One of the food trends that I enjoy the most right now are pop-up restaurants. Chefs are moving meals out of the confines of restaurant walls and hosting them in creative locations. Some well established chefs do this to test new menus and experiment with new ideas, but this trend is mostly embraced by young chefs who want the control of their own kitchen and menu.
The Pop-up meal that I attended was hosted by my friend Risa in San Fransisco. I met Risa last summer; we were introduced through a mutual friend who knew of my interest in documenting food culture and the really cool things Risa was doing within it. I spent a day with her in June while she prepped for a Duck Dinner that she was hosting and picked her brain about how she became involved in the world of pop-up restaurants.
This past month I was able to return to San Fransisco and attend one of her Sunday Supperings and it was everything I hoped it would be. It was a set five-course meal for 30 people held in the garage of her home (when the weather is nice they are held in her backyard). For this dinner they brought in a local potter, Jeffrey Ryan May, to supply all the dinnerware for the evening. The meal is BYOB and Risa sends out a list of recommended wine parings for each course for those who are interested in the full experience. The dinner begins with a cocktail hour, allowing guests to settle in and followed by each delicious course. Success of the meal weighing heavily on the organization of the front of the house (the hostess and servers) and the timing of the kitchen (every good chef knows their timing). Here is what Risa served for this dinner: to drink – Santa’s Fanta (calvados, orange cointreau, cranberry, ginger, egg white), to eat – Crab & ‘Spaghetti’ (crab beignets, spaghetti squash, caper-horseradish remoulade), Fairy Tale Pumpkin Soup (crab apples, rye croutons, soul food farm olive oil), Radish & Persimmon Salad (watermelon & dragon’s tongue radishes, scarlet turnips, bulls blood greens, nori emulsion), Melt in Your Mouth Beef Cheeks (pomegranate reduction, celery root puree, blue house farm dino kale, frizzled leeks), and Pear & Almond Tart (moscato poached pears, house-foraged candy cap mushroom ice-cream). I’m hungry just writing that.
What I loved about the meal (besides the delicious food) is that, unlike in restaurants where everyone sits at tables with their own people, this meal is held around one large community table. You inevitably end up talking to people you did not come with and if you are too shy to do that on your own before the final course is served Risa asks everyone to switch seats. Everyone comes with the interest of experiencing a great meal and leaves with full bellies and new friends. I appreciate events like this one, where it is not just about the food, but about strengthening community.
If you are in the San Fransisco area, I highly recommend attending one of Risa’s dinners (or if your a chef – hosting one of your own). But there are pop-up restaurants happening all over, so find one in your area and support a local chef. Below is the visual documentation of the evening. Enjoy.