As I mentioned earlier this week, I've been diving into the underground dinner scene in LA. The dinners aren't all a secret, but they can be difficult to get into due to the limited numbers that can be served in a given location. Most who host these meals are chefs of course, but they're also often caterers who crave a little more intimate experience than serving 500 mini crab cakes to an array of stuffy suit and taffeta dress wearing wedding guests.
The Taste of Pace Supper Club was started by Chef Pace Webb who runs her own catering company and also hosts weekly cooking classes in her downtown loft. Once a month Pace does the cooking for a smaller group, working with what's in season to produce a multi-course meal, usually for about $100, or even less if you were able to catch the latest Living Social deal.
In true underground, secret club fashion, the address is e-mailed to you just a few days before the actual event. The dinner I attended was at Pace's home in a non-descript part of East LA, just on the other side of the Garment District where there were chock o' block large brick buildings, with barbed wire protecting a few open lots. The Sunday evening I went, the streets seemed eerily abandoned.
While the supper club I attended with Amy's Decadent Dinners was well decorated with a vivid color theme, live entertainment and a large group of nearly 75 people, Taste of Pace was more informal and intimate. It felt like kicking back at a friend of a friend's house for a meal.
18 of us gathered around a long, dark tableclothed table in the middle of the open loft space with neighboring artists' works on the walls. The kitchen is open, next to the dining room so we were able to see all the hard work going into our meal.
We had our choice of some basic wine to accompany our amuse of shrimp butter agnolotti with chives. Served on a spoon as a delicate one bite (but a turn the head and chew because it's a big bite), it was light, but flavorful, and a perfect al dente.
After getting to know some of the guests, who ranged in age from 20's to 40's, we were prompted to sit and begin dinner.
We brought our own wines and they were opened, shared, and then we were presented with our first dish of a fava, wild mushroom, housemade lardon, poached egg, and pain rustique. While some of the lardon was a bit salty and overcooked, there was a nice range of flavors on the plate.
We then received duck confit on a frisee salad with crushed cherries, some humboldt fog, and a whole grain mustard vinaigrette. I can't complain about duck cooked in its own fat.
Pace then switched gears for our entree of a spring pea risotto with asparagus and salmon roe, served family style. It was light, but filling and satisfying.
Dessert was a beautiful dish of lemon chamomile cream pie with a few bright orange, kumquats for garnish.
I like what these Supper Clubs are doing. They're bringing a group of people together that would likely never meet and creating a space to talk while enjoying a home cooked meal. I think it's good for LA to get out of their cars and engage with their neighbors. We don't do that enough, and what better place to interact than over a dinner made by someone eager to cook for you.