A Meal With The Dining Society

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What do you get when you combine 4 sous chefs, 3 mixologists, 2 sommeliers, a make shift kitchen and a communal table full of hungry bellies?  These days it’s the perfect recipe for a pop up dinner.  The Dining Society, whose fearless leader is Kevin Van, of Providence, has been informally hosting pop up dinners amongst friends for over a year now, but once the cat was out of the bag, diners like me were clamoring for a seat at the table and The Dining Society went public.

The chefs prep and taste in the makeshift kitchen.
The chefs prep and taste in the makeshift kitchen.

So last weekend, Kevin, alongside Yutaro Tachibe, sous chef at Melisse and Alison Trent of Bouchon, turned out a five course meal from 4 transportable burners and a 12 inch habachi that would rival a meal cooked in a professional kitchen on a Viking range.  I sat down amongst friends and strangers at a makeshift table clad with pages from Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire.  Looking over Escoffier’s words of wisdom – “the covering of bacon is essential to all pieces of poultry” – I became very…very…hungry.

Escoffier's words of wisdom.
Escoffier's words of wisdom.

First came platters of wild French mackarel atop a kohlrabi panacotta and braised eggplant, alongside a green salad with shaved watermelon radishes, peas ‘on the half shell’ and edamame puree.  Next, generous casseroles filled with Santa Barbara spot prawns in a bath of fennel infused tomato broth (complete with spot prawn roe) graced the table, followed by miso braised pork belly and roasted parsnips and lentils simmered in apple juice decorated with chunks of bacon and generous handfuls of arugula.  To finish it off, a cocktail glass filled with lemon shortcake, Harry’s Berries strawberries, rose water and white chocolate mousse and pistachio streusel landed in front of me.  A treat from the absent David Rodriguez of XIV.

Miso braised pork belly served with roasted parsnips.
Miso braised pork belly served with roasted parsnips.

The dinner was punctuated with cocktails and wine pairings.  Most intriguing was the amuse bouche – garlic infused vodka, dry vermouth and a hint of black truffle oil garnished with an anchovie – appropriately named the Umami Elixer.  As mixologists Alie & Georgia aptly said, not a drink for a first date.

The aptly named Umami Elixer.
The aptly named Umami Elixer.

When the meal came to an end, Kevin appeared from the kitchen, Tecate in hand, and thanked his fellow cooks (as well as his mother who happened to be working as an impromptu dish washer.)  There was a roaring applause and diners warmed by food, drink and company continued to sip and chat well into the evening.

the crowd

To stay abreast of the next Dining Society dinner, check out their website here.