Guerrilla Dinner

25 Feb

Before I started writing this post, I googled “supper clubs.”  Wiki says: “Supper Clubs are usually known as underground restaurants, home bistros, guerrilla dinner, secret restaurant, paladares, puertas cerradas, guestaurants, speakeasy or even anti-restaurant.”  Ha.  Spooky.

As of last night, we have done two supper clubs total.  Only one was spooky, really.  The other was, well, not spooky at all.  Both were great in different ways.

*     *     *

Before Valentine’s Day, we did a six-course vegan dinner at a loft in a secret South Loop location, hosted by the 24-Carrot Supper Club.   (This was arguably the spooky one.  See pictures.)The 24-Carrot Supper Club is an underground dining project by Heather Crosby and Valerie Bolon.  Heather is a vegan and Valerie wears a shirt that says I Heart Pork.  But they’ve worked it out in the form of an exclusively vegan, private dining event that happens once a month or so and is steadily gaining popularity.  It is in a different location each time, and the location is kept secret until just days before the event.

In this instance, the dinner took place in a loft that belongs to an artist.  Unusual work was on display all around the dimly lit, expansive space.There were mannequins and hearts made of old song books and calf skulls shaped from barbed wire.  It was all very beautiful and interesting, in a dark, Alice in Wonderland sort of way.

The food – a Valentine’s Day inspired menu – was stylized and beautiful.  While all six courses were vegan (no meat, eggs or dairy whatsoever), each dish was complex enough – in flavor, texture, substance – that we didn’t much notice.  That is, the food was good in its own right.  My favorite dish was a warm roasted carrot soup with a cool coconut cream heart and a drizzle of hazelnut oil – it was rich and delicious.  My two favorite things.  Heh.The beet, apple and onion gratin with beet coulis was striking and vivid.  It was soft and mildly sweet, with a nice, crusty top layer.For me, however, the biggest accomplishment of the night was the red velvet cake (though not red, really).  It was sweet and moist and satisfying.  How you make a cake with no eggs, milk or butter and come up with anything but dust is beyond me.  But here it is. Fantastic.

In all, a very nice first supper club.

*     *     *

Last night, we did a supper club of an entirely different nature.  This was a five-course dinner at The Experimental Station, a cultural and community center of sorts in Hyde Park.  The dinner was hosted by our friend Erling Wu-Bauer, sous-chef at the Publican, and Connie Spreen, one of the founders of The Experimental Station.

The Experimental Station is an amazing space – it is light and loft-y and open.  I loved the exposed brick and wood and beautiful wood-fired oven (where Erling worked for much of the night). 

The guests were journalists, computer programmers, educators, attorneys (hi!) and University of Chicago faculty.  There were bow ties and black-rimmed glasses (in theory, anyway – probably not actually – I just stole Erling’s joke).

It was lovely and fun the whole time.  And dinner was blow-you-away delicious, per Erling’s usual.  It was definitely not vegan, though.Every course is worth mentioning, I think.  The Santa Barbara Spot Prawns & Bar Harbor Mussels were amazing – spectacular in presentation and sweet and mild in taste.  The greens gave the dish a lightness.  And the broth at the bottom of the dish is my new favorite beverage. The Snake River Sturgeon with Oxtail and Cauliflower was surprisingly good.  I wasn’t excited about the sturgeon at all really.  But it was mild and flaky and the oxtail was a perfect salty accent.  I love cauliflower – here, it was soft and creamy and caramelized and took on a summary of all of the flavors on the plate.  Yum.The Green Goddess salad with bacon was a delight.  I happen to love Bibb lettuce and the bacon was actually beautiful, thick-cut pancetta.  All perfectly dressed.Oh em the cheese course was seriously the best cheese course ever.  Leonora cheese – a decadent, goat’s milk cheese from Spain.  A side of firm, sweet beets with oregano.  Poached (?) lemon.  Pure honey with honey comb to spread with the cheese on warm bread.  Are you kidding me?  Heaven.Then, I pretty much ate the pineapple inside out cake without hesitating.  It was exactly what you would expect, only better – lighter and not mushy at all (isn’t pineapple cake typically kind of mushy? – well anyway, this one wasn’t).  The lightly-sweet Marcona almond ice cream speaks for itself, of course.  How beautiful is that?

So delicious.

OK so – Love.  All of it.  Highly recommend doing a supper club if you can find one.  Such a fun way to eat.  Oh and you’ll probably meet new friends, too!  We met new friends both times.

Here’s a tip: supper clubs are generally BYOB; at the first one, we may or may not have helped ourselves to someone else’s wine thinking it was meant for the table.  Gulp.

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4 Responses to “Guerrilla Dinner”

  1. Fabianne February 25, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    Delicious! I feel like only privileged people find out about supper clubs!

    • Diz February 25, 2011 at 5:20 am #

      @Fabianne: No way – they’re for hipsters!

      • Heba February 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

        Are they for hipsters or only for the likes of you who is considered a food expert??? This sounds like SO MUCH FUN!!! You have to let us know if you hear of any others!!!

  2. John February 28, 2011 at 3:21 am #

    Great descriptions and photos. I get a bit jealous. Out here, “supper club” means a long-established steak house serving T-bones, baked potatoes, and iceberg lettuce (probably in a salad bar with a greasy sneeze shield). The parking lot generally holds pickups and Cadillacs, and the hair color, on average, is blue. So, good on ya for availing yourselves of unique dining. Keep the reports coming.

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