As a magazine editor, I always feel the pressure to be ahead of the curve. But sometimes, I’m about three years too late, as is the case with the Ghetto Gourmet. Attending one of their dinners has been on my to-do list forever, but I just got around to it last Saturday night. I just wish I’d done it sooner (like maybe before Time magazine covered it).
The group, which has a black toque-wearing skull and crossbones for its logo and touts itself as the “original underground dining experience,” began when brothers Joe and Jeremy Townsend started throwing dinner parties of sorts for strangers in their Oakland basement apartment. Today the roving salon-meets-restaurant has become a national movement with dinners being thrown in New York and LA.
The one I attended was hosted by my friend Andrea, the very stylish editor of SF’s Daily Candy, in her SoMa loft. (Aside: She was wearing the Copper Dream Dress from my favorite local designer House of Hengst with black tights and black ballet flats.) About 40 people showed up with their own cushions and bottles of wine to happily sit on the floor at long candlelit tables. Dinner was served in three courses and inspired by one of the fathers of the nouvelle cuisine movement, Alain Senderens and his book called The Table Beckons. The menu was the brainchild of chef Peter Jackson who worked hard all night with his crew of volunteers.
It was endearingly retro and surprisingly well done. Little, baked organic russet potatoes came topped with smoked salmon and a poached egg (sending out 40 perfectly poached, and hot, eggs from a residential kitchen is worthy of an award). The roast duck with mango was also executed to medium-rare perfection (I find duck is often served so raw/rare it could quack). The emcee for the evening was W. Kamau Bell, a comedian by day, who did his best to energize the nice, well behaved crowd, saying things like: “Are we ready to eat duck?!!” (I’m too cynical for pep rally environments, preferring to pretend as if nothing gets me excited.) Author Kemble Scott, the author of SoMa, read a piece he had written just from the night and by the time the poached pears in filo with chocolate sauce was served, I’d bonded with two very funny women from Australia and New Zealand who are opening a restaurant here soon (stay tuned), chatted with some old friends and, in my opinion, gotten far more than my $45 dollars worth.