Underground Supper Club with Mystery Chefs to Launch in DC
The Arcane Supper Club will host a series of underground dinner parties, beginning on a theme of gluttony
Adventurous diners in Washington D.C. will have the chance to participate in a secret supper club.
On April 5th, Arcane, the “avant-garde Supper Club” will launch in Washington, D.C., and will maintain a dress code that is “artsy, chic, daring, skin, and offensive” for guests who wish to take part in a variety of “addictive pleasures.” For $35, guests will have access to unlimited food and drinks from five mystery chefs, at an undisclosed location.
In an email exchange with Young and Hungry, Arcane’s founder said that confidentiality was a key component of the supper club, whose upcoming event will focus on a theme of gluttony.
“The chefs involved work in the high-profile Washingtonian scene and so do I," wrote Arcane’s anonymous founder. "Arcane is a place where they can showcase their culinary expertise in an underground setting. The whole objective is for our target audience to come and enjoy art, music, and cuisine and just BE. Who you are, what you are simply doesn't matter."
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
I add places as I hear about them. I do try to keep the listings up to date – if you know about a place that’s opened, closed, moved, changed its website, let me know (at the email link above). I go through some of the listings now and again and try to contact those that appear to be defunct, but it’d be great to keep it more up to date. Please understand I have nothing directly to do with any of the other places besides my own – I can’t make reservations for you, I don’t know the details of the dinners, the prices, or anything else. You’ll have to contact the one(s) you want to reach all on your own. Nor am I endorsing them, I haven’t been to the vast majority of them.
Note: please don’t ask to be listed if you’re not really an underground supperclub – this isn’t a place for listing your hot, trendy nightclub, restaurant, your social club, meet-up group, members only event, or what-have-you. This is a resource for people who cook and offer dinners in their homes, galleries, offices, or other private spaces and the people who like to dine with them – the so called “guerilla” or “anti-” restaurants. And these are simply linked listings – I have enough work to do on my own dining club – if you have photos, testimonials, reviews, etc., to post, post them at the site you’ve had me link to.
A similar concept is the “pop-up restaurant” – often open just for a single or short-term event, perhaps held at an art space or warehouse or exhibition hall, though sometimes in a private home or a visiting chef (or local chef without his or her own restaurant) taking over the kitchen and dining room of another existing restaurant on their closed night(s). What tends to be different about these is that they’re generally operating out of licensed facilities – either taking over the kitchen of a regular restaurant on an off-night, or at fairs and events that have things like single day licensing for food service. It ain’t underground, it ain’t guerilla, which isn’t “wrong” it’s just not what this list is about. Plenty of hits on internet searches for the term, and, although some of those may creep into the list, there’s just too many of them for me to keep track of and it’s not my intention to do so.
For those who aren’t quite sure what the “scene” is all about – here’s a link to our information page: Frequently Asked Questions/Preguntas Frecuentes and a link to an article I wrote on the topic for the Guardian UK.
——— Social Networking Sites
Note: with the exception of the Find a Supper Club listing site, the sites above charge either the guest, host, or both for arranging bookings/reservations.
Individual Supper Club Listings
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What is the DC Supper Club?
Shh! It’s a secret! This week I attended my first underground dining experience: the DC Supper Club.
Remember when The Washington Post ran that story about underground supper clubs? There was a brief moment when it seemed these clubs would be the next cupcake. A hot foodie trend that would grow and grow, reaching critical mass until foodies declared it passe. Kind of like that whole speakeasy thing.
Due to, one can only assume, fairly stringent health codes, legalities of serving food to the public and other such regulations, the baby trend hasn’t grown much (thankfully). But DC has a flair for the secretive, the underground, the “I know something you don’t know!”– so we’re not without options.
I’ve heard about and been invited to join other underground dining clubs, but, to be frank, the price tags had kept me away. You can safely assume you’ll be dropping $60 to $100 or more depending on the club.
DC Supper Club website: “Sign up for the next Supper Club which happens monthly at an undisclosed location. You will find yourself enveloped in a twelve course gastronomic experience like you have never had before. This is not just a dinner… It ‘s an event designed to inspire, fulfill, intoxicate, and involve all your senses.”
So what got me out? One Amanda Hesser, New York Times food writer, cookbook author, and co-founder of Food 52 (check her out… you won’t be disappointed). Her just-released cookbook served as inspiration for the meal, and she would be in attendance herself.
I bought my ticket more than a month ago and, until last week, had almost forgotten about it. I received an email out of the blue. “This is confirmation of your attendance at the October 27th Essential New York Times Supper Club at 6pm hosted by Chef Bryon Brown and Amanda Hesser. The Supper Club will be held at [redacted]… ” and the email went on.
The hush-hush nature of the club is exhilarating without being cheesy or overplayed — there’s no knocking on secret doors and walking behind velvet curtains here.
The food is delicious, unpretentious. Think a meal like this is for foodies only? You’re wrong. This meal is for people who like to eat! Chef Bryon Brown tells you the story of each dish — where the meats came from, why a certain cut of pasta once was a sign of wealth, how liquid nitrogen is going to zap a grapefruit into granita.
Between bites, sips and lessons on food he’ll ask diners to shout answers to questions. “Where are you from?” “Find out something interesting about your neighbor and tell the room!”
This may be the best dinner party you ever attend. And not just because you don’t have to help do the dishes afterward.
Seven of Chicago’s Best Underground Dining Clubs Uncovered
There’s no map for this article — and for good reason. After all, an underground supper club just wouldn’t carry the same novelty if such pertinent details were released to everyone. As such, the creators of these clandestine gatherings are stealthy about revealing the nuts and bolts of these multi-course gatherings — and it’s not just the whereabouts they’re withholding. Chef names, menus, number of courses, and beverages are also part of the allure of these mysterious meet-ups — ensuring a completely new experience for even the most regular of patrons. Here are seven of the best supper clubs to snag seats to now — if, that is, you can get in.
The closing of 42 Grams meant that serious diners could no longer visit the two-Michelin-starred Uptown restaurant from chef Jake Bickelhaupt — it also meant that Bickelhaupt was just getting started on his next project. Just a couple of months later he debuted Konro, a wandering supper club that features the same Asian influences and dedication to technique that the chef employed at his brick and mortar. Location details vary and are released 24 hours before meal time, along with beverage recommendations (all bookings are BYOB). Be sure to bring an ample supply of whatever it is you’re drinking — menus range from 8 to 12 courses, and it’s wise to have a little extra to go around.
Filigree Suppers Tory Williams Photography
Combine a wedding planner, an experiential designer, and a few mega-talented chefs, and Filigree Suppers is the result, a pop-up dinner series that pairs imaginative food with American-made design in Chicago, New York, and beyond. The dinners happen monthly at various locations and center around a theme that, in addition to highlighting carefully sourced fare, is meant to shine a light on another experiential factor (case in point with a “Bittersweet Dinner” celebrating nostalgia and a “Duet Supper” featuring a duo of textile artists). Diners who love that plate in front of them can buy it post-dinner at an onsite pop-up shop celebrating the artists that contribute to the events.
Godspeed Courtesy of Godspeed
Inspired by David Fincher’s The Game — in addition to “how David Fincher would want to eat dinner” — freelance writer Raf Miastkowski created Godspeed Supper Club, a city-spanning dinner club that offers, as Miastkowski puts it, “much more than just delicious food.” In other words, expect to meet new people, learn about local history, and enjoy tableside entertainment — all within a private dining room at a location that changes with every outing (and sometimes includes three venues per night). Later this year that experience is only amplified with a series of field trips, complete with bus transportation.
Sunday Dinner Club
Christine Cikowski, Josh Kulp and Becca Waron of Sunday Dinner Club Rachel Brown Kulp
This underground dining experience is an extension of the seasonal and local cooking of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, the fast-casual Eater 38 hangout in Avondale from chefs and owners Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp and executive sous chef Becca Waron. What started as weekly suppers has morphed into anywhere from 10 to 15 gatherings per month, each one at a different location that is disclosed to attendees after booking. Multi-course menus change frequently but always feature dishes highlighting the best of the markets, including plates like cassoulet with garlic sausage, duck confit, and leg of lamb, or Waron’s famous Cubano sandwich, with Neuske’s ham, Swiss cheese, and mustard butter on a Ciabatta panino.
Uovo in raviolo con granchio at Bite Club Chef Inconspicuous
This supper club hosts events around Chicago and the world — recent events have happened everywhere from Italy and Germany, to Belgium and New Zealand. Gatherings can range in size from 16 to 40 people, and themes inspired by the likes of “gluttony” and “pop culture and movies” ensure that the menus are just as fun as the conversation (occasional BYOB meet-ups are a bonus, too). The only catch? Prospective diners really do have to know someone who’s already a part of its circuit to get in — tickets purchased otherwise will be cancelled and refunded.
The Octopus Room
The Octopus Room Gina Garbero
After Marta Kuersten Wolaver and Derek Britton started Fork Monkey, a club for people interested in unconventional dining experiences, they decided they needed to see firsthand what it was like to plan one. Enter Octopus Room, a supper club that features a rotating lineup of chefs for menu items like Chinese smoky noodles with shanxi and chicken (from an “Around the World” dinner) and lamb chops with rosemary and marble rye dressing (from their “Holiday Supper” gathering). The one constant is the location, which is shared with attendees the morning of their reservation — just enough time to pick up a bottle for their occasional BYOB gatherings.
Fried plantain and ají sobremesa at Sobremesa Courtesy of Sobremesa
Born in Pilsen, Sobremesa is a food-centered social project that has one simple goal: to promote relationships and conversations over a meal. The founders do so via Latin-inspired dishes that showcase their connection to and memories of their home countries (Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Argentina). Just one such offering is their Ají Sobremesa, a flavor-packed hot sauce of Peruvian yellow peppers that is now sold city-wide. Check it out during one of their monthly events around town, which happen at spots like Hopewell Brewing, Local Foods, and Cellar Door Provisions.
A New Supper Club Turns LA’s Best Restaurants Into Test Kitchens
From around 2010 to 2016, underground supper clubs were The Thing. You remember the fad: untrained chefs with substantial skills hosted interesting dinner parties in Arts District lofts or metalsmith shops. For about $200, you’d experience an intimate dinner with a roomful of strangers, where the menus were themed and you brought your own wine.
But the trend eventually peaked, with diners returning to the comfort of their regular neighborhood haunts or the newest buzzy opening down the block. Nat Gelb, a culinary entrepreneur from New York, wanted more. “I think that everyone is craving more meaningful experiences in their lives due to the disconnectedness we all experience as a result of technology,” he says.
So in 2016 he started Tasting Collective, a supper club built on the literal notion of food for thought. Members are treated to exclusive dining experiences at existing restaurants, wherein chefs test their newest ideas via six-course dinner, and then allow diners to provide them with feedback.
“The chefs put on a show of stuff they’re tinkering with and even talk about the inspiration of the dish while the diners are eating,” says Gelb. After members finish, they critique the dish on scorecards, ensuring a quicker R&D process for the chefs.
Tasting Collective began in New York City, and has since grown to 10 cities. LA’s inaugural event happens this Sunday (11/3). To gain entry, you have to request a membership and then pay an annual membership fee (the first 250 LA members will be able to join at a $99 charter member rate, versus the standard $165 annual rate).
Members then pay $50 per event, and can bring up to three guests to the tune of $70 per guest. You can request a membership via this form.
Joining the club will also score you perks at participating restaurants, such as discounts, complimentary cocktails, special dishes and chats with the chef. This Sunday’s event is at Japanese fusion restaurant Shibumi, and the following one will be at Jaffa.
Another added perk is the opportunity to enjoy Tasting Collective in other cities where it operates, exponentially deepening your level of food tourism and opening you up to new, meaningful experiences. As Gelb says, “We’re creating a human connection between chefs and diners.”
This article was featured in the InsideHook LA newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Southland.
Our Picks For Top Supper Clubs and Pop-Up Dining Events in Philadelphia
Everyone knows about all the amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes that make Philadelphia’s food scene as good as it is, but what about Philly’s underground dining scene? Here are some of the pop-up events and supper clubs that make up our underground dining scene:
- Food Underground
- Dinner Lab
- Spirit Forward
- The Chef Series Experience
- Talula’s Daily
- W/N W/N Coffee Bar
- Yogi’s Table
Philadelphia is home to an array of supper clubs and pop-up dining events including Boku Supper Club (shown here). (Photo courtesy Boku Supper Club)
It’s no secret that Philly is full of amazing coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, so good food, thankfully, isn’t hard to come by.
Even so, there’s always room for more and Philly’s underground dining scene is gaining traction every day.
Here are some of our favorite pop-up events and supper clubs around town.
Think of Boku like an extremely ambitious dinner party. Hosted in a Philadelphia apartment, Boku caps the guest list at 20, so everybody still has a chance to get to know one another a bit. At each event, Founder Ryan Fitzgerald cooks a homey but elegant four course menu that ranges from $40 to $120. Sign up for their email list to hear about upcoming events. A welcome touch? When they send out event announcements they include a list of recommended wines to pair with each course, right down to the link to purchase.
The brainchild of Ari Miller and Gary Burner, Food Underground is the chameleon of the Philly supper club scene. Every month at “Friz Wit,” Miller cooks up Kensington Quarters beef to make grass-fed cheesesteaks in the cart at The Garage. Then, at their Cooks Canvas events at Reading Terminal Market they host line cooks from local restaurants, giving them free rein to cook a multi-course menu for up to 20 guests. As though that weren’t enough, they also host a monthly take over at Spogue Kitchens & Bath: “Dinner Club,” a six course, $80, BYOB feast.
When: Monthly events, schedule varies
Started in New Orleans just a few years ago, Dinner Lab now hosts pop-up suppers in more than 30 cities across the U.S., including Philadelphia. These are big, brassy events held in non-traditional venues for dining. The idea behind them? To break down the barriers between diner and chef, so diners can offer, and chefs can hear, feedback on every plate. One important difference between the Dinner Lab model and the others around town is that in order to even learn about their upcoming events you’ll have to purchase an annual membership ($125), which serves as your invite to all of the events they host. Heads up for the budget conscious though, tickets to individual events are $60-70 each.
Scott is the GM of Jerry's Kitchen. He blogs about food, eating, restaurants, and catering. Bala Cynwyd, King of Prussia, Plymouth Meeting, Malvern, Main Line, Philadelphia, South Jersey, Bucks County.
The Un-Restaurant Trend
Everyone arrives at the same time, hangs out in the kitchen, then lingers for hours over a fabulous meal. But this isn&rsquot a dinner party: it&rsquos a restaurant. Here, a look at the trend.
Everyone arrives at the same time, hangs out in the kitchen, then lingers for hours over a fabulous meal. But this isn’t a dinner party: it’s a restaurant. Here, a look at the trend.
Back when my kids were toddlers and my wife was always tired and we were flat broke, I threw multicourse dinner parties many nights a week. I have no idea why that seemed like a sensible use of limited family resources, but I do know that I liked pretending I was a Michelin-starred chef. I bought big white plates to dramatize my food, and I asked my friends to chip in money for luxury ingredients like foie gras and truffles. Then came the night I had 24 guests, each of them contributing $40, and somebody asked me the obvious question: “Shouldn’t you just open a restaurant?”
My answer was no, because even great restaurants felt impersonal and transactional compared to a good dinner party. At dinner parties, everybody arrives at the same time, has a drink with the cook in the kitchen, then settles around a single table. They eat the same dishes at the same time and linger for hours. There’s no bill to pay when it’s all over, so they can say good night without breaking the spell.
Chefs don’t traditionally worry about all this. But something shifted in the culture a while back. High-end restaurants began to feel too formal and formulaic (not to mention stratospherically expensive), and Facebook and Twitter gave home cooks and unemployed chefs a way to advertise pop-ups and underground supper clubs taking place in unorthodox settings—warehouses, art galleries, apartments. The rest of us showed up at those supper clubs in droves, excited by the novelty and the intimacy. Those supper-club chefs, in turn, began dreaming of brick-and-mortar restaurants preserving the dinner-party vibe that led to success in the first place.
Momofuku-trained chef Aaron Silverman, for example, ran a supper club out of his Washington, DC, house before leasing a restaurant space around the corner. He named the place Rose’s Luxury, after his grandmother Rose, who loved to entertain. Silverman began serving dishes reflecting the eclecticism of the modern American home kitchen: Korean fried catfish, smoked brisket with horseradish and slaw, fried Italian eggplant. He decorated with what he calls ster eggs”—peculiar cookbooks, toy soldiers fighting staged battles𠅊nd stocked the bathrooms with personal touches like bobby pins.
Chef Jake Bickelhaupt of Chicago’s 42 Grams followed much the same path: first, years spent cooking in other people’s kitchens then, an underground supper club where he prepared wildly ambitious dinners in his own apartment, with help from his wife, Alexa Welsh. But when the couple found a restaurant space in their apartment building, they went further than Silverman: They installed seating for only 18 guests𠅎ight at the chef’s counter or 10 at a communal table. Book all of one or the other with friends, at 5:45 p.m. or 8:30 p.m., and you are getting what amounts to a catered dinner party.
Welsh does all the service herself, using her grandmother’s sterling and her mother’s wedding china. Bickelhaupt, who employs exactly two extra cooks and a single dishwasher, prepares the meal while the stereo plays his own Spotify stream. He apprenticed in Chicago’s most progressive kitchens, from Charlie Trotter’s to Alinea to Schwa, and it shows in technically sophisticated creations like his edible faux-flower arrangements, gel-cube mocktails and salmon brined in Lapsang souchong tea. Ten months after opening, 42 Grams earned two Michelin stars. Bickelhaupt recently earned another honor: He has been named an F&W Best New Chef.
The most extreme example of the restaurant-as-dinner-party trend has to be Lazy Bear, a San Francisco pop-up-gone-permanent that bills itself as 𠇊 modern American fine-dining dinner party.” Just like 42 Grams, Lazy Bear requires you to pay up front as if buying a ticket to a concert ($100 to $150 per person, plus a 20 percent service charge, plus $75 for the optional beverage pairing). The sign on the building has no letters—just a row of red dots𠅊nd, on the night I went, a dapper young host found my name on what looked like a VIP list. He led my wife and me into a lounge straight out of a Wes Anderson movie set in your weird rich uncle’s Yosemite hunting lodge: camping photos, national park memorabilia, 1970s rock-and-roll pictures. A young woman ladled tequila punch from a bowl, guests mingled on couches, and servers handed out duck Slim Jims and other snacks for a day in the mountains.
Eventually we joined the other guests in what was apparently meant to be the dining hall of that hunting lodge, except now the weird rich uncle had been replaced by a bachelor tech zillionaire who𠆝 built the place just to throw over-the-top dinner parties. Exposed ceiling timbers supported an upside-down dried tree, and the walls were covered in charred wooden planks and faux-taxidermy hunting trophies. Two polished wood tables given the stretch-limo treatment held 20 place settings that included little pencils and small red plaid notebooks titled 𠇊 Field Guide to Lazy Bear.” At the back of the room was a big, wide-open kitchen where chefs bustled about preparing our dinner.
Servers showed my wife and me to seats across from each another in the middle of one of those tables. Then chef-owner David Barzelay appeared at the front of the room. Handsome in a barroom-brawler kind of way, with a bent nose and roguish smile, Barzelay welcomed everybody in a booming voice. Then he laid out ground rules that included politely pausing conversation whenever a chef described a dish. 𠇊lso, we pretty much insist that you come hang out in the kitchen whenever the mood strikes, and we hope it strikes often,” Barzelay said.
Formerly a patent lawyer at a firm specializing in technology, Barzelay started cooking much as I did, throwing big home dinner parties. But then he took the step I failed to: selling tickets to strangers, doing pop-ups and finally putting together financing for a permanent location. Barzelay’s food has professional polish and refinement: geoduck clam, for example, with raw Santa Barbara spot prawn and basil-fed snails in a garden of tiny sorrels foraged in Golden Gate Park. He poaches lobster tail sous vide in butter infused with Asian XO sauce and sears squab and foie gras with poached pear and almond nougatine.
But the real innovation is the overall experience. Lazy Bear didn’t feel like any dinner party I’ve ever been to a more apt comparison might be a meal in a luxurious private club where the member who invited you got hopelessly lost on the way over, so you don’t know a soul. There is something awkward about an evening with all the trappings of a social gathering but none of the usual mechanisms encouraging people to meet one another—no host making introductions, for instance. At a conventional restaurant, it would’ve been rude to introduce ourselves to the guests on either side, but at a conventional dinner party, it would’ve been rude not to. So we chose the awkward middle ground of murmured hellos and quick handshakes. Same for those kitchen visits: Barzelay really does let you walk up and look over his shoulder while he plates the next course, but he certainly doesn’t have time to hear your life story.
Still, there is something soothing and unique about an evening where nobody comes and goes, every guest has the same meal at the same pace, and you’re allowed to get up and walk around if you feel like it. And even if you don’t make new friends, there is genuine pleasure in having a shared experience among strangers. Think of live theater and that sense of connection you feel to the rest of the audience, especially when the final curtain falls. I knew perfectly well what I𠆝 paid for my evening at Lazy Bear, but I was surprised by how pleasant it was to push back my chair after the last of the desserts and, without even touching my wallet, follow my wife back into the night.
San Franciscosed writer Daniel Duane is the author, most recently, of How to Cook Like a Man.
Do You Crave Sustainable Food? You'll Find It in Spades at This Inspired San Francisco Supperclub
Wander the steep streets of Bernal Heights in San Francisco and you're bound to stumble on a gem called the Hillside Supperclub. Bernal Heights was recently named the hottest neighborhood in the country and it's no coincidence that this Supperclub is right here because the chef/owners say their eatery is about much more than food - it's about the neighborhood.
When we heard a couple of 20-something-year-olds were running a supperclub in the funky blue building, we assumed the duo scarcely works and are likely hungover most days. We were wrong. Downright. Categorically. Wrong.
The two chefs we're referring to - Tony Ferrari and Jonathan Sutton - met at culinary school in Miami, then found themselves cooking side-by-side for four-star chef Christian Delouvrier at La Goulue. It was a very professional restaurant. A very traditional, very old school, very French restaurant - down to the brigade system kitchen: "How much time on vegetables? How long on sauce?" Everyone worked a station to cook part of a dish they eventually brought together. At the time, Tony was on fish Jonathan was on meat and neither was long on patience when the other cooks were a no-show for their shift.
Two explicit things forge this pair's palpable bond: Italian families and downright doggedness about food. The chefs eventually went their separate ways. And though their ensuing journeys entailed pedigreed chefs, renowned eateries, and even bits in far-away places, they always stayed in touch.
Jonathan was working for Michael Mina's restaurant in Washington, DC when Tony earned a James Beard scholarship to work with farmers in the San Francisco area. Tony embarked on the gig and was constantly raving about the food, the farms, and all the fun he as having. Jonathan, who grew up in Washington, says the idea of returning to the West Coast kept sounding better until he finally took the plunge, packed up, and got a gig at Mina's flagship SF restaurant.
Tony's James Beard junket (which was awarded based on a recommendation by a mentor chef) was pure gold. It was his first time on the West coast and he worked with farmers and purveyors, one after the other. One week it was ducks. One week it was cheese. Another week was foraging mushrooms. Yet another week was working at a vineyard. "It made me appreciate the products chefs work with so much more," says Tony. "We don't truly grasp where products come from or how they're grown - or how much WORK (he says the word with emphasis and a huge groan) goes into it."
When the two got together in San Francisco, they hung around the underground supper clubs with a bunch of chef friends. They'd each create courses at different events. "We weren't talking about opening a restaurant together," says Jonathan, "Or at least not yet (a restaurant is every chef's dream) but the people who ate our food kept encouraging us to do our own pop-ups and the enthusiasm was just incredible." Tony adds, "It made sense, so we figured let's give it a try."
If you've eaten at HSC you know the food is inspired. What inspires us as much as the fare, though, is their commitment to sustainability. First and foremost, the duo is so smart about ordering food there's rarely any waste. "We order what we need based on business and the market. We're solid," Tony says frankly. If there is an overage, they bring out the old-world traditions: curing, smoking, making sausages and stocks. Nothing - absolutely nothing - is thrown away. "First it's money down the drain," says Tony, "It also disrespects the work of the farmers. Every little piece goes to use. We smoke trout. We make pickles. We do Charcuterie (the French term for dry-cured meats like prosciutto, capocollo, and salame)."
Here's the kicker: if they ever have leftovers or something that just wasn't a hit (hard to believe), they wrap up goodie bags and send food home with guests. Sometimes they sit down and have a staff family meal. Focaccia isn't going stale here and pate is never thrown in the trash. "If there's something that just doesn't work in a recipe, like an onion root, it's composted," Tony adds.
If you're not convinced HSC is a neighborly place, this will clinch it: when the chefs take a vacation or a week off at Christmas, they call the neighborhood and tell everyone to come take what they want. "Our neighbors eat like kings!"
HSC is in a great foodie town, so we had to ask about abundant peak-of-harvest food from farmers and purveyors who have too much and need to move it quick. Do they get calls from farmers or cheesemakers very often? "We get calls, but we also reach out to them a lot and say something like 'we're doing a special dinner and want to use a new product'," Tony explains. "It works out for us and them: they have an abundance so it's usually a little cheaper we use it while it's peak of flavor and nutrients there's no waste and we get to be creative."
All patrons aren't foodies who will try almost anything though, right? "That's the beauty of San Francisco," says Jonathan. "People here understand food, they go out to eat a lot, and they want to try new things. We don't have to cook the same old, same old. We play with the menu constantly and there's always something new."
Tony jumps in, "You can't use offal cuts just anywhere. We're a neighborhood spot and we have a lot of regulars, so we switch stuff up a lot and everyone loves that. People know us, so they ask about the story behind new dishes like 'What farm? What was your inspiration?' We explain every detail to our staff and we tell the stories to our guests. The food becomes an experience."
Everything, and we mean everything at HSC is made from scratch - from the renowned lamb potpies to the duck pate - and they are determined to source locally. "Sustainability goes without saying. Farmers need us and we need them so it's not our philosophy, it's our way of life."
The pair sources sustainable-fish from San Francisco purveyors and friends at TwoXSea, including their branded McFarland Springs Trout. They praise Jim Reichardt at Liberty Farms in Sonoma County for his duck. Lisa Gottreich at Bohemian Creamery gets a nod to her one-woman show for beautiful cheeses created naturally from bacteria in the air. Their signature HSC lamb pie (which you really must see in person) features American lamb from Superior Farms. Weirauch Farm & Creamery is the blessed cheesemaker for numerous HSC dishes. And the list goes on.
That beautiful octopus posing with Tony came from Water2Table and was as tasty as it was photogenic. It was also Spanish, which chefs Tony and Jonathan say simply can't be beat. "It's the Mediterranean waters," Tony explains. "The octopus is so consistent and flavorful - naturally briny. They catch it and flash freeze them onsite. There's nothing better."
The duo says they fell head-over-heels in love with the San Francisco Bay area, so just like their neighbors (that's how they refer to their patrons) they love to play around - they happen to do it with food. "We're just two guys working hard, cooking good food, and we want people to come meet us in person," Jonathan says. "We love making new friends - that's what a supper club is - a way to meet your neighbors and have a social experience." The chefs even offered up their recipes for octopus, lamb pot pie, asparagus, and spinach farfalle with ham.
"We want families and friends to come enjoy this great atmosphere and not be afraid to try new things. It's important for us to have relationships. In fact, we love creating relationships as much as we love creating food," Tony says. "HSC is so much bigger than just food."
Pop-Up Maestros Dinner Lab Slated to Launch in Dallas
Underground supper club Dinner Lab was founded in New Orleans in 2011 and quickly made a name for itself by throwing one-of-a-kind events in unusual places like gritty warehouses and abandoned churches it's been called "a pop-up experience that's like the dining equivalent of a rave," while founder Brian Bordainick has described it as "sort of like Fight Club meets food, but without the violence." With the help of $2 million in outside funding, Dinner Lab now has a presence in 20 markets including NYC, Miami, San Francisco and L.A., and next on their list is Dallas.
While Dinner Lab has plans to eventually open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, the current premise is pop-up dinners that offer a rotating lineup of chefs a platform to experiment with new dishes and ideas. Roughly half of Dinner Lab's featured chefs are chosen from the local market, while the other half are brought in from their top-performing markets patrons are encourage to offer detailed feedback on each and every course via scored comment cards, which are then aggregated and given to the chef (sounds like a Yelper's dream come true, no?). All the dinners feature communal seating at long 12-tops "People come in as strangers and leave as friends," says director of culinary operations Mario Rodriguez.
While Dinner Lab might be considered underground, they're fully on the up-and-up they function as a private club that sells annual memberships, which they explain thusly: "We operate as a subscription service where people pay up front for access to our calendar. We aren't trying to be exclusive or anything like that, but this is how we subsidize the cost of dinners, hire people, rent a kitchen, etc. Guests then pay for each dinner and have access to not only events in the local market, but in every other city that Dinner Lab operates." Annual memberships for Dallas are currently on sale for $125.
Ambitious Dallas chefs, take note: Dinner Lab is currently in search of local talent. "We're looking for chef de cuisine-type people that have something to prove and want to put something out there and experiment on menus," says Rodriguez. Kicking things off in Dallas on October 25 will be chef Ryan Carson, who oversees Dinner Lab events in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The menu for the kickoff event, below:
Chilled Bean Sprouts
tamarind emulsion | peanut confit | lime cured egg yolk
charred broccoli | tofu mustard | crispy rice | chili oil
kimchi jelly | puffed pigs skin | lacto-fermented apple | shiso
Hot Potato, Cold Potato
smoked trout | brown butter | toasted seaweed | wild chives
salt baked yams | pistachio brittle | mizuna | whipped fish sauce
Miso Pound Cake
buttermilk cottage cheese | grapefruit | basil | white sesame