Seattle definitely is in pop-up restaurant/event mode this year – I just went to the awesome One Night Only Project, there have been pop-up events, Lark had a picnic, and everyone’s doing new, awesome mini-events. I love it. So I was thrilled for a last minute invite to dinner at the Velvet Underground Dining Experience. It’s a rotating dinner event, and this particular occasion was run by The Wandering Table, with help from Rain City Vodka, Caffe Lladro, and VUDE’s owner, Jon of Hand of God Wines.
The theme was connectivity, with nods to children’s games. There’s a Japanese children’s game, shiritori, where the end of one word is the beginning of the next. They used this concept, an ingredient from one dish reappeared in the next, so we could follow the chain of the evening. Clay baked clams with pinenuts gave way to chicken osso bucco with pinenut milanese.
Let me warn you: this was a long event. In all, there were twelve courses, including an intermezzo. Even so, the dishes were a joy, ranging from a fresh pea soup with poached egg and prosciutto, to roasted pork with a black pepper pasta and seaweed salad.
I was really impressed by the duck ham, especially the melon water contrasting to the smoky, sweet ham slice and crunchy fig jam. Another standout was the fancy rendition of ants on a log, with shaved celery and juicy carbonated raisins. Even the basil-orange sorbet as an intermezzo was fantastic, a single scoop in a wine glass that allowed you to inhale the scent of fresh herbs.
The desserts were frustratingly heavy for the evening. The tart, a generous chocolate confection stuffed with oozy peanut butter and caramel, needed more of the raspberry coulis and ice cream to offset the fudginess. That or a shooter of milk.
I also wanted to trade the raspberry pepper truffles for the fresh raspberries and bed of pepper the truffles had as garnishes. The combination of berry and pepper without chocolate was a jolt to my palate, one I needed after such a large meal.
I loved the interactive elements of the event. We were encouraged to go into the kitchen/staging area and take photos or ask questions, and there were point-and-click cameras on every table for people to document the experience. Also, there was a demonstration pouring of Cafe Lladro coffee, and at multiple times during the evening chefs answered questions or talked about upcoming dishes. Jon even wandered between the tables, asking what people thought of the experience.
And serious, serious kudos to their serving team. I’ve rarely had a meal where the platings and timing went so smoothly, including getting cocktails out before a dish arrived. We were supposed to wait, but pretty much everyone tried the Rain City vodka cocktail, all floral with lemon and bitters, because the anticipation was just too much to endure.
I left wanting more, and wondering if the space had enough room for people to stay overnight. One day, they need to host brunch, and I will be first in line. But for now, spread the word, but do so quietly and with excitement.