The great thing about food is not only is it delicious, but you can shape it into anything you want it to be. Case in point, a new venture by three Vancouver cooks. They've started up The Wandering Spoon -- their take on "renegade" dinners where a lot of what happens is up in the air.
So what IS this "renegade" style meal I speak of? It's where you're told a date for the dinner and perhaps there are some details about what they'll serve. There's a fixed price, and the location changes. So basically you're agreeing to put yourself in the hands of the cooks...because you're at their mercy.
It's part of an underground dining movement that's been happening around the world for some time. It allows the cooks to bypass local bylaws and liquor laws (it's strictly BYOB)...like a dinner party but with mostly strangers. The appeal for the cooks is that they can serve whatever they like and let their imaginations run wild. The appeal for diners? In my case, having a completely different and new dining experience that turned out to be tremendously fun.
As you can see from the top photo, we ate our way through an entire suckling pig. Imagine walking through the door of someone's loft and seeing that face. But it wasn't merely roasted whole. The pig was butchered, its hind legs removed, ribs and tenderloin removed. The loin was wrapped in spinach and forcemeat, placed back in the pig, the whole thing to be roasted for four hours.
The ribs were cooked up with rosemary, garlic and butter. My personal favourite part, served with cabbage cooked with carrot and bacon. Everyone at the table loved it; it was the first item to go.
The legs , as you can see, were served on top of a dish of cauliflower.
I'd never had an entire suckling pig served to me before, so it was as much fascinating as it was delicious. And it really was good. To the best of my knowledge it was the first time any of the cooks had tackled a dish like this, which made it a great experience for them as well.
Besides the delicious food, most of the enjoyment of going to a dinner like this is the atmosphere. You sit with a bunch of people you don't know (yet). I met yet another Twitter follower who had seen my tweet about the dinner and thought, what the heck? He turned out to be a City of Vancouver planner who seemed to really enjoy himself. Everyone did. We all had at least one thing in common: we like to eat!
Everyone at the table was in great spirits. The wine and beer probably helped a lot. One diner even offered up her plate for this photo you see on your left.
The coziness of seeing the people making the food was also a great treat. Cooks are some of the most passionate people I know, and are always at their best when they're in their element and talking about what they do. If you get a chance to engage a cook, do it. They don't realize how much they light up when they're talking about what they love.
Dessert was appropriately homey: apple tarte tatin with oatmeal ice cream. It was warm, delicious and comfortable, like the rest of the meal.
And like other fabulous dinner parties...we got to take home some of the leftovers. Believe me, even between 11 people there are a LOT of leftovers!
I'd never done any underground dining before this, but it won't be the last. The Wandering Spoon will be hosting dinners about once a month, so keep your eyes peeled to their blog. You're going to love it when this spoon wanders your way.