Epicurean delights

Even before moving here almost three years ago, I’d heard that this town was famous for food. From the slow food, pioneering work of Alice Waters, to the smallest hole-in-the-wall eatery in Chinatown, legend had it there was not a bad meal to be found. It’s been a rare form of entertainment in itself, as we have discovered how true this legend turns out to be.

Several weeks ago, we had an interesting food experience in the home of friends as part of a new food “thing” that’s happening here. No, it wasn’t eating our meal entirely in darkness, as they do at one particular chic restaurant. An intriguing notion, but I’m not that adventurous yet.

We were simply the fortunate guests at a dinner party so unique, I can’t help but think of it as very San Franciscan, and consistent with the spirit of this city. The trend? Private “supper clubs” where chefs come together to collaborate and experiment with great recipes, and local wine makers showcase products for select groups of people. And because not everyone invited knows each other, it becomes a social as much as a foodie event.

Our friend Dori invited us to an evening of “childhood favorites.” Her husband, chef Noah Jacob, invited three chef pals, instructing them to concoct two dishes each based on their own childhood favorites. All dinner guests cleaned each plate, and drained glass after glass of the paired wines, even after being warned ahead of time to not necessarily eat all the food because the eight courses and accompanying wines would probably be too much for us. I can fairly say that three-and-a-half hours later, as we all slowly waddled away from the table, everyone felt as if we’d had a feast of unique pleasures.

Noah and his chef pals Hanjiro Ambrose, Tim Symes and Mark Nargi, wove nouvelle fantasies around such familiar comfort foods as fish and chips (their take? semolina fried sardines, lemon, fennel; JoJo potato, Romesco, garlic mayo); “Hamburger Helper” beef stroganoff (braised bison short rib, sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi, Himalayan truffle crème, maitake mushroom), pork and beans (fresh chorizo, baked gigante beans, burnt tomato, cilantro-almond pesto — yum!); chicken nuggets (roast chicken, garlic chanterelle polenta, curried tomato chutney, truffle aioli, beer mustard); and “SpaghettiOs” (hand-cut pasta semolina Os al timbrare, ground veal, grana padano espagnole). Whew!

There was even a surprising version of “Shake ‘n’ Bake” — sous-vide pork tenderloin, with a homemade crumble and calvados veloute, which was so tasty, one guest asked to take some of it home. His wish was granted.

Dessert was Pop Tarts — gently fried pastry dough filled with rose chocolate, concord grape-lavender jelly and peanut butter. Ridiculously fabulous! If only I’d had more room, I’d have finished every sugary bite.

A particularly unique beginning item was the frozen ice pops called Otter Pops, but in such appetizer-ish flavors as frozen vichyssoise and icy gazpacho. Amazingly good, as we pushed them up from authentic Otter Pop plastic wrappers — so clever!

But the best part?

How we all enjoyed it together, each dish prompting vocal sounds of pleasure with every bite, and subsequent conversations centering on our own childhood memories of our favorite foods. It was an event of getting to know new things, new food, new people, and that made the evening unforgettable. Various wines from the elegant young sommelier, Jessalyn Krauss, who shared her knowledge of wines with us as she poured, added to the memorable experience.

I am all the fatter for it, but the happier too, so if you’re interested, it being holiday time and all, I suggest you contact and see what new adventures they have in store. Maybe they’ll invite you! They are very nice people who love to cook, and who also love to share what they cook with people who will enjoy it.

We moved here from New York to discover new ways to relish life, and our evening with Noah, Dori, and their talented friends filled that bill — and our stomachs — entirely!

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