GLENN – Like the weather, cultural – including culinary – trends make their way from the Left Coast and eventually arrive in Boston. Originating out West and now happening here – such is the case with the pop-up restaurant, more flamboyantly known as Guerrilla Culinary. (There is an Internet rumor that the concept originated in Brooklyn – not true.) The pop-up is a one-night stand (or 2 or 3 or even more) of a culinary event housed in a unique location. The event allows a young chef to showcase their talents with a well planned menu with a minimum of investment in overhead and operating costs. Also, it allows diners to experience a meal in a setting outside the sometimes restrictive environment of a restaurant. In other words, it’s an adventure for both chef and foodies. And unlike underground supper clubs, it’s legal since the pop-up occurs in a space that is licensed to serve food. Chef Will Gilson and entrepreneur Aaron Cohen have teamed up to create eat– their endeavor of the pop-up concept. Their first event was at the Mohr & McPherson showroom on Harrison Ave. on Nov. 12-13; their second at Bloc 11 in Union Square, Somerville on Jan. 14-16. Having done underground dining, it was time for WDWU to turn over a new leaf and go for the legal. And so, adventurous as we are, we were off to Somerville for our first experience of pop-up.
Whiskey cured/cigar smoked salmon with sunchoke rosti, pickled mushrooms and crème fraîche
Roasted pumpkin salad with fried sage, pepitas and brown butter dressing
Parsnip and Potato “latte” with chestnuts, thyme and cocoa nib powder
Coffee rubbed pork tenderloin with beet mole, charred onion sauce and edamame ragout
Espresso pot de Crème with vanilla bean cake, cashew crumble and coconut
KATRIN – The five-course menu was a great opportunity for Chef Will to showcase his creativity and his incredible skill in the kitchen. Inspired by the cafe-setting, he incorporated coffee and/or cocoa in most of the courses. When I first read the menu, I feared that the cafe influence would overwhelm the other components in the dishes. But I should not have worried. The menu and each individual dish was well-balanced, allowing the different elements to shine.
GLENN– Anticipation was running high as we waited to be shown to the dining room.Upon entering the dining area, we were supposed to remain standing for a half hour reception of passed hors d’ouevres. However, since people will do what they want to do, we sat down. This resulted in a bit of controlled chaos as servers rushed to serve wine and pass hodos. (Who were these servers anyway? They were excellent!)This only added to the excitement. And then the meal began.
KATRIN – I had expected – and hoped – that the dining room would be set up family style, and it was. I have come to enjoy family-style seating; not only is this dining room set up a mainstay of the overnight destinations operated by the organization for which I work, but also seems to be par for the course with alternative dining experiences, including Mystery Meet.
GLENN – Regarding the menu, these were my likes and dislikes. I usually don’t like smoked salmon – I find it a bit uncouth, too hunter-gatherer. Mix it with lots of cream cheese and it’s okay, just okay. But this salmon was a treat – very delicate and lightly smoked. It had been cured gravlax-style with whiskey and then cold smoked with smoldering cigars and finally finished with a hot smoke of wood chips. The sunchoke rosti was an interesting, earthy textural foil to the salmon and the pickled mushrooms provided a bright note.
The highlight of the meal was the third course – a simple potato and parsnip soup taken to another level. As Katrin said, it was sublime. The soup had great depth of flavor, the airy “latte” foam a contrast to the silky soup, the grated chestnut garnish provided crunch and the cocoa nib powder a bitterness to balance the sweetness of the parsnips.
My disappointment of the evening was dessert. The espresso pot de crème seemed to be an espresso panna cotta with too much gelatin, thus masking the delicate espresso flavor. The vanilla bean cake added no complement or contrast to the espresso and the cashew crumble was out of place. However, the preceding courses made up for this lapse.
KATRIN – The salmon dish was simply outstanding, but the potato and parsnip “latte” made me want to beg for seconds. The pork tenderloin was generously portioned and juicy and tender. While the presentation of each dish was attractive, I did raise an eyebrow at the tenderloin. I won’t spell it out for you, but maybe you’ll see what I mean in the photo.
Having wine by Bear Flag included with the meal was a nice touch. The white was Bear Flag’s “Bright White,” a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. The red was the “Dark Red”, a blend of Petite Sirah., Alicante Bouschet, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.
GLENN – The concept of the pop-up had intrigued me. I was unable to attend the event in November and was looking forward to the January one. I was not disappointed for having to wait. Chef Will and Aaron plan on more events with their venture eat. Sign me up – I’m eagerly awaiting the next one.
KATRIN – Me too! Congratulations to Chef Will, Aaron, and the many kitchen staff and wait staff who created a wonderfully memorable evening and meal!