The secret dining societies are the latest craze for foodies around the world.
This ongoing series of covert dinners have featured James Beard Award winning chefs Marcus Samuelsson in New York and Michelle Bernstein in Miami, and Food & Wine Magazine’s master of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless in Chicago. The secret locations are as magnificent as the menu and have been held in an old Spanish monastery, a rooftop overlooking Manhattan, the Embassy of Finland in Washington, and even a fictitious house of ill-repute in New Orleans’s French Quarter. Their most recent dining event took place last May at the private ranch of John Paul DeJoria, founder of the Patrón Spirits Company and Paul Mitchell hair products.
To get into one of these events you have to become a Patrón Social Club member and follow the countdown to zero when the name of the city and the riddle is released. You then have ninety-six hours to correctly answer it for a chance at winning a seat for you and a guest.
Studiofeast, New York
Studiofeast describes itself as “an invitation-only culinary collective that focuses on creating unique gastronomic experiences”. Their events are a stage for new dining ideas and social get-togethers. Moreover, these food enthusiasts will, above all, declare they’re also out for fun and the pursuit of a great time.
Mike Lee started Studiofeast to create something that combined the experience of going out to a restaurant with the atmosphere of going to your best friend’s place for dinner. “As we did more and more dinners, we started to push this format by introducing more conceptual elements, like the Doppelganger Dinner. Concepts like that create a stronger bond/conversation between the guests, which in the end, I hope creates a more interesting social experience for the diners. If I can use food, concepts, and setting to turn strangers at a table into friends, then that’s a good night for me,” said Lee.
At Studiofeast, the tête-à-têtes are as equally valued as each plate of the surprise meal. They usually sit about 40 people for a 6 to 7 course meal. They recently launched a series of dinners called “Studiofeast Sunday”, which seat about 12 guests and serve anywhere from 3 to 6 courses.
Fill out the form on their website and they’ll let you know if you have been accepted. Participants will be emailed the location 24 hours before the event. Reservations are non-refundable and are first come, first serve.
Managed by the catering and event planning company, Mamas Group, Txoko Miami is the city’s “pop up” gastronomic society. A txoko [Cho-co] is a Basque gastronomical society very popular in Spain. Traditionally they are only open to male members who meet to cook, eat and socialize. For example, just in the city of Guernica, there are nine txokos with approximately 700 members in total.
Past dinners have offered a four-course degustation menu with wine specifically matched to the meal. This txoko prefers not to be defined by one specific style of cooking and instead refer to its meals as “simply good food” with prime ingredients that change depending on the season.
Yakumo Saryo, Tokyo, Japan
Shinichiro Ogata, restaurateur and designer has put his own luxury spin on a new version of contemporary Japanese culture. The genius behind Higashi-Yama, a new style of Japanese dining, has already opened several restaurants including the private salon and members-only dining club Yakumo Saryo.
Located in a residential neighborhood, past attendees have had a hard time finding this secret dining club. The house is segmented in private dining rooms, where guests dine in total anonymity. Once in, you will be served a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner … and lots of sake.
“A silent chef labored over small, precise dishes in the style of the traditional, elaborate Japanese tea ceremony, or kaiseki. Each arrived at the table accompanied by an explanatory piece of rice paper the size of a fortune-cookie”, is how Brett Martin described his experience in Esquire.
Securing a seat in this private salon is tricky. Our best recommendation is to ask the concierge at your luxury Tokyo hotel. ■
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