What’s in a Supper Club? If you ask The Whisk & Ladle Supper Club, they’ll tell you that they coined the name. In fact, so told me one of the W&L hosts, and I am paraphrasing: No one was using the words “Supper Club” before we began hosting our dinners. If you ask other New York-based dining groups, they’ll think nothing on it and if you ask Grub Street to describe a Supper Club, they won’t define what it is but they’ll tell you that the Health Department is too busy to even consider what a “Supper Club” is up to.
What about Dinner Theatre? Good question! Most certainly not the same thing, though I’ve collaborated in the past with a supper club that promises an, “educational, social and theatrical culinary” experience to unsuspecting attendees.
Most surprising of all is the WikiPedia entry, which only mentions super clubs in the U.S. as a footnote to a happening in Latin America, look:
“In Latin America, Supper Club typically denote underground restaurants, where they’re known as either a paladar or a restaurante de puertas cerradas (locked door restaurant). While technically illegal, they’re built into the culture, and often have higher standards than many licensed establishments. They are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.”
The New York Times has hailed supper clubs as “Anti-Restaurant[s]” and the term underground is used in conjunction with culinary happenings at such a frequency that all history of the “underground railroad” I fear, may well be re-written and confused for a big dinner party.
Q: Alright, JC, what’s the point?
A: Great question kind Hipster in the back! First a photo, then my response:
On Sunday February 12th I hosted an event that was indeed a first (for The Noble Rot). Since The Noble Rot’s inception in 2009 I have boasted of our Anti-Supper Club format where there ‘ain’t no sittin’ down.’ The focus has been on wine and the food is there to compliment the wines. The food has always been passed and like a politician kept afloat by a superPAC, I promised we’d never repeal our credo! We’d never sit down! And last Sunday, I flip-flopped. I’m also announcing my candidacy for President of the Unite States of Foursquare and Seven Years Ago When There Wasn’t No Damn Foursquare.
This story of Love, and the Occupying of it (title of the event was “Occupy the Things u Love”), begins last year when David Santos, Chef of Um Segredo a Portugese-influenced Roosevelt Island based supper club, contacted me about a collaboration.
ME: “You’re Spanish right?”
DAVID: “No, I’m Portugese”
ME: “I’ll never go to Roosevelt Island.”
DAVID: “You should, it’s pretty amazing. My apartment is so big it feels like a house in suburbia.”
ME: “So we’ll do a Spanish-inspired Valentine’s Day dinner in Williamsburg. Sound good?”
That’s not exactly how it went, but pretty close. Daniel Sklaar, the ChocoFiend of Fine & Raw Chocolates, offered his loft as the base of operations. I was sold when he used the words”scotch” and “bonbon” in the same sentence. It wasn’t clear to me that he had made a scotch-infused bonbon, but that didn’t matter, I simply love word associations. Turned out he did make a limited edition bonbon and we were to give it out as a parting gift to the lucky 25 guests who made it on the list to attend.
Ramon Del Monte from Tempranillo, Inc. and I had been talking about the necessity of collaborating again and so he came on board the love train. Whenever we serve wines from Jorge Ordenez, the flagship brand of Tempranillo, the quality and consistency of deliciousness is always overwhelming. We tasted through five wines and ya know, I’m now hooked on every one. At the end of this post there are photos of the food and the wines we paired with each dish.
Carla Rhodes, a “rock n’ roll” ventriloquist to the stars brought out her turn-of-the-century friendly, singing, womanizing compatriot: Cecil. Guests were clamoring for more of Carla’s musical numbers and Cecil’s harsh criticism. At one point, he told Carla that she looked like “Shirley Temple on speed,” and multiple times threatened to harm everyone in the house. The act was just what Valentine’s Day ordered. Look her up.
- Bubbles: Marques de Gelida Brut Exclusive 2006 ($15) Brilliant value cava
- Paired with Crudo: Marques De Gelida Xarello 2010 ($10)
- Paired with Monkfish: La Cana Albarino 2009 ($17)
- Paired with Pasta: Cepa 21 2007 ($25) ** my personal favorite of the night
- Paired with Squab: Avanthia Cuvee Mosterio 2010 ($22) ** will get even better with age, this was young.
- Paired with Dessert for the Gents: Alvear Pedro Ximenez de Anada 2008 ($23)
- Paired with Dessert for the Gals: Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927 NV ($25) ** go to Tinto Fino in Manhattan for this and other sherries/ports. The place will astound you!
So, there you have it: we hosted a sit-down meal for 25. And all were a lovely bunch. Some “regulars” were there (you know who you are) and some new faces who had been trying to make an event happen for a long time. Chef Santos’ professionalism, his composure in the kitchen and ability to handle prepping, cooking, plating 25 portions for a five-course meal while washing dishes in between, keeping conversation light and fun, never breaking a sweat — is unparalleled in this “supper club” scene (in NYC). In fact, I’ll make a bold statement: every single supper club in New York City could take lessons in composure (and portion-size) from David. I told him so and I meant it: I’d work with him again anytime he so desired.
As we round the bend on this one, a tall order is in hand: to define supper club. Luckily, we’re not going to fill that tall order here today. Instead, we’ll just say that the experience of social dining may provide a very hearty rival to the restaurant scene as supper clubs develop and become adults. To boot, two gents from Underground Eats attended our V-Day extravaganza and truly captured the flow of the evening in a well-written and enjoyable blog post. They’re mission to become a source for access to our clandestine dining world may be the start of the growing up process. They’ve provided some photos for this post! Seek them out and perhaps you’ll be the fine owner of the only business card to rival the luxurious design of a Bentley (which they possess).
I’ve a bit of big news to break out as well, which involves an announcement about, “Jonny Cigar,” an idea of the title “sommelier,” a commitment to new dining and wining experiences, and a new business that combines a bit of public relations, a dash of marketing to be stirred with consulting. Details and more coming to an inbox near you in the very near coming weeks. So if you’re not on the Noble Rot mailing list, get on board.