While the excitement of underground dinners has come and gone for some, others are just getting in on the game. Last week, three friends orchestrated a five-course meal paired with New York beers in a cozy, whitewashed living room. On the third floor of a Brooklyn walkup, the hosts ushered in guests and handed out Brooklyn Brewery, lime, cucumber, and peppercorn cocktails. Sheets of brown paper lined two community tables with guests’ names scrawled beneath see-through plates. Shrimp chips and plum candies were available for pre-dinner noshing.
This was the first Kates in the Kitchen gathering in about a year, and the trio — made up of two cooking Kates and another friend brought in for her party-planning expertise — plan to make it a monthly event from here on out. None of the three ladies work professionally in the food world, though they all met during their time in NYU’s Food Studies graduate program. Today, one works as a photo editor, another at a boutique accounting firm, and another counsels farmers on land trusts. For this dinner, the food aficionados decided to highlight the many brews made around the state and brought in beer maven Justin Kennedy, a food writer (and geophysicist), to head up the beer menu.
The meal focused on South East Asian flavors, and plates ranged in size, from a mammoth roasted pork bao to delicate broiled Long Island oysters topped with a sriracha lime mignonette. The drink menu kicked off with the Peekskill Simple Sour, a light and apple-y brew that woke up the palate. A pairing of Massaman-inspired curry and Ommegang’s intricate Hennepin Farmhouse Saison was an evening highlight; the melding of curry and zesty golden ale was the ideal combination, one that could easily be repeated at home. Another favorite was the Other Half’s “Doug” Cascadian Dark Ale, a black IPA that’s far more refreshing than one would think from the color — it was the perfect brew to wash down a broiled oyster.
During each course, diners shared evaluations and often asked for seconds as the cooks wandered in and out with trays, asking how the meal was going. For dessert, the ladies joined their guests and made themselves a dish of the final offering: a black rice pudding and a potent glass of Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops. The limited release is a dark, high alcohol (10.5 percent) stout aged in bourbon barrels, that’s a lot like a shot of whiskey dropped in a Guinness — a heady hit after so many other beers had been poured and downed, but an interesting way to end the meal nonetheless.
Like most underground dinners, the meal itself was nothing revelatory. But the camaraderie within the room and the opportunity to share a unique experience made the evening a hit. And the chance to taste such a wide variety of New York beers, including a home brew from one dinner guest, was a fantastic celebration of local craft.
The final gift before departing for home was one of the most inventive of the evening: lolli-hops — lolli-pops flavored with hops, ginger, lemongrass, and coriander.
To attend your own Kates in the Kitchen dinner, keep an eye on their website for schedule updates.