"Underground Supper Clubs" — Restaurant Alternative?

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"Gourmet Dinner Club" — "Dinner Club"— "Dining Club" — "Renegade Party" — "Transient Dinner" — "Occasional Supper Club" — and, according to the Los Angeles Times, "Underground Restaurant":
Whatever you call this phenomenon, it's a terrific opportunity for solo diners!

"I came across your site and was wondering how I could possibly get my renegade parties listed on your site. It is called Orgasmo de la Boca and it is being run in Los Angeles [California]. I started it in Barcelona in 2005. It focuses on bringing together a cohesive party of food, art, music, and performance.
Thanks, Chef Alessandra"

Irresistible request — agreed? Here's a "taste" of her web site:

This was the first dinner I did upon my return from Spain. I spent a year perfecting my Fideau. For those of you who don't know what it is, it is the seafoof/pasta equivalent to paella an IMH blows it out of the water! It was such a great experience to share some of my favorite flavors of a place so near to my belly. There was also a bit of complete experimental cooking and luckily it all came out perfect!

ARGENTINA has long been known for mouthwatering steaks and the fantastic cheap steakhouses that serve them. But in Buenos Aires a new food movement is challenging the humble hunk of beef.

Puertas cerradas – closed-door restaurants – are secret dining venues tucked away in private clubs and cooks’ homes. Intimate and exclusive, these underground gourmet hot spots were inspired by movements in London and New York.

Reservations are essential, they open only one or two nights a week, and you’re given the exact address only when you book. Meals are usually four or five courses, including a welcome cocktail, and most cost between about 70 and 150 pesos (€13 and €28).

You’ll often sit at a communal dining table, and the chef, if not eating with you, will come out from the kitchen at the beginning of each course to chat about the food.

The flavours are as varied as the locations. At Casa Felix (above; diegofelix. com), a maximum of 12 guests dine by candlelight in a private courtyard. At Casa Saltshaker (casasaltshaker. com), the lucky 10 who get places enjoy nights on the theme of, for example, Nicaragua, the Caribbean or Macedonia. For a little more fire, reserve a table at Cocina Sunae (cocinasunae. blogspot.com), where the Korean-American chef plates up mouthwatering curries, or take your shoes off and grab a pouffe at the big table at A Little Saigon (alittlesaigon.com), where your Vietnamese meal might end with banana fritters and jasmine tea.

One tip: bring cash or pay online by card in advance, as most closed-door restaurants don’t accept cards on the night.

SoloDining.com included the following quote in our discussion of "Dinner Club — An Alternative to Eating Out in Paris."

"In spite of the ups and downs, the variation in the quality, there is something brave and almost reckless about this trend toward dining clubs or occasional restaurants . . . It suggests, in their intimacy and singularity, a whiff of danger, a hunger for a more promiscuous kind of dinner party." The New York Times Style Magazine — Spring 2005

A year plus later, this quote has worn so well, it very well might have resurfaced in "Rogues, Nomads, Dissident Chefs: Underground restaurants are attracting an online generation of foodies" — Los Angeles Times — November 8, 2006.

Several portions of this fascinating article drew our attention, especially the following:

"Jonathan Mayer, a Google employee, heard about Ghetto Gourmet when, new in town, he placed his own Craigslist ad requesting, half-jokingly, tips for meeting locals. A sincere Ghetto Gourmet enthusiast suggested he check out a dinner. 'I wound up at this random dinner, eating in someone's house I don't even know, which was hard for me to adjust to at first,' Mayer says. 'But I keep coming back for the same reason as my first visit — to meet new, interesting people.' "

Inspired, SoloDining.com e-mailed the underground supper clubs listed in the Los Angeles Times article. We asked:

"Please let us know the particulars on the solos (singles, too) who are guests at your supper club. In other words, what percentage of your guests are solo? Gender balanced or . . .? Etc."

To check out the results, visit: underground supper clubs respond

"Underground supper clubs . . ., started making an appearance on the foodie scene a few years ago. They were based at first on the principle that without the economic demands of running a restaurant, organizers would be free to take chances like promoting new chefs and demanding high-quality ingredients. But with a surging interest in eating locally, green grouips are the rebel food community's taste du jour." "Gourmets Go Underground" — Newsweek — June 9, 2008

This article includes the following underground supperclubs:

Studiofeast — Registrants are asked: "You're about to die; what's your last meal?

New York Bite Club — Registrants are asked about food allergies. (multi-course tastings are tailored to the seasons)

light-bulb oven — A brooklyn-based culinary salon

homeslice west — New York-based — What does a typical meal consist of? A starter, a signature cocktail, buttermilk biscuits, and a 4 or 5 course meal . . .

Cooking with James — http://www.cookwithjames.com — San Francisco, California

Website: ". . . feature Italian and French inspired dishes of the highest quality, and use only locally grown and farmed organic ingredients. Although we provide good quality "vino da tavola" for the table, guests are encouraged to bring their own wine for consumption with the meal. Our typical menu includes a starter course, first course, second course, third course and dessert or cheese."

The Ghetto Gourmet — http://www.theghet.com — San Francisco, California based. Events sometimes scheduled in other cities [Los Angeles, California, Chicago, Illinois, New York, New York].

Website: "the ghetto gourmet is hosted in private residences, but we also utilize warehouses, gallery spaces, backyards, farms, vineyards, parking lots and anything else that seems like fun.
depending on the space, we'll usually sit between 25 and 40 guests.
we consistently attract the most interesting, respectful, adventurous people around, and it's because of them that this project continues.
when we started, we expected to attract 20-somethings: fresh out of college, new to the city and looking for something fun and different.
instead, we were visited by 30-, 40-, and 50-somethings: established professionals, small business owners, active community members and true foodies. they had been to all the good restaurants, and they weren't getting what they wanted."

The Hidden Kitchen — http://www.thehiddenkitchen.net — Sacramento, California

Website: "We are passionate foodies who love to cook and welcome others to our home for lively conversation, art appreciation and celebrating the bounty of California."
Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: "We average two dinners a month with 8-10 seats available per dinner, 12 in the summer when we dine on the patio. What we've been finding is people come in groups. Usually mixed, some couples some singles. Because of the size of our dinners, we've been finding very often someone will "buy out" the table and invite a bunch of their friends. I think it's a great venue for conversation and many of our guests make great connections here. "

Pajo's Fine Dining & Catering — http://www.placercooking.blogspot.com — Sacramento, California

Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: "I post the events as they are happening. So for instance, once we set an event date, I post it on the web. Those who reserve spaces get email confirmation with directions to event, cost of event which varies based on our menu and location. Once the event is full we remove it from the web so it does not attract unwanted attention.
People who follow the site are always invited to the events via email notification. The dinners are modern american with a scientific approach, some say molecular gastronomy, to accomplish some very specific results. My goal is to create a unique experience which people will remember, and one that make them think about their food in a contemplative process. It truly is unique!"

Plate & Pitchfork — http://www.plateandpitchfork.com — Portland, Oregon

Website: "The 2007 Summer Farm Dinner schedule will be announced in mid-April to our email list. Dinners are held on weekends at farms in the greater Portland area and range in price from $85 to $130 per person all inclusive.
Dinners will be held rain or shine, so wear or bring the appropriate layers and please wear shoes suitable for walking through the fields."
Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: "Most of our guests come as couples, on rare occassion we'll have a group of women join us for a special occassion such as a birthday or reunion. Men rarely attend solo."

Outstanding in the Fields — http://www.outstandinginthefield.com — Santa Cruz, California-based

Website: "Hosts farm dinners across the country [September 2006: California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, etc.] — farm tours and lectures included."
Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: " I'd say about 1/4 to 1/3 of guests at Outstanding in the Field dinners are single - usually coming with one other or a larger group of friends, pretty evenly male and female. We even have some who have come for multiple dinners and some who follow the Outstanding caravan to attend dinners in other parts of the country like Vancouver (well, that would be Canada) and New York.

Paladar Temescal — http://www.paladartemescal.blogspot.com — Oakland, California

Website: "Inspired by the paladares of Cuba, the pioneers of the bay area underground dining scene, and our love of testing new cuisines and locally and sustainably grown ingredients, Paladar Temescal seeks to provide a forum for good food and wine and interesting people to come together. Each feast starts with a cocktail hour and features a comprehesive menu with wine pairings and dessert, along with the spirit, music and ambience, of a particular region. Our guests are social, open-minded adventurers."
Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: "We have always had a few solo diners (both men and women) come to each of our paladars. Also, people sit at tables of 5-8, and we encourage people to sit with those they don't know, so it ends up being a pretty convivial atmosphere. I think this kind of thing is perfect for a solo diner, because they have an instant group with whom to dine."

SubCultureDining — http://www.thescdsf.com — San Francisco, Calfornia

Website: "The Sub Culture Dining Experience is a "Chefs Style" market menu. Meals will consist of 6 to 9 courses, widely varying from vegetarian to seafood, meat and poultry dishes.
Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: "30% of our guest are single, it’s an interesting mix. Mainly the common line is that they are Foodies."

Supper Underground — http://www.supperunderground.com — Austin, Texas

Website: "Supper Underground is a fusion of the intimacy of a dinner party with the ease of a restaurant. It’s the opportunity to experience delectable cuisine and meet new people in a unique and constantly changing setting.
Supper Underground is a monthly dinner party that takes place in a different Austin location with different participants each month. (Private residence to Whole Foods Market Culinary Center) Supper Underground guests enjoy a brief “cocktail hour” followed by a four-course meal with wine provided. "
Response to SoloDining.com e-mail: "It varies - so far I would say the vast majority either come with a date or with a friend - we have had people come alone but usually not more than one or two per dinner (and average dinner is from 12 to 30 people). "

Vagabond — E-mail: dinner@codenamevagabond.com — Seattle, Washington

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