Secret Underground Supper Clubs
By Alona Abbady Martinez
As consumer culinary savvy grows throughout the United States, so does the demand for increasingly intriguing dining experiences. Take, for example, the growing allure of secret underground supper clubs – small dinner party gatherings at the home of someone you don’t know, with guests you’ve never met – which offer the mysterious speakeasy-type thrill of tasting a unique meal not available at a commercial restaurant and the exclusivity of word-of-mouth invitations. International Opulence has discovered what foodies claim are some of the best Secret Underground Supper Clubs across the country. But, shhhhh! Secrecy never tasted so good.
Oakland, CA – Sound & Savour
Phillip Gelb’s book, “Notes from An Underground Restaurant” discusses his unique approach of combining music with a dinner party. Gelb, who is a musician and became a chef to supplement and then eventually replace his music career, explained via email what makes his Supper Club so special:
“We use alternative spaces and supply gourmet cuisine in venues where it is not expected. Having a live concert adds incredibly to a food experience. We do not present background music so diners are not eating and talking over musicians performing in a corner acting like a piece of furniture. After the savory courses, we clear the tables and there is a concert with everyone listening. We follow the concert with dessert.”
New York City: 10 Chairs
Patricia Williams is the founder and executive chef of this New York City hotspot. A former ballet dancer by training, Williams understood that design and hard work are easily transferred into the world of food. Such discipline and dedication has gained her two stars from The New York Times.
“Cooking is a process,” Chef Williams explained via email. “I begin at the market looking at what is provided by the farmers. I cook, serve and connect with my guests.”
Dishes have included medallions of sweetbreads with apple chutney, monkfish with corn chowder and peach handpie with ginger ice cream. Guests gather to share a meal as strangers and leave close friends.
“We decided to prepare 5 course dinners of seasonal fare in a home setting,” they explained via email. “We loved the connection we felt with the diners. Each night is a small group enjoying a beautiful meal, sipping wine, and relaxing in a casual dinner party setting.”
International Opulence asked what was the intrigue and success of underground supper clubs:
“We love the grassroots spirit of underground restaurants. People seek them for a sense of adventure, but also for a unique dining experience. The people cooking for underground dinners are usually pretty passionate about what they are doing, that positive energy and excitement is felt by the diners.”
Diners are treated to specialties such as Tahdig, a Persian rice with a golden crust that is incredibly difficult to prepare. A variation of this dish is included in each supper. “Diners and our regulars have come to know and love this dish and look forward to it,” Liss explained.
Saffron Supper Club prides itself in not just offering foodies an incredible meal with Persian flavors never tasted before, it is a cultural and mindful experience as well.
“We bring some cultural component to the events we do – whether it is reading poetry that relates to the dinner (Rumi and Hafez are our favorites) or delving into the history of a dish, we are always trying to answer the “why” of each dinner. Too many times these foodie dinners end up being about chefs flexing their muscles but our goal is less about the parade of food and more about the holistic experience of the diner.”
Washington, D.C. – Hush Supper Club
This wildly successful supper club was started eight years ago by an Indian-American who wanted to share not only the varied and delicious food of her parent’s homeland but the stories as well.
“I’m a storyteller throughout,” Geeta, who doesn’t give her last name, explains. “The food is in the service of the story.”
Geeta, whose family is from Gujarat, practices Jainism, which also has a heavy influence on her vegetarian cuisine. “Jains have many rules about food. You express your religion every day with your dinner plate. India is on the move and I want to do my part for the Americans to get to know the Indians.”