I am so ridiculously excited about this week’s blog. Last Friday, I was given the opportunity to be a guest at a dinner put on by Fresno’s Underground Supper Series. (The event organizers gave me a free ticket but all super enthusiastic, glowing opinions below are 100% my own.) It was, hands down, the coolest dining experience I’ve ever had in Fresno.
What in the heck is an underground supper? It’s a themed, secret dining club – something that’s been popular for many years in big cities like San Francisco in New York, and is now coming to Fresno for the first time, thanks to Amy Jaye from local event planning company Posh and Posy.
“This is the kind of thing I would like to go to,” Amy told me. “And I didn’t see that happening.”
Amy approached popular catering company The Painted Table about partnering to form a supper club. Jeromie Garza, head chef and co-owner of The Painted Table, jumped at the chance.
The first two dinners in the six-supper series happened earlier this year, with Into the Woods on January 8 and Wrapped on February 26. Last week’s dinner, the third in the series, was called Seven Continents, with a travel theme where guests were taken on a culinary tour through seven cities in, you guessed it, all seven continents.
“We are seven continents in Fresno,” Jeromie said. “We have every single culture represented in the city.”
Other than the theme, all other details of the event were kept secret from diners. I received an e-mail just a couple days prior with an itinerary, instructions, address and parking pass. I looked up all the airport codes to figure out where we were going.
Our VIP airport lounge turned out to be located at the beautiful home of a Supper Series fan. I was greeted at the gate by a bartender with cocktails and Oceanic Airlines bottled water. Guests mingled and snacked on candied walnuts while waiting for our flight to take off.
If you’ve read my blogs with any frequency, you know I’ve made a point of doing more things alone over the past year. Never would I have imagined going by myself to a dinner that was scheduled to be several hours long. But I can tell you now that if you can’t get anyone to attend an underground supper with you, absolutely go by yourself away! You KNOW you’re going to be in a room full of people who have something in common with you: a love of food! I sat by a couple who was celebrating the husband’s 40th birthday. I totally crashed their date, we chatted the whole time, and by the end of the night, we had exchanged phone numbers!
As for the food? If you’ve ever been to a party catered by The Painted Table, you already know it was to die for. But as I told Jeromie later, though I went into the night sure I’d enjoy the dinner, I was absolutely floored by the dishes that were served, full of locally-sourced ingredients (even the more exotic ones). The creativity and quality were above and beyond anything I could have imagined.
We started the journey by going to Bangor, Maine, and enjoying a fresh lobster roll on a brioche bun. I could have devoured 10 of these. Then we headed to Guangzhou, China. As soon as this dish started coming out, I almost cried, because the comforting smell evoked such a strong memory of my childhood. It was jook, a Chinese rice porridge served with soy sheets, Chinese sausage, “100-year-old” egg, cilantro, onion, hard boiled eggs, tamarin and a chicken foot garnish.
That right there defined for me the difference between Underground Supper and a regular dinner at a fancy restaurant. Chef Jeromie took us to Asia and didn’t choose something unique but more familiar like Vietnamese pho or Japanese ramen. He literally put a chicken foot and preserved duck egg in a dish, and it couldn’t have been more amazing.
After Asia, we flew right over to Paris, where we had a French cheese plate with truffle pate and a St. Germain Mule. It was at this point, by the way, that we figured out there was a cocktail being paired with every course. And that perhaps we had made a tactical error in consuming so much of each one so far. Talk about getting a lot of bang for your buck! My new friends and I decided we should perhaps only sample each delicious drink. But not before we went to Antarctica, where the course was a palette cleanser in the form of an amazing gin and tonic sorbet with a botanical ice cube.
For the main courses, we went to Cusco, Peru, (South America) for Carapulcra (pork) with black beans, quinoa and peanuts (so delicious!) and Casablanca, Morocco (Africa) for a very traditional chicken tagine served with couscous.
We ended our adventure in with dessert Perth, Australia. Fun fact: Jeromie’s husband and Painted Table co-owner Rod Hansen is probably the best pastry chef in Fresno. So I had been looking forward to the final course all evening, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The sticky date pudding with brown butter ice cream and toffee sauce (served with a hot Earl Grey latte sweetened with date syrup) was, in my opinion, the best course of the night. I devoured the whole plate despite being super full from the previous six dishes!
Have I made you totally hungry yet? Are you jealous you missed out? Don’t let it happen again! Fresno’s Underground Supper Series has just announced the theme for their next dinner on May 13: From Bach to Rock – A Music Inspired Menu. Tickets are $100 each (worth every penny) and only about 30 will be available, so get on the list now! Go to the Supper Series’ Facebook page for purchase information. And make sure you sign up to become an official member of the club here to have first dibs on tickets for every dinner!
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