I’d fallen down, upon exiting the Subway station, enroute from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I do that. Fall. But I always, always, always get back up again.
And this was no different. As Jamie and I hobbled up the street, we were suddenly greeted by a flurried Ryan Scanlon – one of the co-organizers of Homunculus. Homunculus is an “Eat-Easy” think: “Speak-Easy” mixed with dashes of ingenuity, down home vibes and passion. Lots and lots of passion.
Ryan eyed my bleeding knee and directed me to band aids, ice and wine. In that order. Just as if I were in someone’s home I’d known for years. I didn’t feel stupid or anything.
Not like the time I fell in front of an 8 foot pop out window in front of 60 or so diners at an upscale restaurant in Montecito, California. This was NOTHING like that at all!
After we were all settled in – I had time to scan the room. A big fish tank gurgled happily. Candles were lit. Aretha Franklin was singing in the corner. Two puppy dogs (Claire and Oscar) were lying at my feet, underneath the mosaic table. People were casually making butter in a mason jar and checking on the freshly baking bread in the oven.
“Fiddleheads?!” “Divine!” “Indescribable!!!!” “You eat the frond.” “Its a … fern. Fern.” “You can eat them sauteed with butter! SAW-TAID!” “So Divine” – Chef Medley from the Kitchen
So what exactly IS an underground dinner? It’s not a new concept at least not on either coast. Outstanding In The Field and Ghetto Gourmet made the concept famous. Guerrilla Gourmet continues the tradition. Bringing together people, chefs, fresh ingrediants for avante garde dining situations in warehouses, art galleries, private homes and outdoor spaces.
But the idea that just about anyone with a passion for food and a tolerance for hard work can spread the word and bring together communities … is relatively new in our media-driven-freak-everyone-out-society. You’re taking a chance by attending an underground dinner.
A chance you’ll meet new friends. Try new foods. Go somewhere new. Let down your guard. Be adventurous. Team Sip.Snap.Savor was lusciously rewarded. Kinton Wines laced our table (the dinner was BYOB/BYOW) along with candles and lively conversation.
“Anything you can get in a store, you chould be able to make. I’m making my own sweater from washing, carding and knitting. The whole shebang. I’ve made my own sake, too” – Cale, Homunculus
Soup – Cold Celery soup
Beast plate – Cajuned pork, pistachio, thyme soaked veal pate on crostini
Sherry and Cassis chicken liver mousse on a house cracker
Maple candied bacon with almond butter
Foie gras bon bon on shortbread
Appetizer – Red curry and peanut souffle
Palate cleanser – Strawberry and thyme sorbet
Entree – Beef in Barolo, parsnip puree
Salad – Endive salad with fennel shavings, walnuts, chevre, loft dressing
Dessert – Three Layer Tart – Candied bananas, chocolate and cognac custard, black berries. Side of cardamom ice cream
Mason Jar Butter
Take a clean, Quart Sized Mason Jar with a lid and pour into it Room Temperature Whole Milk or (even better) Cream. Screw on lid. Begin shaking at the jar. At 4-6 minutes you’ll notice the milk is thickening. At about 9 minutes of shaking, the cream will start to separate from the sides of the glass. When you get to the half point at 14-16 minutes you’ll notice serious solids. At 27-30 minutes it’s time to stop shaking and start draining off the excess liquid from your butter. Use cheesecloth to solidly drain your butter and then salt it if you wish. Serve with warm bread.
Currant & Toasted Fennel Seed Bread
3 Cups Artisan Bread Flour
2 Cups Water, 1/2 Cup extra water (reserve)
1 pat of butter
handful of anise seeds
2 handfuls of currants
4 tsp salt
1/2 oz. dry activated yeast
5 tblsp evoo
Activate the yeast in 1/2 cup of water (water should be lukewarm/room temperature). Let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile toast anise seeds in a pat of butter, in a pan on stove, over medium heat. Continue toasting until browned.
Mix flour and salt together in a bowl. Imprint a dimple into the center of the dry goods. Add water, oil and yeast mixture s l o w l y and incorporate all ingredients together.
On a floured surface, knead the dough until elastic and no longer sticky. Grease a bowl with a touch of evoo and put the dough in the bowl and cover with a floured dish towel.
Let rise for 2 hours.
Gently remove dough from the bowl and fold it to remove all air bubbles. Return to bowl and cover with floured kitchen towel. Let rise once again.
After 30 minutes, remove from bowl, place on greased cookie sheet (in desired shape), in 350 degree oven for 35 minutes.
Serve piping hot with cool, homemade butter.