Tag Archives: secret supper

A Night of Moulin Rouge at the Rambling Restaurant

Welcome to the Moulin Rouge Ramble, a dimly lit den of cabaret, cake  & corsets that popped up on Great Windmill Street a few weeks ago.  Hosted by the amazing word-of-mouth agency 1000heads, decorated by the creative visionary Ali O’Malley, and captured on film by the fantastically talented Mark, it was quite the evening to remember…as long as you didn’t down too many absinthe cocktails.

Come check out Mark’s amazing photos of our ephemeral Parisian creation filled with candlelit erotic poetry, beef bourguignon,  fishnet stockings and freeflowing champagne…

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Butternut Squash Polenta and Other Mayhems: Deadpan Restaurant’s Opening Nights

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Amin is now gallivanting in Dresden, and Judy has proven a valuable addition to our kitchen cohort. We at Deadpan Restaurant had our opening debut a few weeks ago, and then a repeat event this past weekend. It was, in a word, insane. Five dishes, 12 guests per event, hours upon hours in the kitchen, and I don’t think I’ll ever look a pot of polenta in the eye again.

Let’s talk about the menu. Since we’re new at this whole restaurant thing, we haven’t really figured out how to simultaneously serve a secret supper and photodocument it, so bear with us on the pictures!

We started with a red wine oxtail and beef tongue stew, served as chilled, jelly hemispheres, with a layer of homemade Momofuku pickles on a toasted baguette round.

Probably the most challenging dish of the evening, our tongue-and-tail amuse bouche was cast in a mold designed and cut by Amin. Pretty cool, huh? We value the use of all parts of the animals we eat, and wanted our guests to do the same. To our surprise and delight, nobody tried to escape the event while we described this dish, and everyone cleaned their plate! On a side note, those pickles are so addictive and delicious – definitely at the top of my these-are-so-easy-to-make-i’ll-never-buy-them-again list.

For our starter, we served the dish that has been our pride, joy, and near-undoing for the last several months: pork belly with butternut squash polenta. Cured for two days in a mix of brown sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black pepper, and then braised for upwards of three hours in a pot of chicken stock and Delirium Tremens (famed as the best beer in the world), this local pork from Autumn’s Harvest Farm is tender, buttery, and melts in your mouth. The butternut squash polenta is cooked on the stovetop and then baked (or is it fried?) on cast iron with a lot of butter. We made our sauce out of a reduction of the braising liquid and some Cornell Orchards cider. This isn’t actually the pork belly we served, but an earlier incarnation that looks mostly alike:

We also served some cider mulled with the same spice mix that we cured the belly with. Still with us, even through the bad flash photography? Our other three dishes, after the jump…

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A Rambling Aphrodisiac Dinner, Complete With Searing Loins and Gin & Tonic Jelly

Hooray! It’s time for another Rambling Restaurant Singles Night featuring an aphrodisiac dinner, so you know things are bound to get hot.  Particularly when you have five people in a veryverycozy kitchen and have fresh bread baking in the oven, a giant vat of soup bubbling on the stove, and ten large pork loins popping and fizzing boiling oil all over the place.

Really. Hot. Temperatures. Luckily, there was also a dining room full of really hot people (yes yes, as in extremely attractive) all mixing and mingling on the other side of the curtain.  To get their taste buds primed and hearts racing, we served four courses featuring ingredients thought to have aphrodisiac qualities.  Of course, both dessert courses featured what is inarguably the most guaranteed aphrodisiac of them all – a large quantity of alcohol. Which is how we started the night as well, with glasses of passionfruit, raspberry and rosebud fizz.

Each cocktail came with a little tag marked with a suit denoting where to sit for your first table, along with some silly icebreaker questions inside to spark conversation or incite passionate debate.  Our eleven brave men and eleven brave women scattered amongst four tables to wait for these shiny happy braids of dough…

…to toast to perfection into these lovely browned plaits with a soft and fluffy white interior.

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Playtime With Boiling Oil: Experimenting With Deep Fried Mars Bars And More

I should be kept far away from deep frying machines.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a crunchy, golden, batter-encrusted item as much as the next arterial disease-scorning glutton.  The problem is, I never know when to stop. I’ll start off with a perfectly reasonable goal, like 15 or 20 deep fried Mars bars. But by the end of the evening, everything that is fit for human consumption and hasn’t been tied down has gotten thrown in the boiling oil and things are just getting out of hand.

hello my little deep fat fryer friend.

Lest that look of horror on your face prevent you from reading further, let me inform you that I didn’t consume all those crispy, glistening, gooey-with-hot-caramel-and-melted-chocolate deep fried candies on my own. Foodrambler and I made the deep fried Mars bars for Burns Night at Rambling Restaurant, a Scottish culinary extravaganza starring our homemade haggis (so not as disgusting as you might think…eventually).  In case you’re wondering, deep fried Mars bars are a genuine Scottish delicacy according to Wikipedia.  To enhance the Scottishness of the dish, foodrambler had the inspired idea to batter the chocolate logs in another Scottish delicacy: the violently (and controversially) orange-colored soft drink known as Irn-Bru.

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Adventures in Haggis Making: Sheep Innards, Beef Kidney Fat, and Fun with a Deep Fryer

A handful of haggis

When I was told we’d be celebrating our Rambling Restaurant Burns Night with poetry, whiskey, and homemade haggis stabbing, my thoughts went like this:

1. Awesome! I’ve always wanted to try haggis.

2. By the way, what’s Burns Night?

3. And while I’m asking…what, exactly, is haggis?

4.  A sheep heart, lung, and liver minced and mixed with oatmeal and onions and stuffed inside a sheep stomach? <gulp> We are definitely going to need that whiskey.

Haggis, to most ignorant Americans like myself, is one of those iconic Scottish associations like kilts, bagpipes, and Mel Gibson covered in blue facepaint and exuding a throaty roar for ‘FREEEEDOOOM!’ We might have heard of it but almost certainly wouldn’t be able to say what it’s made of, only that it has something to do with terrifying animal parts and probably shouldn’t ever be consumed until after seven shots of Scotch.

Well, let me set the record straight on two fronts.

1. As much as you may love William Wallace in a skirt, kilts weren’t invented for another three centuries (one of the many twists of truth contributing to Braveheart being second on a list of ‘most historically inaccurate’ movies ever made).

2.  Haggis is, shockingly, absolutely delicious.

However, it took quite a long time and a lot of work to get it to that point. And I’ll be  honest, there was a fair amount of  grimacing, gagging, nose-holding, and are-we-really-serving-this-to-paying-customers?-questioning along the way.  It all started with my haggis-making partner-in-crime, foodrambler, hunting in vain and then finally securing three lamb’s plucks – the windpipe, heart, lungs and liver – for our haggis adventure. Following this recipe from the Guardian by Tim Hayward, she began the adventure the previous evening by cutting out the windpipes (blecch), boiling the plucks for several hours then leaving them to cool overnight in the murky cooking liquid.

A rubbery white sheep heart above and a massive chunk of liver below. Not exactly the most appetizing start to a meal, is it?  Don’t worry though, there is deliciousness to come…

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Salt, Pepper and Reckless Abandon: A Lovely Evening At A Brand New London Supper Club

Salt, pepper, and reckless abandon? Sounds just like my kind of evening.

The adorable setting above, complete with handmade British napkin, comes courtesy of Lex of LexEat, the kitchen mistress of a brand new London underground restaurant. I love underground restaurants/ secret suppers because you never know what you’re going to get. It’s a bit of the surprising and unexpected from the culinary and creative mind of someone who cares enough to prepare a whole meal, or rather, a whole dining experience for you and your new friends for the evening.  This secret supper from a few weeks ago was a secret supper done right, an excellent meal with great company and all sorts of additional little touches to make a fantastic evening.

A perfect example is this lovely little plate below. Not only is it pretty, but it’s accompanied by an charmingly handwritten menu and even more importantly, topped with homemade orange pepper tortelli.

Casual yet well-designed, carefully thought out yet seemingly effortless – that’s pretty much how the whole night went.  We sat next to some great people and chatted food, games, and travel over multiple bottles of wine.

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Introducing Ithaca’s Newest Secret Supper Joint: Deadpan Restaurant!

In approximately three weeks, Deadpan Restaurant, Ithaca’s newest secret supper club, will be hosting its first event.

What’s a secret restaurant, you ask? Good thing we already wrote a post on that: big sister lays it down for the uninitiated.

We’ll be serving a three course meal at a to-be-revealed location. Look out for more announcements!

After all, who wouldn’t want to hang out with and experience the epicurean adventures of champions such as these…

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Sugar and Spice is Nice at the Rambling Restaurant

Bright colors are nice too.

At the last Rambling Restaurant of 2009, we served a trio of richly colored dips – chickpea hummous, beetroot hummous, and carrot cumin dip. So pretty in pink.

For maximum dippability, we prepared straight-out-of-a-hot-oven-and-onto-the-grill flatbreads. Take Moro flatbread recipe (recipe below), multiply by 15 (eek!) and you have a lot of steaming hot fresh bread  in your future. Also a lot of rolling pin action. Stop whining, it’s good for the arm muscles.

I know making your own bread for a meal sounds thoroughly unrealistic, but this pita-like bread only needs about 20 minutes to sit. This means you can take about five minutes to make the dough, let it sit while you chop vegetables or prepare something else, and have WOW-YOU’RE-AMAZING homemade bread to accompany your meal. Even if it’s only yourself you’re impressing, it’s totally worth it. Especially when you fold it over and stuff it with sauteed spinach and halloumi cheese and roasted eggplant and other such delights.

We followed up the onslaught of foldable starch and pretty bowls of mush with a Turmeric Lime Chili Chicken over a Roasted Eggplant, Pomegranate Seed, Scallion, Parsley, Mint, Tomato Fattoush with a dollop of Cumin Yogurt Sauce. It’s a lot of ingredients that somehow all work in symbiotic grace to produce a happy mouthful of amazing.

But a discussion of odd-sounding ingredients that don’t really seem like they’d work together but actually will blow your mind would not be complete without Chef foodrambler‘s dessert: Orange Blossom Almond Polenta Cake with Coriander Syrup.  You might not think you like coriander, but I DARE you not to like this cake. I like this cake so much I am actually going to make it right now for a Christmas Eve Day Brunch.  I also like you enough to show you this pretty picture which does no justice to the rich, moist, exotically sweet and just a touch of spicy cake perfection.

Garnish with a twist of orange, a sprig of cilantro, and a spoonful of honeyed syrup with dots of coriander seeds.  Staring at this picture makes me very happy that this cake is only several hours in my future.  For those of you gluten-free people out there (sis Irene Bean is testing out a potential gluten allergy),  this cake is made with polenta and not flour. Woohoo!

Now go find yourself some cake too. Happy holidays!

Moro Flatbread

What You Need:

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried yeast
a bit less than 1/2 a cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

NOTE: this amount makes about four small-plate size flatbreads, enough for one very very hungry carb fiend like me, or two normal people. Multiply appropriately depending on your eating party’s level of carbophilia.

What You Do:

1. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl and activate the yeast in the water, if necessary.

2. Slowly pour the water and yeast into the flour and incorporate by hand. Once all the liquid has been mixed in, punch the dough around for a few minutes. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour. Add the oil and keep kneading until you have a single ball of dough with a relatively smooth texture and a bit shiny with oil.

3. Let sit, covered with a damp tea towel, for about 20 minutes.

4. Pull off small balls, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball, and roll them out to your desired thickness onto a sturdy floured surface. A good rolling pin is handy here, but floured wine bottles work just as well.  We decided to go super-thin at Rambling Restaurant, but I like the thick and fluffy kind too.

5. Once the dough has been rolled out, you can either put them on a lightly floured baking tray or a lightly oiled pan. At RR, we decided to do both – stick it in a hot oven until they puff up and lose their wet doughy sheen, then finish off on a griddle pan for some tasty brownedness. Either way is delicious.

6.  Cook until puffy, browned, and yearning to jump into your mouth. Dip in something tasty and pat yourself on the back for having produced your very own homemade bread. That is, if your hands aren’t busy tearing apart your creation and stuffing it in your mouth.

like you enough to leave you with a picture so you can start drooling yourself.
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All The Single Lads, Put Your Hands Up

To paraphrase Beyonce, we’re calling all the single lads!

Rambling Restaurant is looking for some hot male action.  Why, you ask? Do we need a reason? Well, we’ve got one here:

‘Due to popular demand, on Thursday 3rd December & Friday 4th December we are holding a Lone Ramblers’ & Rambling Roses’ Singles Night at Rambling Restaurant!

It’s a 3-course dinner party of aphrodisiac foods & music. Lone Ramblers (gentlemen) and Rambling Roses (ladies) share tables and bring your own booze (no corkage fee). Lone Ramblers move tables every course to keep it lively. Who knows what might happen?!’

We’ve already sold all the Rambling Roses tickets, so it’s time to spread the word amongst your single male friends to get their asses in gear. An evening of great food, wine, music and a cozy room full of available women? Yes, Rambling Restaurant can make your wildest dreams come true.  According to Kanye West, it’s going to be ‘ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS OF ALL TIME.’


Lone Ramblers,  get your tickets here for the Thursday the 3rd  or here for the Friday the 4th.

We hope to see you there…but not in the outfits like JT and Andy Samberg in the above video, okay? Best to leave a little to the imagination.

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Rambling Restaurant Fun: Ninety-Nine Bottles of Wine on the Wall

Thursday’s Rambling Restaurant was a boozy festival of wine tasting and matching canapes  – so many glasses of alcohol that I’m amazed I could stand up straight long enough to take any of these photos. We partnered with the lovely and charming Dan of Bibendum Wines to do a casual and relaxed evening event in our usual secret location. Dan ‘liberated’ a serious stock of bottles from the Bibendum stores for us – Champagne, Riesling, Chardonnay, Malbec, Chianti, and an excellent dessert wine – all matched with bite-size hor d’oeuvres such as the Zamorano cheese with quince jelly and persimmon, above. Below, tasting notes with parmesan crisps awaiting their toppings for the first round of canapes.

The full line-up of booze and bites below…

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