See previous post. I find the concept of roving meals cooked in an unknown kitchen, served in a secret location on an invitation-only basis very intriguing. I read about this on Muffintop, checked out the SCD website, and decided I liked their Pirates motto. There seemed to be enough chatter about the Dissident Chef (or DC) on the internet that I felt confident it was the real deal and signed up. The invitation-only thing really means you have to be willing to pay up front and at $135 a person, it’s a commitment.
Our original meal had been postponed from March, and now I was nursing a head cold and popping sudafed because I’ll be damned if my tastebuds were out of commission for the long-anticipated 11-course feast. I was especially interested in this meal because it was in partnership with Boriana Foods and featuring some of the foods she imports from Montepulciano, a region of Tuscany, Italy.
I received the following email at 8:52 am the day of the event:
Begins: 07:00 PM
Please go to the intersection of X and Y street. When you arrive. Park on the X street side (for those of you driving). Before exiting your vechile. Please call 415.555-1234 to get final instructions and be escorted into the location. It is important for the host security that you speak to no one, answer no questions to inquiring outsiders… We look forward to seeing you.
We arrived at the appointed location, called the number and exited our vechile, experiencing a momentary panic that perhaps we were victims of a social experiment and were secretly being filmed as we waited, or maybe just chumps waiting to be whisked off to become organ donors, or… thankfully a male voice answered and advised me to wait for someone to come for us. We were soon led into an airy loft with a lovely view of the freeway, which was warm and filled with the smells and sounds of cooking. The best thing about the loft is the open floorplan, so we were able to watch the activity in the kitchen over the course of the evening. The DC was busy in the kitchen, but it was a very focused and calm busy. Everything happened with an economy of effort and he with a team of 3 well trained assistants kept the food and wine flowing.
The main course, roasted suckling pig, was resting on the counter
Upon entering, meeting the other diners and settling in, we soon heard the festive sound of champagne bottles popping and were served full glasses (which continued on throughout the evening with the wine pairings). There were mostly first time diners, with a few loyalists and everyone was very curious to hear how we all found out about the Dissident Chef.
With the champagne, the servers came around with thin slices of bread spread with a savory, rich duck liver pate, or thinly sliced Guanciale pork jowl topped with marinated onions. The cured pork jowl was dense and chewy with a complex flavor that paired well with the bright marinated onions. There were a couple of rounds of these before we sat down for the Food.
Next came a plate of thinly sliced cured meats with marinated artichoke hearts, roasted artichokes and beets (these made a convert of Mr. K who proclaimed that he no longer hated all beets), and a short thick slice of a pork terrine which was garlicky and chunky and a nice contrast to the other textures on the plate.
The last plate of the meat appetizers was thinly sliced buffalo carpaccio, which was ethereally light and buttery and practically melted in your mouth. This was topped with frisee lightly dressed with a lemony vinaigrette and fresh herbs.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was a magnificent Bread Salad or Panzanella with mache or lamb’s lettuce, luscious chunks of tuna, crisp split radishes with a sassy bite, capers, fresh crunchy peas and lots of bread that soaked up the dressing while maintaining its fabulous chewy texture and crunchy crust.
The Pea Soup caused quite a sensation with one woman pounding the table and yelling about When Harry met Sally… It was creamy and rich, bursting with the full bright flavors of fresh peas and topped with a few drops of white truffle oil. Everyone marveled at this dish and a few wondered whether there was any left over they could take to-go.
The last of this trio was a Chestnut Wheat Pasta topped with fresh Ricotta Cheese. This was served over spring leeks cooked with green garlic and the flavors were fresh and restrained against the rich buttery ricotta. The pasta was dense and chewy and perfect with the soft vegetables and creamy cheese. Here I found myself wishing for freshly ground black pepper but the feeling passed…
The meat courses started with Pan Seared Big Eye Tuna served over Gigante Beans, topped with a rich savory broth and flecks of fresh herbs. The fish was the perfect combination of crisp exterior, a thin layer of chewy cooked flesh against soft luscious rareness. I loved the creamy texture of the beans which soaked up the broth and filled my mouth with bright shiny happy flavors. It was at moments like this that I really resented how blunted my traitorous tastebuds seemed from the evil headcold…
We were served a palate cleanser of Chickpeas with Fresh Herbs drizzled with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.
Next was the Rabbit Misto with Artichoke, which Theresa said looked like Chicken Karaage and I agreed. It was big and juicy encased by a thick crunchy batter that was well seasoned and served with a small fried artichoke that was split and a good chewy accompaniment, although it had parts that were dry and strawlike, but really girl, do you need to eat everything on the plate?
The final dish was the Roast Suckling Pig, with a savory sausagey stuffing served over chestnuts, roasted turnips and three dollops of salsa verde, which had the bright clean flavors of basil and garlic. The pork was very tender and succulent, but I’m afraid that by this point I had either become too full or my tastebuds overwhelmed, and I just couldn’t appreciate it. The chestnuts were dry and stale tasting, the turnips were bland and flavorless.
We enjoyed a Cheese Course with Pecorino with black pepper, Drunken Sheep cheese with Grape Must (which forms the base upon which Balsamic Vinegar is made), and a Nut and Honey torrone. These were dry, restrained cheeses although each had their own charms. The pecorino was salty with a slightly crunchy coarse texture made exciting by bits of hot black peppercorns, and the Sheep milk cheese was sharp and tangy with a delicious crunchy crust.
Yet another dish arrived and we enjoyed a Pomegranate Sorbet with Moroccan Spices that was tart and refreshing
The final final was a 25 year aged Balsamic vinegar splashed on a scoop of ice cream, where it surrendered all tangy tartness and merged with the icy cool richness of the ice cream and was transformed into a gorgeously muted perfection that was so good with the soft almond biscuit.
During the meal, we were served Italian wine pairings with each course and I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly keep track of what we drank… Needless to say, our table manners progressed from polite to loud and very jolly by the end of the evening.
Mr. K and I agreed that it was an amazing meal and that we had a wonderful time – although we felt we had stuffed ourselves to the point where we could barely breathe. We waddled out to our car around midnight, which means we ate a 5 hour dinner. It truly was an epic feast on a grand scale.
We were very impressed by the Dissident Chef, consider ourselves to be now loyalists of SCD and look forward to future gastronomic events.