Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pop-Up Dinner Round-Up, Part 1

Whether you call them “pop-ups” or “underground dinners,” these innovative one-off prix-fixe culinary events are blossoming more quickly than the daffodils in my front yard. Here's my first installment about some unique events to check out.

Last night I attended a Date Dinner, by Steven Shockley, who recently became Executive Chef at Cumin and previously worked at Pho Paris, Chalk, Jean-Robert’s Table, and Maribelle’s (when it was at its previous Riverside Drive/Eastern Avenue location). Steven takes thematic inspiration from a wide array of sources (the previous Date Dinner I attend was based on the music of Miles Davis). Although Steven is sometimes given to pun-filled constructs, last night’s dinner side-stepped the opportunity for April Fool’s Day jokes while, as usual, focusing on out-of-the-ordinary flavor combinations.

Lentil soup with pomegranate and sumac whipped cream

Flatbread with gorgonzola-potato puree and parsley

Braised lamb neck with grapes, quinoa, and cauliflower puree

Cardamom rice pudding

The schedule for Date Dinners varies, partly depending on Steven’s work schedule, and is usually limited to about 12 people, in an Over-the-Rhine apartment the location of which you learn after RSVPing (and, now, paying via Paypal). Like the Date Dinner facebook page to hear about upcoming events. Steven has a keen culinary curiosity, and I’m not going to try to guess where he’ll take Date Dinner next, although he says he’s switching the format to four courses for $35; still BYOB. He also occasionally pops up with snacks at Market Wines at Findlay Market and Neon’s. Steven has a personal proclivity for veggies, grains, hand-ground spices, and the occasional braise or venture into offal territory. I will definitely be curious to see where he takes Cumin’s spring menu, set to launch this Thursday. He will also be participating in the 1 Night, 12 Kitchens Midwest Culinary Institute April 21 on behalf of Cumin, in case you were one of the lucky folks who bought ticket before they sold out.

Steven recently collaborated for a dinner at Pallet23 in Northside with another young chef who is garnering a lot of attention for his pop-up dinners, Ryan Santos of Please. Ryan leaves tomorrow for a stage (internship) at Michelin-starred In De Wulf in Belgium and has another lined up at Castagna in Portland for September. I can't wait to see what inspiration Ryan returns with from his travels (for a terrific food-porn-filled blogger's-eye-view glimpse of In De Wulf, click here). After he returns from Europe, Ryan and crew will be shedding the "Arts and Lettuce" title for their pop-up dinners and taking them to Carriage House Farm for a new, rustic dining experience that will involve not only eating outdoors but cooking outdoors. No electric, thank you very much. Ryan has always cultivated close relationships with area farmers to source local and sustainably raised foods for his dinners. He has more intriguing collaborations in the works, with entrepreneurial aquaponics venture URBTank and a "beverage" partner.
Please: a Staff Pick for “Best Now-Above-Ground Underground Dinner Series 
Turned Into A Residency” in City Beat's Best of Cincinnati 2013 issue

Here are just three more pop-ups taking place in the next week. If you're interested, act quickly or they may be sold out.

Frances Kroner, the talent who created the marshmallow dress at The Art of Food, is doing her second "edible installation" collaboration with Modern Makers and Pones, Inc. this Friday, called "The Big Dinner." Details here. Her "food event design" company FEAST was just featured in the Business Courier (sorry I can't share a link that gets beyond the paywall). I was out of town last week and missed FEAST's pop-up last weekend, but heard great things about the event and the food from friends. Can't wait to check out what she's doing this Friday!

Another series I'm excited to finally get in on is "Underground - A Hen of the Woods Production," which is celebrating Spring with a dinner Monday, April 8. Join their facebook event asap, then await instructions and get your cash or check to chef Nick Marckwald by Friday for this wine-inclusive dinner with sommelier Kevin Hart of wineCRAFT, who collaborated on an amazing pop-up at the Mercantile Library with the fine folks from Dutch's recently. (The talented Gina Weathersby of 513{eats} documented that event in full photographic glory here.)

Nick, Kevin, and other talented folks are also doing a pop-up of heavy hors d'oeuvres and desserts at The Rookwood in Mt. Adams April 10 to benefit the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America. Details here.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Pop-Up Round-Up. Lots of exciting ventures coming up!


Velva said...

I think "pop-up" "underground" dinners are the coolest concept. We have a culinary trained chef in our cooking club ( the rest of us are home cooks) and I am always pitching this idea to him.

I love this kind of food culture. These are the days I wished I lived in a bigger city.


Buzz Kill said...

Where do you find out about these pop ups? I'd like to try and find some in the Philly area. I think I could talk The Mrs. into going.