Sunday, July 08, 2007

Going Underground

I started school in the 5th grade when I came to the States. I was never the cool kid. This may be an understatement. Where do I even start… I had a perm (why lord, why), braces, glasses, and absolutely no idea of what kids are supposed to wear. Oh yes, there was also that pesky Russian accent and difficulty understanding humor, sarcasm, and idioms.

I came a relatively long way in a few years. I lost the accent, outlived the braces, grew out the perm, got contacts… things were looking up. I figured out that shopping only at thrift stores made me interesting and alternateen (it also irritated my mother to no end, unfortunately) and that being funny and sarcastic was way easier than being open and nice. I mastered sarcasm, bleached hair, and torn jeans. By the time I was ready to graduate high school I was voted most sarcastic in my class, infuriating my poor mother once again.

It was around this time that I thoroughly stopped caring about whether or not people considered me cool. It helped that there weren’t really cool kids in my school. We were all dorks in equal measure. There were kids who thought they were cool, but mostly they were just drunk and slutty and no one cared about them.

I am now ten years out of high school (and trying not to hyperventilate). There is no longer such a thing as cool kids. We are all on an even playing field, no one is better or worse (although some have clear asshole tendencies). Except me. I am cool, now more than ever. Why? My friend Maiya and I raided the food underground, an emerging species of restaurant - a supper club run by fellow (but far superior) food bloggers out of their own home.

Love and Butter has the air of a speakeasy, full of secrecy and quiet planning. The weekly menu is posted online, inspired by what’s in season, locally grown, or simply great to eat. The address is sent out shortly before the dinner, the attendants are limited to 6-8, you bring your own booze, sit with strangers and eat really good food made with copious amounts of attention, care, and time. They make the food just for you, taking as much time as it requires. The monetary compensation asked for is absurd. I don’t see how it could even cover the cost of the high quality ingredients used to prepare the meal. The supper club cannot possibly be for profit. It has to be for the love of food. And that, people, is cool.

Maiya and I attended the first lunch put on by the wonderful L&B folks. We sat on the patio on the most beautiful Boston day is recent memory – perfect mid 70s, blue sky, tons of sunshine and trees for shade. Everything was so well thought out, treated with much respect and care. Fresh dense bread and butter waited on the table, along with fresh zucchini heavily salted and spiced with cumin and other things I could not identify.

Shredded radicchio with white beans - bitter, slightly sour, the beans were little soft packets infused with herb and stock flavor; melted leeks in a mustard vinaigrette. It's too bad there were people watching me - I could have eaten all the sweet, soft leeks on the table.

Chicken is boring, boring and ordinary. Love and Butter chicken, however, was most memorable - with herbs and garlic stuffed under the crispy skin, it was some of the most moist chicken I have ever had (brined before roasting? Forgot to ask). Served with a salad of supremely fresh mixed greens with large crystals of salt and linguine dressed with chicken juice. [Never thought that would sound appetizing. Chicken juice…]

Spot of dessert – deep fried ripe peaches with marjoram.

Mead sorbet (sounds remarkably like MEAT sorbet when said aloud – even I didn’t think that sounded good), and addictive, crispy butter cookies that were more butter than cookie (picture at head of post).

Next time (oh there will be a next time) I hope to bother the hosts a little more, get to ask more questions, figure out why they do what they do and how they see it evolving. Right now I am just happy knowing something others do not – I have a way into the food underground, where all the cool kids hang out.

P.S. I pleaded to be let into the kitchen to help out whenever they needed a hand. Somehow, I don't think I am cool enough. It's never going to happen.


Jonathan said...

You should most definitely host this event if you can. You've got a lot of ace recipes up your sleeve, I'm sure, and sans doute (my attempt to be verbally cool), you're a kick-ass cook. I think it would be interesting to read about your food from the perspective of another food blogger too.

Btw, we should go see Ratatouille, if you haven't already. Apparently a lot of chefs saw it and said it was a stunningly accurate protrayal of chef culture. Bourdain even said it was the best food movie ever made. Here's a link to Ruhlman's blog post about it

Anyway, can't wait for the concert.

JC said...

Sounds very cool!

Rachael said...

Wow, that sounds super-duper cool...and much like Ghetto Gourmet...actually, extactly like it...minus the performance art. Did you all have perfomannce art? Interpretive dance? Harp players? Just checking.

Anyway, seems to me those people ARE cool. You included.

Anna said...

Jonathan - I did see Ratatouille and liked it a lot. There were some truly great moments. I appreciate your confidence in my cooking abilities, however, I have no such confidence myself. It's not that they host the event, it's something they do every week (and there is two of them). If by host an even you mean cook for you, then sure thing! Anytime.

JC - It was totally and utterly cool. I felt very "in the know".

Rachael - Your post on Ghetto Gourmet is how I found out about underground restaurants in the first place! I was so intrigued that I searched and searched for something similar in Boston and was absolutely ecstatic when I found it. There was no performance art to be had, unless you count me trying to eat linguine in polite company - much less trivial than it sounds! I think I gave up on it in the middle - I don't know how to eat it gracefully.

aimee said...

What an amazing idea! I'm feeling so inspired by food right now and have big plans of cooking up a storm when I get home tomorrow (sigh).

Your delicious cookies, by the way, have been a real sugar rush saviour these past few sweltering days in New York. You're ranking high on my list of favourite (and coolest) people right about now.

Anonymous said...

oh, yay, squeals! i'm finally cool because i was mentioned in your blog. so psyched!

I will have you know that I managed to be the opposite of cool WITHOUT ever having glasses, braces or a perm. i did have a natural frizz, some disastrous clothes, and of course the Russian accent.

And, seriously, quit downplaying your cooking skills! Give yourself some credit for the awesomeness that you create!

xoxo Mai

Anna said...

Aimee - it was so absolutely wonderful to meet you. I am so glad you came to Boston! Thank you. Glad you liked the cookies :)

Maiya - School wasn't fun for anyone, was it... So glad that's over with. You are my cooking inspiration! We need to make dinner again soon.

JB said...

Any chance you'd like to let a random stranger (probably not a cool kid) into your super cool underground L+B world? :)

Anna said...

Eeeek. Sorry, JB. L+B seem to have gone further underground than ever. I am afraid I haven't been in touch with them since the dinner. Good luck (and let me know if you find them!)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard of any other Supper Clubs? I heard Love + Butter is no longer serving.