As our frequent visitors and all our clients know, we love to cook. Last Thursday, in partnership with our friends at Live Nation, we took that passion and crafted a twelve course meal for a table of sixteen marketing executives from some of the greatest companies in the world.
The idea started a year ago when Kelly’s husband Ben Long, who leads sponsorships for Live Nation, and I cooked a four course meal together. Although the meal was prepared for only Kelly and ourselves, our ability to seamlessly share a kitchen proved to be one we eventually wanted to exploit.
Ben and I have run supperclubs, Spice and Forking Tasty Suppers, on both coasts for years. Serving 20 to 50 strangers in various and sometimes makeshift kitchens is not an easy hobby but definitely a rewarding one. The real reason we run our clubs is to unite like minded people through a shared meal. Over the years, there have been multiple friendships, business partnerships and romantic relationships spawned between the amuse bouche and the homemade mascarpone ice cream. Last week was no exception.
I thought it would be fun and insightful to focus the rest of this post on the menu and the stories they revealed as they were served. Ben and I crafted a menu that would take our guests on a little journey through some of our favorite gastronomic inspired stories. The story begins.
Olive and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
Roasted Beet with Candied Almond Sliver & Balsamic Reduction
These four passed morsels came from different moments in our supperclub history. What made them special was their ability to crowd please and spark conversation. A tart olive tapenade mixed with a sweet roasted tomato rouses the taste buds and almost forces guests to comment on the bite. The elegant yet bite sized ceviche begs to be recreated at home and therefore inquiries began to fly between guests on how to recreate it. Who doesn’t love a mini-grilled cheese? Cute and nostalgic, guests can’t not reminisce. Finally, the roasted beets served on a thick piece of slate command attention and their color alone ignite a comment. It was important for us to have bites that dropped guests guard a touch and allowed for conversations to take hold before we moved to the big table for the first official course.
Calabrese Salame ‘Fiore’/Hop Stupid
Italian Dry/Mexican Cherry Coke
Finocchiona/Little Sumpin Sumpin Ale
Salume: Columbus Selections
Beers: Lauganitas Selections
Served on a board wrapped with butcher paper and designed so each salami lined up with a corresponding tiny glass of beer was all part of the function. My friends at Columbus Salami provided me some amazing selections to pair with the local beers from Lagunitas Brewing Company. Our dinner space being in North Beach San Francisco, and Columbus getting their start there, made the pairing even more authentic. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy, the granddaughter of the founder and now operations officer at Columbus, a few months back. We sat down after a tour of their South San Francisco production facility to talk family history and “original recipe” dried meats. Most of their salume has a traditional recipe and their artisan line has some of the best stuff I’ve ever tasted. Naturally I wanted to share this knowledge and tastes with my friends and this was the perfect opportunity.
PB&J – Port Gelee & Fois Gras Mini Sandwich
String Cheese – Spherical Mozzarella Ball
Chocolate Sundae – Blue Cheese Mousse on Sourdough Crisp
with Bacon Chocolate
Wine: 2010 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling
A throw back to school lunch, Ben’s recreation of his childhood memories needed little verbal explanation. Served in a lunch box the three mini items were received with an audible gasp from our guests.
Shitake Mushroom Soup with Shaved Porcini & Truffle Oil
Wine: 09 Domaine Drouhin Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Ben’s earthy and creamless yet silky rich soup is a testament to his sophisticated style. The story here was simply. Remind our guests of the path ingredients travel between the soil and the plate.
Sicilian Orange Salad
Wine: 2009 Mayacamas Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
A mainstay in my house, I first discovered this simple salad while staying on an olive oil farm in Sicily. Sebastiano and his wife would serve up simple dishes every night. This orange salad with its red onion, mint and olive oil stuck out as unique, delicious and dead simple.
Maine Lobster Roll with Celery Root Remoulade
Wine: 2009 Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Chardonnay
Braised Beef Short Rib over Horseradish Potato Puree
with Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
Wine: 2010 Achával Ferrer Malbec Mendoza
Our take on surf and turf came from two stories. First the surf. Lobster rolls have been the big trend of 2011 producing Lobster roll joints from NYC to far reaches of SoCal. Having tasted almost every style I decided to create my own trendy street food staple. I stayed as close as I could to the Maine standard, little to no mayo with mostly lobster, but substituted cucumber for the celery. The cucumbers kept the crunch but gave the roll a distinct freshness and coolness that I find a perfect offset to the bold tarragon. The turf is a long time favorite of Ben and mine. It’s gained popularity in recent years on restaurant menus which unfortunately has taken this historically cheap cut of meat into a higher price range. Blame supply and demand I guess. Our beef was a 5 hour braise in beef stock and old vine zinfandel. It was platted on top of horseradish mashed potatoes and drizzled with a pan sauce made from the richly reduced braising liquid.
Lemon Ricotta Cake with Mascarpone Ice Cream
Double Chocolate Cake with Vietnamese Espresso Ice Cream
Tres Leches Cake with Coconut Bailey’s Cream Sauce
and Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Wine: Domaine Balivet Bugey Cerdon (Méthode Ancéstrale)
Dessert lands in the overboard department but we couldn’t help ourselves. Cooking from the heart sometimes means you over produce. Neither of us bake but we still decided three cakes was the way to go. Ben’s tres leche was a nod to his time spent in Mexico at his parents house. The memories of the mexican neighbors, their meals and family oriented dinner rituals always resonate with him when we chat about it. He topped the cake with a salted carmel ice cream and gold flakes. I’ve been making ice cream since my supper club began so naturally I had to continue the tradition. My two cakes were adaptations from stolen recipes I recently stumbled upon. My double chocolate cake was pull from David Lebovitz book. It’s a simple recipe and as long as you don’t over bake you can’t possibly mess it up. I topped that with some chocolate ganache and home made vietnamese espresso ice cream. My second cake was a lemon ricotta cake I adapted from a Giada recipe. We may hate her over annunciation but the girl can cook. That was topped with powdered sugar, lemon curd and some homemade mascarpone ice cream
Nose to Mouth
Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Porto with NYC handrolled cigar
For the finale there was one more experiment and story to be told. Served on a wood plank with port on the left and a cigar, standing upright, on the right, we played with our guests olfactory and gustatory systems. Inspired by a meal I had in Berlin that ended with single malt scotch and a cuban cigar we paired the two together to create a flavor experiment. The port was a rich and oaky variety. The game was to taste the port on your first sip and then, for your second sip, sniff the cigar before imbibing the port. The result was to enhance the oak flavor and natural tobacco taste of the wine using your nose strength.
At the conclusion of the evening Ben and I succeeded in serving a story filled menu that tasted as good as it sounded. We think our guests felt the same. Next years going to be tough. Topping this year might require a live octopus, an absinthe vaporizer and a nitrogen gun. To put your name in the hat for an invite send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org