On Supper Clubbing
August 30, 2012
I love Sunday supper – meals that are long-cooked, and long-lingered over at the table. I think that early dinners with lots of courses, good wine, laughter, and family are the absolute best way to send off the weekend.
I couldn’t have been any more chuffed when two of my favorite ladies from school invited me to the second installment of their monthly supper club, KatesInTheKitchen, an Italian themed meal in Katie’s most adorable Brooklyn home last Sunday.
I love the Kates! They are truly fantastic women. Katie Hards is a New Yorker by way of California, giving up the West Coast life 2 years ago to pursue a Masters degree in Food Studies at NYU. She’s a self taught cook, working the lines at sandwich shops and a taco truck, but Katie, like myself, is most comfortable in the kitchen at home with a cocktail in hand. She’s my favorite person to go to a music festival with, and one time she catered a party for one of Michael Jackson’s exes. She is currently my favorite red-head.
Kate Sann is a native New Yorker, and also a Food Studies grad student along with us. She has cooked professionally, grown wine in New Zealand, and butchered pigs in France. She does this fantastic little hat tip motion when she drinks. Working with the Westchester Land Trust, she helps new farmers get access to land. She works for and takes care of a fantastic old Upper East Sider, Bunny Grossinger, and we revel at her fantastic Bunny stories. You can see Kate and Bunny discussing Madmen, here.
Supper clubs have varied histories, depending on where you’re from. Midwestern supper clubs of the early 20th century were convivial destinations for rural folk to eat and imbibe in, that quickly became notorious as illegal watering-holes as Prohibition loomed. In Cuba, supper clubs, or paladares sprung from the need to obfuscate government limitations on businesses, and to cook real Cuban food for real Cuban people at a reasonable cost. Supper clubs in urban areas in the US are an increasingly popular way to challenge the home cook and their eaters to try new things – not just food, but where we eat (for instance, at a stranger’s house). They challenge what it means to be a “home cook” and the conflation between “restaurant quality food” and “home cooking”.
Sunday’s supper was really sublime. Two of my chosen-family donned our Sunday best and met in Park Slope around 4 for dinner. From the moment I climbed the stairs, and smelled Katie’s homemade bread and garlic in the air, I felt completely at home. The negroni topped with sparking prosecco I was handed only cemented the feeling. The dining room was warm with the kitchen’s heat, and we settled into our bench at the perfectly dressed table.
We started with delicate stuffed squash blossoms, spritzed with lemon, and these herbaceous, fantastic crostini with patty-pan squash and taleggio. I knew one of the other couples at the table from a recent Rockaway Beach visit, and we took turns introducing ourselves to the other strangers at the table.
Now, I don’t know if it was the second round of negronis, or the warmth of the room, or how fantastic the food was, but I was starting to love these strangers. They were all women in their thirties, fantastic, hilarious, witty women. We talked astrology, and sex-strology. We talked about the food. We talked about living alone. No one talked about their job. The Kate’s tell me that they measure the success of a supper club by the volume of laughter between courses – by all counts this was a success. The best thing about meeting good strangers at a good party? They invite you to their good parties. And then you get to meet more good strangers.
As the main course rolled out, we didn’t feel like strangers any more. I am a pretty serious misanthrope, but after being so well fed and plied, I felt like I had made three new friends. The mains were spectacular – salt crust baked porgy with lemon and herbs, earthy bitter greens and porcini mushrooms with breadcrumb topping, the freshest most toothsome farro salad with fresh beans and heirloom tomatoes, and heaping bowls of sweet eggplant caponata and peperonata (the perfect topping for Katie’s homemade bread.)
Everything was just, so, for lack of a better word, lovely. The food was there in plenty, but it was light, and refreshing, and perfectly seasoned. There was no unbuttoning of pants that I could see. We joked as we picked the tiny bones from between our lips in between story-telling. We shared the wine we had brought. It was like grandmas’s cooking – if your grandma was from the Mediterranean and knew her way around a farmer’s market. (Mine was Scottish, and fantastic as she was, she couldn’t cook to save her life.)
So, I am not that crazy about dessert, as a rule. However, this glistening olive oil cake with roasted stone fruit and homemade gelato was so INSANELY GOOD that I forgot to take a photo until it was almost too late. It was summer in sweet form. GOD DAMN.
A good friend of mine, and noted cynic remarked to me before the meal, “$40 to eat in someone’s house? Yeah, ok.” On our walk to the subway after our KatesInTheKitchen meal, as he ate his entire goodie bag of biscotti, there was a marked change in his outlook. These girls are legit. They are fantastic cooks and hostesses, with huge hearts, whose love for food and feeding people is evidenced in every dish they serve.
I implore you to go to their next meal, scheduled for September 30th. It is a theme near and dear to my heart: TOMATOES! Menu linked below. You can friend TheKates on Facebook, e-mail them, or check their event page for more info. Be sure to tell them I sent you, so that I can cash in on mad leftovers!!