SARATOGA SPRINGS – Anyone who wants fall-off-the-bone, tender ribs from Kaleidoscope Cafe has to be quick, because chances to order ribs and other smoked meats during any given week doesn’t last long.
I’ve watched for the last few weeks as cafe owner Bruce Wadsworth would post on Facebook that he has a rack or two left of ribs, and in within minutes he’s updating that post to say he’s sold them.
Wadsworth hasn’t been smoking meat for long. In fact, he’s a late bloomer to the food industry. He had been working in the mailing industry selling equipment when he turned 50 and had a health scare that caused him to rethink his career.
That moment also inspired the name of the cafe.
“Kaleidoscope, that’s me changing my life,” Wadsworth said.
Smoking meat wasn’t even the first thing he wanted to do when he decided to change careers. Wadsworth began with the idea of an ice cream business, because he could have winters off to go snowmobiling.
The idea of opening an ice cream shop didn’t immediately come together though, as Wadsworth struggled to find a location. “I couldn’t find a location for three years and then shelved the whole idea,” he said.
While waiting to find a good location, Wadsworth began selling organic dog treats at farmers’ markets just to stay busy in the summer. He also thought about opening a food truck, and while mulling over that idea he came across the property he is in now, eventually up opening shop in June 2020.
It began as only homemade ice cream featuring flavors like “sweet blue nill,” which is wild blueberry ice cream with natural honey and vanilla wafer chunks, and turtle cheesecake, which is a cheesecake ice cream base with salted caramel and Sundaes Best hot fudge, made locally by Katie Camarro.
He said the ice cream is a great seller in the summer, and when he takes the ice cream to events, all it takes is one kid saying they love a flavor for it to sell out quickly.
All of the flavors use natural ingredients, too, meaning you won’t catch the cookie monster ice cream looking blue, because Wadsworth hasn’t figured out a natural way to turn the base blue.
Wadsworth also asks his employees to try all the ice cream flavors and create their own top five favorites list so when they’re talking to customers about what they think are the best flavors they’re speaking with passion.
Two months into opening Wadsworth realized he needed something to add to the business so he decided to begin barbequing meat on the smoker left behind by the previous owners of the property.
Wadsworth, who had never smoked meat before in his life, said a neighbor who was a chef knew how to do it, came down and helped clean the smoker and got him going.
The first six people who bought ribs from him were customers that he had met earlier that summer and the seventh guy referred to himself as a rib fanatic. After getting the man’s praise, Wadsworth gained confidence that smoking meat was something he could really take on.
Wadsworth barbecues ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and, toward the fall, turkey.
Now, he’s getting compliments left and right on the meat and insists people try the meat by itself before adding any one of the four sauces he offers.
“The sauce with my barbeque should be the enhancement at the end,” he said.
That thought and the flavor in his meat is what led him to come up with the phrase “where the sauce is the after-thought” to describe his barbeque.
- Gold Q: Mustard-based and similar to a Carolina sauce.
- Honey Q: Tomato-based with honey
- Smokey Q: Tomato-based with vinegar and spice to add flavor, but not heat
- Sweet Q: Tomato-based with honey and molasses to add sweetness, and an extra pepper for a little more flavor.
Wadsworth said he’s a smaller-batch smoked meat joint, and it’s the way he wants to keep it.
“That’s where calling in to get your name on one comes in,” he said.