What’s a “supper club?”

A "Dinner with Daniel" in progress

There are a couple different ideas about what a supper club is or should be. In the Midwest, a “supper club” is a particular kind of restaurant, a homestyle restaurant that serves food family style. In other places, “supper club” has come to be associated with “underground restaurants” or “guerrilla dining,” where word of mouth brings people to a pop-up restaurant serving dinner for just one night. Sometimes these dinners showcase the work of cooks who aren’t currently in a professional kitchen or who want to experiment with food that’s different than what gets served from their restaurant kitchens. Sometimes the cooks are talented amateurs with no professional training.

In other parts of the world, supper clubs are really taking off. They seem to value a balance between the “supper” and the “club,” aiming for good cuisine, fresh and well prepared, but giving equal attention to the social aspect of each dinner.

This idea resonates with me. My supper club has a relaxed, homey atmosphere with excellent and interesting food (if I do say so myself!). The mission is to have not only a great food selection, but the perfect mix of guests, where everyone gets to sit at the “chef’s table.”

So what’s it like to eat at a supper club? Each one is different, of course, but this is what mine is like:

A "Dinner with Daniel" in progress
A “Dinner with Daniel” in progress

Homestyle. There’s no professional waitstaff, so you may need to ask when you need butter or help yourself when you need more water. Everyone will sit together at the same table and pass dishes back and forth. Sometimes we have plated courses and sometimes we serve family style, but guests always take a little more active role than they’d have in a restaurant.

Drink selection. We serve water, wine, and coffee. Maybe an apéritif or digestif. A few kinds of tea, I guess, but you’re rolling the dice if you are hoping for tea. You are welcome to bring wine if you have a bottle you’d like to share.

Schedule. I ask my guests to come on time. Not early: I’ll still be hard at work–probably trying to find 30 seconds when I can put on a clean shirt. Not late: it’s hard to serve one or two guests who are out of sync with everybody else, eating appetizers while everybody else is starting on the entrée. On time.

Special diets. If you have special dietary requirements, get in touch before you buy a ticket. Seriously. Don’t spring an allergic or food intolerant guest on me at the last minute. I am happy to cook for anybody, even vegans (there, I said it!) and I love a challenge, but some menus just don’t lend themselves to different interpretations, especially at the last minute.

Tips and presents. Tips are a little weird. You’re in my house. But you can give me presents if you want to!

What to wear. Wear what you like. We all have to look at each other all night; wear something that you look good in. I will be wearing an apron. I look good in an apron.

Feedback. Give it to me! I want to hear what you think, whether it’s praise or a suggestion for improvement.

Buen Provecho!

farewell to the bitter end of winter

Winter sky
Daniel plucking pheasants
Plucking all these pheasants takes my back to my culinary training–a long time ago. Don’t you think my kids should be doing this? How else will they learn?!

Preparing winter meals can be more interesting than those in the summertime. In summer there’s bounty, delicious fresh food practically bursting out of the garden, everything producing and reproducing. Half the time, you use a little splash of olive oil, a little lemon juice, and you’re good to go. If you just look around you and choose what’s ripe at that moment, you can’t go too far wrong.

In the winter it’s different. This season rewards the “long game” in the kitchen, the planning and preserving, where you draw on your root cellar and pantry.  All the different options of game, large and small. All the magic of pickling, aging and preserving get me through these dark months without my garden.

To celebrate what I hope is the end of winter, I’ve scheduled a supper club meal for this Saturday, March 7. I’m using sour cherries I’ve had preserved in spirits since summer, a persimmon vinaigrette, and candied kumquats, among other things.

Also local pheasants that I plucked myself. Having the chance to experience some of these “food handling” techniques is very special to me as a reminder of where food comes from and the time honored traditions of preparing it. After a plucking a few pheasants I had a renewed respect for those who have done and continue to do jobs like this–so that most of us don’t have to!

dinner with Daniel on Saturday, 7 March 2015

  1. Serrano Ham, Daikon, Granny Smith Apple, Pimentón Jelly
  2. Salt Cod Soup
  3. Treviso, Mushrooms, Persimmon, Tomato, Jalapeño Pepper
  4. Pheasant, Foie Gras, Sour Cherry, Butternut Squash
  5. Crémeux de Bourgogne, Membrillo, Albariño, Toasted Oat Sourdough
  6. Tocinillo, Pinenut, Saffron, Lemon, Dark Chocolate

Buen provecho!

Winter sky
Winter has its charms–but they’re wearing thin. 😉