Dinner Club: Bean’s Pop-Up Cuisine

June 5, 2012

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One can only resist an invitation to another “dinner club” for so long. Especially when the invitation has been extended to the members of your own regular dinner club! That’s what happened to me recently. After reading about the adventures of “Dinner Club For Day People,” chef Bean and his friend Jaye asked that I attend one of his monthly Pop-Up dinners. As much as I tried to get different friends to go over the course of several months, it never really worked out so that I could attend. Fate conspired to change that on Cinco De Mayo this year. Through a series of phone and text conversations with Jaye, we devised a plan to throw she and I (and one other person) a belated private birthday party for our friends, to be catered by Bean and his father. We would get to pick the menu, the location would be top-secret, and after food and some drinks we would party until the wee hours of the morning. That’s a hard invitation to resist.

After much deliberation, a menu was decided on: there would be filet mignon with crab meat, asparagus and béarnaise sauce, chicken mole with black and white beans and basmati rice, sea bass in beurre blanc blueberry cream sauce, portobello mushroom stuffed with kalamata olive humus, tabour, feta cheese and sun dried tomatoes, and a vegan rococo relleno (tomatoes stuffed with seitan, roasted corn, quinoa, edamame and red onions with a cashew “cheese” sauce. Later I decided that I should invite more than just “Dinner Club,” so I extended invitations to five or six other people I deemed worthy of the experience.

Upon arriving at the top-secret downtown Los Angeles location, I was lead by Jaye to the roof. Three long tables were set up for diners, and about twenty feet away chef Bean and his father were beginning to prepare vegetables. As I awaited the arrival of my guests, I cracked a beer and began to speak to some of Jaye’s friends. Everyone there seemed to be a regular. I talked to Jaye and Bean’s father about how and where they shopped for all the ingredients. Bean’s father mentioned he didn’t like making mole sauce, but one of Bean’s friends said that his mole was fantastic — even on nachos, a dish you wouldn’t ordinarily top with that sauce. I already had my mind made up to order the filet mignon, but Bean smiled and reminded me that I would be tasting all the dishes no matter what I requested.

Friends arrived, and were seated, and service began. Our first dish was an order of chili relleno soup. Although a bit salty, it was creamy and a bit spicy, perfect for a rapidly cooling evening. At the outset, the service was a bit confusing. The people who ordered the couples’ platters (a tasting dish with all menu items included) received their orders almost immediately, but everyone else was left waiting, some people still hadn’t placed an order as others were working their way through the meal. There seemed to be confusion about who ordered what, even though everyone had their own bill and was paying separately. This led to a few orders being “abandoned” by people who had supposedly ordered them. I received my filet just before Nate was handed his chicken mole, and we were — I think — the last two diners to receive our food. My steak was cooked perfectly, but I was left looking for a bit more of the crab and béarnaise. The vegetables (asparagus, cauliflower) were a nice complement, and the basmati rice with fruit was fine as well. I know one person had their steak undercooked, and one person received sea bass without the blueberries, but other than that everyone’s food arrived in good time and well-prepared. One small problem a couple people at my table had was as the sky drew dark it got colder outside, and some of the dishes cooled off too quickly. Opinions at the other table differed slightly. I’d heard very good things about the cashew “cheese” sauce on the vegan dish, but I didn’t have an opportunity to try it. At some point Bean delivered a plate with a special dish for me, salmon-stuffed bass topped with lobster sauce and sun dried tomatoes. It was pretty opulent, so I made sure to pass it around to everyone at the table to let them try it.

While everyone finished the food and we waited for our plates to be removed, my friends and I cracked a bottle of wine or two and chatted. Then the party moved indoors (and downstairs), where plenty more debauchery was in store for us. I was handed a strong, strong vodka drink and a shot of tequila, then it was time to battle the piñata along with the birthday girl. I knocked one of its arms off, and she finished the thing off, showering the floor with candy. A lot of my friends departed for another party down the street, but the remainder of us shared more drinks as the night wore on. When they left and I was alone among Jaye’s and Bean’s friends, things got even crazier. There were watermelons filled with booze, there was some pole dancing, and I learned all about the intricacies of red parties and brown parties from a former dominatrix. At some point I remembered I needed to work in the morning, so I gathered my wits, sobered up quick, and headed home for my bed.

It’s always interesting to see how other Dinner Clubs operate. For my friends and I, we typically pick new restaurants every month and use the night as an excess to pamper ourselves and enjoy good food, drink and company. For others, Dinner Club is an event to be attended by friends with food prepared by one of its members. In that regard, I’d say this adventure was a success. It didn’t take long for the first text or phone call to reach me that maybe we should shake up Dinner Club and treat it more like a pot luck, or have one person cook a full menu for everyone else. That’s not to say it is guaranteed to happen, but the more we expose ourselves to, the more we learn and the more we think about changing up our regular routines. Change is important. Change is good. We’ll see how Dinner Club changes — if at all — in the months ahead. Until then, thanks Jaye, thanks Bean, and thanks to everyone who helped make this unique and memorable Dinner Club meeting possible.

Featured image courtesy of Gary “madmojo” M.

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