With how often I do dining reviews, I tend to eat out a lot. So much that I will sometimes go for weeks without even visiting the grocery store and my cooking skills eventually become so rusty, I can’t help but wonder just how much I’d embarrass myself when it came time to entertain in my own home, again. (Okay, but seriously, I still have the basics down. I promise.)
And then there’s Kitchensurfing. First launched in New York, the Los Angeles incarnation launched just yesterday. I was provided several, succulent tastes at one Southern media dinner held in Venice last month, just so I could envision how it might play out were I to host something similar at my own place. Continue reading →
What’s a chef to do – and where is he to go – once he quits his posh Patina Restaurant Group post as Executive Chef at Cafe Pinot?
The answer? It’s infallibly to do one’s own series of roving dinners in various homes. Chef Kevin Meehan’s intention? Hosting a group of appreciative guests with adventurous and social bents.
What you get, then, is a start-up dinner series that brings together a myriad of moving parts – but the difference with this particular dinner party is that the least questionable variable is the quality of the food. In essence, there’s no better way to enjoy a multi-course opus by Chef Meehan than within the context and intimacy of an 8-person dinner party. The mystery of the night’s dinner menu is navigated by that day’s foraged finds and treasures unearthed at the fish and farmer’s market. (Those with dietary restrictions are encouraged to let Chef know when the reservation is made.)
The evening begins with a reception of sorts as you sip wine in the comforts of an outdoor, dimly but charmingly lit patio and begin to get acquainted with your fellow diners – after all, you’ll be sharing a table so you may as well get cozy. Sidenote: It’s probably best to get a pre-dinner wine, or at least something a little unexpected or white, to share for this; it seemed that everyone at my party had food on the mind (and why wouldn’t they) when they picked out their wines.
And for five inventive and intriguing courses (plus amuse bouche) and an unexpectedly pleasant group of characters at the dinner my guest and I were privy to, it was an evening well spent. Or if you have that special occasion in mind, you can book your own dinner party for you and your friends. After all, no where else will you get top-notch courses in an ultimately casual, stress-free environment. But I really like the idea of matching your “omakase” style dinner to the chef’s choice co-mingling of guests. Dinner parties, after all, are for adventurers.
One thing I’ve noticed about many dinner parties, too, is that there’s a pacing left to be desired for the diners, or shall I say guests? But each course at Kali Dining was evenly and perfectly spaced and a fitting ascension unto the next. And I, for one, thought it was the perfect amount of food. Each plate was a piece of art yet evaded being too fussy.
So you best get to Kali Dining before Chef Kevin “goes out and gets a real job” (disclaimer: his words, not mine). This is one temporary pop-up installment on the westside you won’t want to miss out on.
$65 min. cash donation + a bottle of wine to share
When Chef Alessandra invited me to her transplanted-from-Oregon (and before that, Spain) underground supper club, I was intrigued. The theme of the night was of the lovers’ variety. And so I traveled to a quaint backyard somewhere in a lovely LA neighborhood to partake in her Aphrodisiac Dinner. I went solo, but was comforted when I found the dinner party also included fun company – no doubt a result of the kind of company the exuberance of the chef naturally attracted.
It was a beautiful setting – and one in which it was comfortable to enjoy a full-on eight courses (plus a bonus course) with wine pairings. Though I admit I was worried when I saw it was to take place outside, it was not too cold nor too warm underneath that cozy, red light-tinged tent. The setting is no detail to be glossed over when it comes to underground supper clubs, but in Orgasmo de la Boca’s case, it was perfect. The explanations behind what was going on through Chef Allesandra’s mind while constructing each dish were lovely to behold as my fellow diners and I pondered each bite.
And so was the pacing. Coupled with the quality and tastiness of the dishes, the dining experience was top-notch. Of course, there was at least one love- (or lust-?) inducing ingredient by any interpretation in each course. Oysters two ways; pork via “Bacon and Eggs” – that is, Poached Arauncana Egg in Iberico Nest with Sundried Tomato Butter poached Fingerlings and Ovan Roasted Grape Tomatoes; chili via Fried Mushroom Salad with Chipotle Chervil Aioli and strawberry via a Strawberry-Ginger Granite as a mid-dinner palate cleanser. The wine pairings were also stellar, bringing in another dimension to each course and even the wine itself as proper pairings should.
I always love oysters – especially on the halfshell – and the spicy Fried Mushroom SaladÂ was absolutely lovely, especially when paired with the ’09 Marina Alta Blanco. My favorite was actually a main – the duck breast with the cauliflour and basil puree with dried fig and brandy gastrique as well as fennel. Apparently, women used to dust powderedÂ basil on themselves as a scent and figs wereÂ Cleopatra’s favorite fruit. With fennel (which the Egyptians used as a libido enhancement) making the third aphrodisiac ingredient in this dish, perhaps I was really into the thematics and this is why my appetite ultimately “culminated” with this one!
Also delicious was the Coriander Crusted Salmon with Sunchoke Puree and Latke in Tomato and Asparagus Broth. With asparagusÂ and especially coriander being the key ingredients here, I admit there is rarely an experience where I don’t enjoy salmon and this night would have been no exception. The coriander was a really nice touch, highlighting the richness of the fish.
Of course, it’s not a proper “love” dinner without dessert, and the “Chocolate Covered Menage a Trois” with sea salt panna cotta, frozen bananas and almond brittle (or manage a quatre with the ’09 Monticelli Muscato d’Asti) did not disappoint. The saltiness, sweetness from both chocolate and fruitÂ and multiple textures just bombarded the senses and was a conclusion to behold.
While Allesandra is known for her smoked olives (see: Artisanal LA), it is clear that she deserves an honest look at her underground dinners. They’re delicious, professional yet hospitable and are a multiple-course tour de force to be reckoned with. The themes change according to her whimsy and inspiration, so there’s a different experience awaiting each diner every time. One thing is constant, however: You can sense her passion in each bite.
For the next dinner on June 4, be sure to reserve here.
I may get to eat really great food every week, but the funny – or sad – thing is that almost none of it really comes out of my kitchen. You don’t have to be one of my closest friends to know I don’t cook. Good thing I got approached by two ladies known as Pink Sparrow, who do cooking class-dinner parties, because I’m hoping to learn some skills for my new kitchen and new lifestyle.
It all started with a consultation meet-and-greet with the two gals, where I got to choose what theme I wanted to go with. After listening toÂ some of Jennifer and Christena’s suggestions, I went with Greek! Yes, it’s the most “Greek” to me in the kitchen – so I was excited for my friends and I to get a cooking lesson in the process of a private, fun dinner party.
In addition to our hostesses, we ended up a month later with a dinner party of 4 (I was alotted 5) and were taught basic kitchen tricks and knife skills. (Impressed with their tools, I also learned that I need to get myself a new set of knives.) And then, we set to cooking. Jennifer and Christena brought everything – including all the kitchen ware needed to cook for everyone present, down to the cutting boards.
On our menu:
Fava Bean Succotash
Yogurt Marinated Lamb Kebabs
Tapenade Crusted Roast Salmon
We started out marinating our lamb so that it could sit in the fridge during our preparation of everything else on the menu. Sean massaged the yogurt marinade into the meat, ever so thoroughly, beforehand.