On October 25th, 2018, Charleston's Poet Laureate (Marcus Amaker) and I hosted a pop-up restaurant at a local restaurant downtown Charleston, called Daps!
What on earth is a pop-up?!
Daps let us in to take over their kitchen for the night to bring "Poetic Plates" to life. The owners, Jeremiah Schenzel and Nick Dowling, helped the night run smoothly and were welcoming beyond words. I had a BALL cooking with Tyler, one of the chefs there.
It was an opportunity to bring the community together over a collaborative dinner, showcasing what I've learned so far while highlighting the people who encourage me. It featured a three-course rhyme-inspired menu with live readings from Marcus Amaker. I designed the menu in a classic Italian style, spotlighting some of my favorite local purveyors.
Prior to the event, I reached out to my mentors. However, the real work came in before the pop-up even began! It took lots of planning, creating, stressing, organizing and believing in myself to make this event a reality.
Thank you to everyone who helped me make this dream happen. It was risky because anything could have happened, but the most amazing things happen when you are outside of your comfort zone.
Videos from the event:
What it required beforehand:
Everything listed below is the things that I needed to have in order to produce such an event.
Acquired all appropriate business licenses
Created a new website
Met with Marcus many times to make a plan and discuss logistics
Recipe tested at Nathalie Dupree's
Got a membership at a restaurant store for wholesale food and equipment
Scouted out local ingredients from some of my favorite purveyors (pictured on right is Tiller Bakery with my Semolina bread)
Created a menu, consulted a few of my favorite chefs about it, costed it out, and scaled it
Delegated tasks to my helpers in order to be efficient in the kitchen
Wrote press releases
Wrote stories about each of the items
Seems like a lot, but when the time finally came I was beyond ready to get cooking! Time and preparation were key in the planning process for this event.
Listed below are all of the dishes I had planned out and prepped for the event.
Aperitivo and Antipasti- L’appetito vien mangiando- the appetite comes with eating
• Citrus-marinated olives, using olives from Olinda Olives and Olive Oil
• Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
• Tuscan white bean spread with local semolina bread from Tiller Bakery
• “Not-your-mama’s” chicken marsala meatballs, with creamy polenta (thank you Kelly Franz and Magnolia’s for the broth.
• Vegetarian option: creamy polenta with marsala and greens
• Lemon-almond biscotti, paired with fig-almond gelato from Gelati Moto
THE STORIES BEHIND THE FOOD
Citrus-marinated olives, using olives from Olinda Olives and Olive Oil
Olinda Olives and Olive Oil were started by Jeanne Decamilla in 2011. We crossed paths at Mount Pleasant Farmer’s Market, while I was creating cooking segments for WCBD News 2’s lifestyle show, “Living Local”. We interviewed her while she showcased her product and told her story. We met again at Les Dames d’Escoffier’s Farm Fest fundraising event a couple of weeks ago. Les Dames is a philanthropic organization of women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality. Leanne’s olives are perfect to use in my citrus-marinated olives. (Any photos?)
My family eats this asparagus-like candy. The tender-crisp asparagus is enveloped in the salty yet delicate prosciutto. We often serve it when company comes over. At High Cotton, I used to shave the prosciutto for the cheese plates and had the opportunity to learn about the origins of this beautiful cured meat. It is where simplicity meets elegance.
Tuscan white bean spread with local semolina bread from Tiller Bakery
White beans, specifically the cannellini type, are silky and nutty. My nana used to use the same beans to make pasta Fagioli, an Italian soup with pasta and beans. I serve this spread at potlucks or use it on sandwiches and homemade pizza. Tiller Bakery, started by Joe Shea, supplies handcrafted, whole grain, local bread wholesale. I chose semolina bread because of its golden crust and its Sicilian origin.
“Not-your-mama’s” chicken marsala meatballs with creamy polenta
I grew up making chicken tenders and meatballs. These are “not your mama's” meatballs. They are a lighter protein accompanied by sweet marsala sauce. Italian polenta is comparable to our Southern grits. I like the creaminess of the polenta as a base for the meatballs. While Nathalie Dupree was taste testing these at her home the Lee Brothers walked in and after trying them, gave me their seal of approval. I fine-tuned these with Nathalie, and I hope you love the final version. Kelly Franz, the executive chef at Magnolia’s, made all the chicken broth for this recipe. Nathalie Dupree, Chef Kelly, and Jeanne Camilla are all members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and I am happy to incorporate all of them.
Vegetarian option: creamy polenta with marsala and greens
Chef Sarah Adams invited my friend Meredith and I to come help cook for one of her dinner parties in a beachfront house on Isle of Palms. Meredith taught me how to cook these delicious greens.
Lemon-almond biscotti, paired with fig-almond gelato from Gelati Moto
In Italian, “biscotti” means twice-cooked. I always make these as gifts and make a whole variety from pumpkin to chocolate pistachio. You can bake them rock-solid, and soften them by dipping them into coffee, but I prefer baking mine a little softer. They require simple base ingredients and can be made far in advance. Most importantly, you can make a lot at one time! Brian Bertolini from Gelati Moto is one of the smiling faces you might recognize from the local farmer’s markets. He provided tonight’s custom-made gelato.
Wow, looking back on it now it seems super overwhelming. Everything was possible with time, organization and willing taste-testers. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to take part in such a unique experience, and I can only hope there is more fun things like this in store for me in the future!
—Now We’re Cookin’