keeping Jews in Pittsburgh, supping on beef carpaccio at a swanky rooftop restaurant is rarer than a paleron. But for one night at Hotel Monaco downtown last week, halachically observant gourmands enjoyed the exquisite and formerly out-of-reach. The gastronomic gathering, which served as the boutique lodging’s first foray into a wholly in-house kosher event, was a fundraiser for Hillel Academy
“The excitement we had to welcome this group, we’re excited about the challenge of doing something start to finish,” said Rob Mallinger, the hotel’s general manager.
As the Pittsburgh returnee went on to explain, the Klimpton-owned property has previously hosted kosher affairs; however, for those situations, outside caterers brought in already prepared foods. Conversely, with last week’s event, Mallinger and his staff took on a complete kosher challenge.
“It’s not as simple as making the kitchen kosher,” he explained. Instead, every ingredient, “how we source it,” everything must meet a particular threshold, Mallinger carefully noted.
But as the savory scent of steak wafted nearby, the manager exhaled and exclaimed, “I’m excited after all of the planning to see it all come together. Now you can see the grill, you can smell the food. And the weather held up.”
Though the climate was beyond the control of those present, Mallinger praised the culinary craftsmen involved.
“I’m confident in Chef Wyatt Lash,” he said.
The former Lancaster County native became the executive chef of The Commoner, a restaurant within Hotel Monaco, last year. With his interest in utilizing regionally produced ingredients to tweak gastro-pub favorites, Lash has been successful in delighting local palates.
While working beside a smoke-spewing grill, the chef teased the saporous treats soon to be served.
“There’s a little bit of Italian, a little bit of Mediterranean and a little bit of North African,” he explained.
And as the offerings arrived, guests soon discovered multicultural magnificence within their mouths.
Adjoining the first course of carpaccio was tomato chutney, lemon olive oil and wood-grilled flatbread. Beef garnishes included chopped Marcona almonds and cured egg yolk.
But before the second course was even served, one epicure raved on the ravishing dish before him.
“The presentation is absolutely gorgeous,” remarked Dr. Jerome Parness.
With further exposition the now vegan but former carnivore continued, “Just the rim is well done and it’s tartar on
the inside, and that’s the best way to eat this kind of meat.”
Initially aiding digestion was Anchor Stream Beer. The California common is “creamier,” explained Jamaal Mackey, a bartender who interspersed the soiree with sprinklings of suds related knowledge.
Following the second course of merguez sausage, marinated flank steak, grilled chard, apple chutney and farro, another beverage was poured.
This time Innis and Gun Rum Cask Oak Aged swirled from glass to gut.
That Scottish ale was then followed by Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, a powerfly scented drink, which countered the more fruitful flavor of Angry Orchard Knotty Pear Cider, a subsequent summery tipple.
Finally, to both gulpers and sippers delight, Mackey showcased one more brew — Redbridge, a gluten-free lager.
Mackey’s objective with each of these drinks was to “broaden knowledge and broaden palates,” he noted.
Dessert featured berry pavlova, mint, citrus curd and meringue.
Encapsulating it all was Parness, who simply stated, “I have never seen anything like this in Pittsburgh,” before offering a critical caveat.
“I mean, at least at a Jewish affair.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.