Thursday, June 21, 2012

Supper clubs and underground dining.

As many readers may know, I cooked for a "May the Fourth Be With You" event and had a great time doing it.  Over the last month or two I've had some ideas about other potential events and talked to a fair number of people about what they liked, didn't like, etc., etc. .  In the last week or so I had a conversation with one of the event organizers about what I would like to do or aim towards in the future.  Then I was tooling around on ye olde Web and did a search for "supper clubs".  A majority of what I found were aimed at a potluck type of set-up either with friends or a combo of friends and like-minded strangers found on sites like chowhound.com and the like.  These are pretty cool and I like the idea quite a bit, though with a limited social circle and the knowledge of conflicting schedules and RL folderol I realize that the idea has an untapped potential but in practical terms wouldn't hash out (I can also be terribly flaky and forgetful unless I Memento myself).

I poked around a bit more and came across "underground dining" and "secret supper clubs".  The first to catch my attention was the Cloak & Dagger Supper Club based out of Portland, Maine who began operations March 2012 (I'm also seriously considering moving to Portland, ME in the next couple years).  I poked around a bit more and found Supper Underground based out of Austin, Texas and has been in operation since the mid-00s.  I also came across Ghetto Gourmet from Oakland, CA who have also been doing their thing since the mid-00s.  Then I watched their clip on current.com:



And then I went a little pie-eyed (and might have said one or two profanities out of jealousy and for kicking myself for not being on the boat sooner).  Then I realized that in one DIY way or another I had been doing this and cooking for events (work-related) in one form or the other for years.  Definitely on not such a bad-ass scale until last month but since that party this is pretty close to what I've had in mind, daydreaming about for the last month.  Not catering or anything that would stray too close to "work" but I dunno, just kind of a relaxed, grown up-esque event.  I'm thinking about one or two of the conversations I've had recently and here's a rough concept sketch/list of what I would go for:
  • Removing the curtain between diner and kitchen.  Not in a teppanyaki "Watch me make a volcano out of an onion!" kind of way but in a Yan Can Cook! You Can Too! kind of way.  Let people know that they can do whatever they want in the kitchen too.  Not that I'm Jacques Pepin by any stretch of the imagination but I want people to know it's not rocket surgery.  
    • Also by using ingredients your regular citizen doesn't use or buy because either they just buy the regular stuff every time they go to a grocery store or just don't feel comfortable experimenting I'd like to turn people onto ingredients or dishes they might really dig.  Man that's an unwieldy sentence.
      • Not just regular citizens but college kids too.  It makes me sad when I find out so many people subsist on ramen, weird microwave food, and Taco Bell.  Hell, I had one friend who lived off of canned food during her college career and when she finally got her own place was completely out of  her element in the kitchen.
  • Having a rapport with people while I cook makes me happy.  Y'know, happy in a "Wow, I'm sober and don't hate myself." kind of way.
    • I also love food history and foodways and learning about the background of what I'm cooking or what I'm cooking with. It'd be kind of cool to be able to just talk with people about not only what they are eating but where did it come from?  Why is it this way?  It's one thing to watch a show about it on Food Network or PBS or whatever but could you imagine eating and the cook giving you the 411 if you had any questions?
  • Having a recipe for what I made (along with suggestions/tips&tricks) after the meal.  Cooking is not some kind of Buddha on the mountaintop secret recipe affair for me.  If I can't tell you what I did that's probably because I have no idea what I did.
  • Remind people that eating just isn't jamming some food thing into your body for fuel.  If you wanted to do that you could live on MREs or astronaut food in a tube.
  • Remind people that you don't have to be a professional to make good food.  Chances are your Nana wasn't a professional but could still cook anyone under the table.
For myself:
  • Forcing myself to stop and think about what I am doing.
  • Writing down recipes beyond, "I dunno, it's done when it looks done."
  • Expanding my self-education about food.  None of that science jive.  If you want that go ask Alton Brown or read Harold McGee.
  • Expanding my skills by cooking for others.  Lord knows I've learned a lot just by cooking for people who aren't chileheads over the years.
  • Expand my repertoire outside my own comfort zone.  It's tough cooking for one person.  I eat a lot of meat and rice (or just rice) or salads or something cobbled together out of the regular stuff I have on hand.
  • Wear comfortable boots for the next event.
Not exactly some kind of manifesto or grant proposal but hell, if I can be happy making people feel warm and good and full of noms then I guess that's not a terrible thing.

Hope all of you are well and not having a bag of chips for dinner (even if you're grown folks who can have chips for dinner).

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