On Sunday May 20, 2018, twenty-three unsuspecting, hungry, and thirsty diners loaded onto a bus with absolutely no idea of their destination. This, is Sunday Supper.
With a classic margarita temporarily quenching their thirst, each guest took a turn guessing our eventual destination; but, to no avail. With each passing field, sprouting corn, beans, and wheat for the eventual harvest, the rumbles of blindfolded stomachs grew louder and louder..
Our bus made the turn onto the mile-long gravel road symmetrically splitting yet another endless classic midwestern plot. The goal for this ruse wasn't simply dramatic flair, we wanted all of the senses on high. We wanted full immersion.
Our bus came to a halt at the top of a winding path. Our guests unloaded, taking in the expanse of trees and the pond slowly coming into view. As they rounded the last little corner and the evening's venue came into full view, the group let out an audible "ahh." The path dead-ends at the pond, with a sandy beach and fire pit. Whole chickens and pork shoulders trussed with fresh pineapples hung from a black iron contraption of our design. Guests meandered about, taking in the fire and making their way to the deck where our resident mixologist Justin prepared a Mezcal and Tamarindo concoction of his own. As final preparations were made inside in our make-shift "dining room," we grabbed our bluetooth speaker and like a well-intentioned Pied Piper led our guests indoors.
While we love a beautifully and elaborately garnished table scape, this was neither the time nor the place. Our tables were simple. White textured table linens, classic glassware, a hand shaped ceramic plate, and a white napkin were all that our guests needed for the evening. Our friends at A1 Party and Event Rentals provided everything we needed for this simple look. No forks, no knives, just bare-hands and tequila.
On the topic of tequila, as you may already have noticed, we had plenty. Our friend and inspiration Andrew Ruth, Bar Manager of Barred Owl Butcher and Table, loaned us his collection of antique shot and cordial glasses. The rule for the evening - if your glass was upright, tequila would be poured. We tasted everything from Casamigos Reposado to the Milagro Anejo. There were no pairings, no tasting notes, just good tequila and good food.
This, I feel, is the appropriate time to ensure that we all understand the meaning of "Omakase." An Omakase is a traditional Japanese style of service in which the Chef chooses what and when to serve her or his guests. There are no menus, and there are no special requests. Guests simply trust the Chef to give them a true food experience..something worthy of conversation on their journey home.
The first course was an ode to Elotes...with a tiny surprise. We informed our guests from the beginning that the evening's meal would showcase a couple of interesting surprises, and that said surprises would be unveiled at their proper time.
Next, a quick back-to-back of squash blossoms, rajas, and a taco al pastor that we made from pork shoulders from our friends at Sullivan Farms. You know, the ones we hung over the fire like unctuous little edible pinatas?
We ate, and we drank Mezcal.
The next course contained one of our surprises. Although we didn't inform our guests until after they finished it, they were enjoying a Tongue Torta. I realize that I can't make assumptions, but I would bet that the majority of you reading this made that 5-year-old ewwy face when you read that. Don't be ashamed, be aware that the majority of you have either consumed or heard from those that have consumed tongue improperly. (Quick nerd moment:) Here's how muscle works. The more action a muscle sees, the more blood flow it receives, and in turn the more flavor it develops. A perfect example is why dark meat tastes so much better than white meat. We all remember our elementary school lessons about how the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, right? Do you see where I'm going with this?? Tongue is the beefiest beef, and the porkiest pork. Therefore, we cooked it real slow in a bath of peppers, garlic, and Logboat Mamoot, until it pulled apart like the best barbecue you've never had. We slathered it with smokey spicy stuff, smashed it between two pieces of soft but crusty bread, wrapped it in wax paper (cause we're fancy), and told our guests it was barbacoa. As soon as they finished licking the insides of the wax paper..I saw you Aaron..we told them the details we'd been hiding. There's nothing quite like the look on someone's face when they know they liked it and they also know they would NEVER have tried it if they had known; it's like that face your significant other gets when they realize you're right but it's still just too soon..
Oh yeah...we had more tequila.
Next up, was a braised lamb taco made from lamb shoulders we got from our friend Susie Everhart at Susie's Grass Fed Lamb. Slow-braised and drenched in a spicy Pipian sauce and garnished with some cilantro straight out of Clay and Jen Stem's garden, this one had us all singing John Mellencamp...but in a good way...get it? Cause it did Hurt So Good, but does anyone sincerely enjoy John Mellencamp??
Alambre was the star of the last savory course. Skirt steak, peppers, onions, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, bacon, a sizzling skillet, flour tortillas hand pressed and grilled minutes before serving them...I feel like any further explanation of this dish would be shameless pandering. Just picture those sizzling skillets hovering around your favorite fajita joint and add everything else I've already described. You get it..
I've been sitting, staring at the computer, cracking my knuckles as though that actually instigates something cool in anything other than a Bruce Lee flick, trying to manifest the words to describe our dessert course. This dish was sweet, savory, crisp, silky, salty, acidic, and legitimately good. It was a sweet corn meringue, with a sweet corn cream, and a black berry hibiscus jammy saucey kind of thing. (Cracks knuckles...still not Bruce). I've got nothing but primal emotions to explain accurately just how this dish made me feel. Think The Macho Man Randy Savage's "OH YEAH," combined with that note The Weeknd hits in Earned It. Yep.
Wasn't "surprise" pluralized, you ask? It was. Our last little surprise was actually our first. We love a little take-away gift at Sunday Supper, and this time our friend Tim Eisenhauer from Barred Owl Butcher and Table made us some traditional Mexican Chocolate Conchas. Wrapped in brown paper bags, we handed them out to each guest with a little button. A little button that read "I ate a Bug." Inquisitive "huh"-s and "whaaa"-s led us to the unveiling of our final surprise. The elotes were sprinkled with Black Ants. After the incredibly unexpected cheers from all sides of the room, we explained that these Black Ants came from a company in Maine that raises them specifically for culinary use. Not only are they an incredibly sustainable source of protein, but they have a desirable citrus flavor that blended perfectly with the sweetness of the corn and richness of the cream. Also a traditional ingredient in Mexican culture, these black ants served multiple purposes. As cooks, we are constantly pushing ourselves and our guests. For this meal, Amanda wanted to start a conversation about the future of food and about eating insects. Well, Amanda, I'd say you definitely got the conversation started.
And that, is how our Omakase ended. After one last ceremonial toss-back, we downturned our antiquities and had a conversation about the weather. I've yet to discuss it, but roughly 20 minutes into our culinary cannonade the storm set in. Lightning, thunder, and downpour set an electric mood throughout, but left us in a quandary in regards to the walk back up our winding path to the bus. Much to my surprise, not a single guest was afraid of a little water, so we trudged united into the dark.
Back on the bus, and headed for home, laughter and song were the soundtrack; our friends from FeastNative serenaded us to the smooth hits of Shania Twain. We talked favorite dishes, and favorite moments, and we talked about eating Ants. We said our "goodbye"-s and shared in our excitement for the next Sunday Supper, and again, I reminded them that it was as always a secret. Hands were shaken, hugs were given, and when the last car pulled off the parking lot, we had added twenty-three more people to our little family.
This is Sunday Supper.