Upon arriving at the secret location, I followed my instructions and telephoned the number I had received only several hours earlier, alerting "them" of my and J's arrival. Several minutes later, under the cover of night, we were whisked inside, and the evening began.
No, J and I are not secret agents by night; we were attending one of Chef Craig Thornton's "Wolvesmouth" dinners. Several times a month, 8-12 eager diners gather at a private, undisclosed location to participate in Craig's underground dining experience-- a three to four hour-long culinary journey spanning twelve or more dishes. Although one might expect a hefty price tag with such an exclusive evening, Craig asks that you decide what to pay. The former personal chef and veteran of Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas has no sous chef or waitstaff (with the exception of the unpaid help of a few friends) and, for that matter, no desire to get rich off his dinners; he seeks only to do what he loves--engage with a love for food (both his and ours).
Skate with brown butter, carrots, leek and sage
Beet with valdeon cheese and pineapple
Dungeness crab two ways with cauliflower, frozen grapes and tarragon
Char with butternut squash puree and a maple rye fritter
Heirloom tomatoes with bacon pound cake and basil
Rabbit and huitlacoche with tortilla puree and poblano chile
Duck with crispy duck skin
Boar with parmesan polenta and orange jus
Short rib with black truffle and coffee meringue, chanterelle jus and bone marrow-stuffed prune
Foie gras shortbread, praline vacherin, bitter caramel pear and Early Grey panna cotta
Caramel popcorn ice cream with glazed apples and peanut butter powder
Highlights of the night included an impressive butternut squash puree and delightfully simple maple rye fritter, my first encounter with huitlacoche and boar, an inventive spin on Peking duck and a naturally flavored caramel popcorn ice cream that I could eat by the gallon.
Guests are encouraged to bring something to drink to share with the dining party-- a message our Wolvesden group took to heart. We sampled some delightful beers and wines throughout the night including a spicy pumpkin ale, a beer from Ferran Adria and an Israeli white wine.
Our beer and wine bottle graveyard
For more information on how to get on the list for these underground dinners, click here and, as the page says, "Come curious. Leave sated."