Tag Archives: secret supper

Rambling Restaurant Fun, Part One: Summer Rolls and Phenomenal Pork

I’m in the midst of a serious cooking week. Wednesday and Thursday were both Rambling Restaurant nights at our secret location in Camden Town. Tomorrow is our London Thanksgiving party that started as a few friends and has somehow mushroomed to over 20 people and we still didn’t manage to fit everyone we wanted to invite! (Don’t worry though, we’re having a holiday party too and you’re all invited:) Sunday is another Rambling Restaurant, then I fly home to Boston to cook family Thanksgiving. Whew! I’m tired just typing that. Well, actually the soreness in my arms is from all the peeling, chopping, kneading, and rolling I’ve been doing tonight to make three pies and brine two turkeys. Yeeowwwch.

Tonight’s been a primarily solo affair (with Chris’s help on the awkward pouring-brine-into-a-plastic-bag-full-of-raw-turkey action), but luckily the Rambling Restaurants are always fun shared cooking evenings  full of laughter, chatter, catchup on recent nightly activities, dirty jokes, a broken glass or two (or three) and ample glasses of wine to fuel the cooking creativity. Over the last few nights, Chef foodrambler, Michelle, our newest member Sarah and I have served nine different dishes to over forty people. I’ll start with Wednesday’s meal, a classic and relaxing Rambling Restaurant event compared to the hustle and bustle of the next evening’s wine tasting.

Wednesday we served vegetarian Vietnamese summer rolls as a starter – lightly sauced cellophane noodles and an assortment of fresh veggies (carrots, scallions, cucumber, water chestnuts, cilantro) rolled tight in thin rice paper wrappers.  After dipping my fingers in hot water to soften about forty pancakes from their original hardened state, I had some crazyass prune fingers, let me tell you.

Dipped into a sauce of fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy, garlic, scallions, chili and whatever else I put in that I can’t remember,  these bright little bites of freshness are a very happy way to start any meal. But it doesn’t get much better when it’s followed by an insanely good slow-roasted pork shoulder  – rubbed with spices and then whacked into the oven for about nine hours till it falls apart at the poke of a fork into the tenderest shreds of meat.  Mmmmmmmm….way to go foodrambler.

Scored into about centimeter thick strips with a sharp knife, the outer skin becomes the most amazing fatty, crispy, crunchy crackling that is frighteningly addictive. Served on cabbage and egg noodles with a pour of meaty gravy, this dish is pretty much unstoppable. We ended Wednesday night with an apple crumble with cream and a sprinkling of bittersweet caramel dust.  Unfortunately,  I always forget to take pictures of dessert. But don’t worry, I’ve got loads of pictures of the FoodRambler’s amazing canape creations from Thursday, coming up next!

Oh and while I’m posting Rambling Restaurant photos…

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Tapas, Terracotta, and Tons of Tomato Sauce at Rambling Restaurant

Dining Room at Rambling Restaurant

A few weeks ago, Rambling Restaurant explored the world of tapas with enough food to feed a small Spanish village.  Chef foodrambler devised a wide-ranging, drool-inducing, and seemingly never-ending menu of tiny plates served in terracotta dishes, which give off an air of Spanish authenticity no matter what you put in there. That, and a flamboyant Spanish accent.  With a lisp. And castanets.

Kidding.  We kept the Spanish influence to the food. And of course the wine, which is why I have a bit of trouble recalling the menu. If I remember correctly, we served:

Fried Calamari with Capers and Black Pepper

Patatas Bravas (Oven Roasted Crispy Potatoes topped with a zesty tomato sauce)

Roasted Eggplant with Tomato and Bechamel Sauce (whacked back in the oven for a deliciously browned top)

Albondigas (M is for Mmmm and Meatballs)

Honey Glazed Roasted Beets with Thyme and Goat Cheese

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Sauce)

All served with lots of crusty bread for your tomato sauce and garlicky oil dipping pleasure.

crusty bread for dipping at Rambling Restaurant

Followed by Chocolate and Orange Torte with Raspberry Sauce and Cream for dessert. I thought we might have stuffed our diners to the point of no return with the unstoppable onslaught of dishes, but the pudding plates came back wiped clean. A true testament to the power of oozy gooey (goozey?) chocolateyness.

This was our first meal at Rambling Restaurant with just the two of us covering the kitchen and the dining room, leaving very little time for taking photos or other important activities like breathing. Luckily a talented guest photographer was to be found amidst the piled plates and scattered breadcrumbs  – my friend Amit straight outta Brooklyn.  Amit and I, along with our other friend Dave, spent most of his time across the pond eating a swath through East London and capturing it all on film.  This post is basically an excuse to showcase his lovely photographs since I really have nothing useful to say.

We’ll end, as all meals should end, with empty plates and full bellies. No more calamari. Sad face. Come back next time!

No more calamari

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rambling restaurant madness: past photos and future fun

`But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: `we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
`How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
`You must be,’ said the Cat, `or you wouldn’t have come here.’

exciting news from the crew at rambling restaurant! we’re hosting a mad hatter’s rambling tea party and the unexpected illumination of rambling banqueteers at the newly acquired oxford street location of the oubliette arthouse this friday.  i’ll play the white queen, foodrambler will the red queen, michelle shall personify the mad hatter, and miss milly will be behind the wheels of steel as alice, the wonderland visitor herself.  it will be madness. i am excited.

in honor of the upcoming whirlwind of cooking, eating, drinking, and dancing activity, i’ve got a few photos of past rambling restaurant dishes to share.

from rambling restaurant a few weeks ago: a roasted vegetable torte with zucchini, yellow and orange peppers, eggplant, and parmesan cheese. a staple at our san francisco apartment.

roasted vegetable torte

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rambling restaurant: pissaladiere, harissa chicken, and another perfect symphony of dessert

pissaladiere with roasted tomatoes

welcome to the third edition of the rambling restaurant, brought to you by chef foodrambler, michelle the poet, and me. for the first time, i remembered to take photos of all three courses, so this post is all about the food. get ready for some serious food porn.

course one: pissaladière (best pronounced with a throaty french accent like you’re trying to clear something out of your sinuses). it’s a french tart made with slow-cooked onions, anchovies, and olives on a puff pastry, served with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

pissaladiere - onion anchovy and olive tart - small

course two: harissa-spiced chicken with roasted potatoes and eggplant on a lentil, mint, and feta salad, topped with a thin strip of marinated red pepper.

harissa chicken with roasted eggplant, potatoes and lentil salad

course three: meringues filled with almond cream, topped with raspberries, strawberries, and a thin shard of almond bark.

meringue with almond cream and summer fruit

this dessert blew me away – just a day after waxing rhapsodically about the pavlova from frizzante, the talented miss foodrambler concocts her very own equally spectacular version. crunchy almond bark, sweet and juicy fruit, smooth and buttery cream, soft-yet-also-with-structural-integrity meringue – it was a beautifully complex symphony of contrasting tastes and textures in a single bite.  luckily there were many bites to go around…

so many meringues with almond cream and summer fruit

i managed to take so many pictures tonight because, miraculously, we had the most stress-free, easygoing, is-this-as-simple-as-it-seems?, unchaotic rambling restaurant so far. we seem to be getting the hang of this whole secret supper thing (knock on wood). no frenzied moments of plating, no stacks of dishes piled precariously, just delicious food from chef foodrambler and some really lovely people. i chatted with some people from finland who also speak swedish and english and we chilled late night with some awesome south londoners. i even learned how to say ‘that’s delicious’ just in time for my trip to southern sweden this week! bring on the meatballs sweden, i’m ready to eat.

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secret supper at rambling restaurant: the candlelit rooftop moroccan feast

sunset on the rooftop

hooray! yesterday marked the occasion of the rambling restaurant: round two, and i’m happy to say that the evening felt like a great success for two major reasons. first off all, it didn’t rain. that’s always helpful for a rooftop dinner in london with no backup plan. secondly and most importantly, no one fell off the roof and ended up badly injured or dead. VICTORY!

the menu for the moroccan supper

happily, everything seemed to work out perfectly even beyond the absence of inclement weather and hospital visits. the fabulous moroccan menu was planned and executed to perfection by chef foodrambler and michelle, while i concentrated my efforts on transforming an empty bethnal green rooftop into a exotic and colorful yet also comfortable and functional moroccan themed dining space.  i attacked a pile of assorted cushions, rugs, and blankets, raided michelle’s flat for decorative items, and took a last-minute trip to the columbia road flower market for a end-of-market deal on a stunning bouquet of english peonies. despite a few moments of panic that there wouldn’t be enough seats or spoons or rugs before guests arrived, all turned out beautifully just in time to welcome our first diners.

it’s amazing what colorful cloths over well-loved coffee tables and patterned pillows and wovern rugs on a barren rooftop can do to transform a  space  into a warm and luxurious place to lounge. our guests had a full view of east london’s wildly varied architectural styles, with huge rectangular modern monstrosities looming over quaint brick townhouses and their cute circular chimneys and the sky overhead created a gorgeous shifting panorama of depth and color as the evening went on. but most importantly…such good food!

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welcome to the rambling restaurant, secret supper extraordinare

plates of lavender ice cream

hellloooooooo homemade lavender ice cream! where did this lovely dessert come from? i’ve just recently gotten to participate in something very exciting in the food world: secret suppers! after attending the salad club secret supper a few weeks ago and making the acquaintance of the lovely foodrambler, i got to assist in the launching of her secret supper last sunday:  the rambling restaurant. my excitement knows no bounds.

soo…i don’t really get it. WTF is a secret supper?

secret suppers are essentially a fusion of a restaurant and a dinner party; it’s a meal served to curious and adventurous diners in someone’s home or another unexpected location. they’ve been in existence in san francisco for years and have recently been growing in popularity in london, as evidenced by this article from the london paper that namechecks rambling restaurant! i’m so happy to be involved in helping to get one off the ground, especially with such a talented chef as the miss foodrambler.

okay. i get the idea.  so what’s with the secret thing?

well, the suppers are secret because it’s sort of a shady concept to be running a restaurant out of the home without permits and health inspections and all that boring stuff. as a result, people generally pay by a suggested donation rather than an established fee for meals and service to escape all those pesky legal ramifications. in addition, it’s secret because the location usually isn’t released until soon before the meal, both to protect the people behind the supper but more so to keep things exciting. isn’t it always better to add a little intrigue and mystery to your meal?

sweet! any other thoughts about secret suppers? i’m fascinated…really.

i personally think the most interesting part is exploring the space between restaurant meals  and dinner parties. it’s certainly a novel experience on its own to be served a meal in someone’s living room and to eat the food of an unestablished but clearly passionate chef (you don’t slave over the stove for strangers unless you reaaaally enjoy cooking). however, i find it most fascinating when you can push the boundaries and bring something more than the restaurant experience for the people venturing out to eat. for example, we divided the fifteen diners into three tables, which meant that everyone sat with people they didn’t know before. if you’re going to a secret supper and just sit with the people you came with, in some senses the social experience is as limited as going to a restaurant. when you encourage interaction with other diners, all of whom have taken the same leap of faith to eat unknown food with mysterious people in a surprising location, it adds an entire new element of community and interaction to the eating experience. below you see some perfect strangers  who will soon be dining companions…

diners at rambling restaurant

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a lovely secret supper at salad club

thelovely look of salad club

it’s been a weekend of firsts during my first weekend chilling on the solo tip in london, as my siamese twin chris is back in the states for a wedding. the never-been-done-before rundown:

1. my first halloween ball in may in the vaults under london bridge dressed as a corpse bride (let’s be honest, there may not be a second one of those).

2. my first time standing on the prime meridian of the world and touching a 4.5 billion year old meteorite at the greenwich observatory and planetarium. sweet.

3. my first secret supper!

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