Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Next Supper: Underground Dining Collective

Dining outside with friends is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening in the summer. Granted my fellow diners weren't my friends (yet), we all had a few things in common: we love food, and we were thrilled to have a seat at the table for “The Next Supper,”an Underground Dining Collective in Greensboro. My friend John Jones and his colleague Kerrie Thomas are the masters behind this exclusive dining experience. A diner at my table said “you initially come for the food, but you return for the people.” Every morsel was delicious, but the leisurely conversations about recipes, restaurants and Triad happenings were possibly even more satisfying.

Chilled Buttermilk, Potato and Leek Soup!
The evening’s menu was a vegetarian one (aside from the one course that bacon snuck its way into!) so each plate tasted like it came straight out of the Farmer’s Market. The dinners are BYOB, and after a casual happy hour and initial mingling among guests, close to 40 people took their seats inside and on the front porch of a beautiful home on Summit Avenue (locations change each month.) The first course was a chilled Buttermilk, Potato and Leek Soup with Cornbread Croutons and a sprinkling of Chives. The texture was lovely and the flavors were perfectly balanced. A good chilled soup is ideal for summer, and although it was cream-based, it wasn’t overly rich or filling!

Are those noodles or Zucchinis?

I’ve always wanted to julienne Squash and Zucchini to make "healthy" noodles, so I was eager to twirl my fork around this Summer Vegetable Pasta! I really couldn't decipher the difference between the noodles and vegetables since they were both perfectly al dente and tossed with a tangy, herby dressing. What a smart alternative to pasta!


Tomato Heaven.

There's something to be said for quality ingredients. A dish of the most beautiful, brightly colored tomatoes was placed in front of me, and with a whiff of the fresh Basil, Truffled Cheese and splash of vinegar, I couldn’t wait to dig in. Heirlooms, Yellow, Beefsteaks, oh my! The simplistic approach to this dish was outstanding. I loved the way the flavors popped in my mouth. This plate was a Tomato lovers’ dream.

Cantelope Tequila Shooter - bottoms up!


Time for a palate cleanser! A Cantelope-Tequila-Elderflower shooter is a tropical treat, and a clever, tasty marriage of salty from the Tequila and sweet from the ripe melon. Why haven't I tried this flavor combo before? I’m remembering the taste as I write this and I want to be on a beach.





Corn and Crowder Pea Succotash

Bacon just couldn’t stay away from our vegetarian feast. Honestly, I hadn’t missed meat all night, and didn't necessarily need it here either! A Succotash of skillet-roasted Corn, Crowder Peas, Red Peppers and Mushrooms is my idea of summer heaven. The Bacon added a nice smokiness, but the texture and flavor was pleasing enough without it. Put this on Tacos, eat it with Tortilla Chips, top a Spinach Salad, put it on Vanilla Ice Cream (maybe? Really, though…)

Not cheesecake!
The courses improved with each serving and I was impressed with the consistency among plating. Enter course 5 – my favorite of the evening. I was expecting dessert, and upon first glance, assumed this was Cheesecake with a strawberry glaze on top. Oh, was I a fool to assume. Inspired by a Japanese dish, a lentil pancake cupped sautéed Cabbage and a Baked Egg. The “strawberry glaze” turned out to be a sweet and sour soy sauce that would make even a flip flop taste good. The umami flavor that came from this dish was mind-blowing. It was a radically new idea to me. I love tasting a flavor combination that I could have never fathomed, let alone being introduced to an entirely new concept!

I would have eaten all night long, had they kept sending plates out. I was so hoping they’d use my favorite summertime fruit (well, tied for first place with watermelon) for dessert, and when I saw a bowl of juicy, ripe peaches appear, I squealed with delight. (No photo - I was too busy talking, and it was getting dark out!) The most tender, sweet peaches were macerated with local Honey, and topped with Basil and fresh Goat Cheese from Goat Lady Dairy. The peaches left an irresistible juice that settled in the bottom of my dish, which I quickly downed with one lift of my bowl.

The pacing of the evening was perfect. You leave around 8:40pm, full but not overly stuffed, and with several new friends. If you're lucky enough to get added to "the list," act quickly - seats can apparently fill up in 30 minutes! Once you’re on the list, you can share it with your foodie colleagues who get off on events like these as much as you do. 

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