It was the start of my first pop up dinner and I realized I was the only one who had come from reading an online article.
I was browsing OC Weekly when I read an article about this secret Italian dinner hosted by some great chef I had never heard of. Secret....Italian...drinks included...a chef who was going to talk about the food? I was in.
Sunday night rolled around and I stepped into the house where the dinner was held, feeling like a burglar since there wasn't anybody at the door.
"They can't arrest anyone for stepping into their home by accident" I thought to myself, even as I was half expecting someone to yell at me for home invasion.
"Hello? Is this the pop up dinner?"
"Hey, hey, you're in the right place!" Matt and Cheryl of the Intrigue Supper Club, the group co-hosting the event, introduced themselves to me and brought me over to the indoor patio where the rest of the attendees were gathered. We were at chef Dave Emery's house where a table for 15 people was set up in the patio.
Despite the fact that I didn't know anybody there, it didn't feel awkward at all. People were pretty friendly and we talked about food and how we heard about the event.
"How did you hear about the event?"
"Oh my neighbor told me!" - Person A
"My friend invited me..." - Person B
"Oh, we've been going to Dave's restaurant for years!" - Person C
"I read about it on OC Weekly...." - me on how I found the event
I felt like the ultimate millennial, having been persuaded to come to something based solely on something I read off the internet. I shrugged off this thought and sat down as Dave introduced the first appetizer to us.
Above: Assorted Salumi with Dried Fruit Mostardaere.
I scarfed the cheese and preserved meat down before my friend asked me for my opinion.
What I really thought:
"Tasted like fancy cheese and salami. Fancy cheese as in, not the blocky kind you get at cheap catered events that all taste like cheddar or swiss, but the thinly sliced kind at nice catered events that have different flavors."
What I actually said:
"It's got a very sharp bitterness that goes well with the fried puffs!"
I wasn't here just for the food, I was here to hear a chef tell me what each dish was, its origin in Italian cooking and how he prepared it. Dave didn't disappoint and explained the names of all the cheeses and meat and why he picked them and where he got them from. I listened and promptly forgot all the names. Marzo-whuzat? I felt like I should have been taking notes.
Naples style Sartù di Riso: Sweet sardines with a toasty crunch!
Thankfully, the woman across from me was Italian so we all got to listen to her ethnic wisdom as she asked about where a certain item came from, or why Dave picked this over that. If I had eaten this 13 course meal at a fancy restaurant, I would have no idea of how or what went into each dish. Having a group of friendly to talk to and a chef who explained every dish made me feel like I was at a dinner party with good friends.
Assorted Crudo 'Sushi' style: Salmon, octopus and pork fatback, from left to right with a sweet onion at the top
Throughout the night, the dishes kept coming and coming. One delicious thing after another. The best part? Wine with each course. Specifically, wine that was chosen for each course by someone who really liked wine and could go into a speech on why it was chosen. Matt liked wine so much he would explain the flavors of each wine and the family history of the winery.
Dried-Fruit Cialzons with Foie Gras Sauce: Nobody left any sauce behind on their plates...it was that good!
Having someone tell you about wine made the wine taste better. It was if I could taste these tannin things they kept talking about. The fruity complex aroma Matt described? I could actually smell it! Well not really, but my brain was convinced that what these food pros were speaking was the truth. ere.
Inversione di Sarde a Beccaficu: Thinly sliced beef tendons with salad and balsamic dressing, not the usual pairing!
Some type of Italian roast beef dish
Zampone alla Modena on Lentils: Some part of the pig fried in butter and lard...oh and lentils
Tonno di Coniglio con Mirto: Salty tuna with pesto and more things that I can't remember
Melanzane al Cioccolato: This has eggplant in it but thankfully, does not taste like an eggplant
Even though the dishes looked pretty small, they were pretty filling when paired with wine. As we got closer to the end of the dinner, I felt more stuffed than going out for all you can eat korean BBQ. Thankfully, dessert rolled around just in time. Ice cream!
Ice cream presented fancily
Well...fancy ice cream! Fancy as in ice cream with some kind of baked orange and bitter sauce garnished with a flower. It was a refreshing change eating something sweet compared to the salty main dishes.
11 rolled around, half a hour past the scheduled 10:30 end of the of the event and people were still talking in Dave's patio. I brought out my camera and we snapped off a group shot before heading off to our food-induced comas to come. Dave Emery and the Intrigue Supper Club did their job well, I passed out in my bed the moment I got home.