If you missed eating tacos in Natalie Chavarie’s backyard last summer as part of the Young&Dublin:open air eating supper club, you’ll get a second chance this winter.
“One of the main objectives of doing things at Local Jos is that a lot of the values that Local Jos has are really similar to the value of Young and Dublin,” says Chavarie. “The whole meat thing and where your food comes from was a big part of it. Same for Local Jo’s.”
“Drip down your hand street food”
The inspiration for Y&D came from travelling and eating street foods in Korea, Mexico and Cuba. She’d been jonesing for a food truck for a couple years, one that would use locally sourced foods and “serve drip down your hand korean-mexican fusion street food.”
She is working on a business plan for the truck (don’t go stealing her idea, ok), but in the meantime, last summer a supper club seemed like a good start to the open road.
“We thought the time was really right to offer a space for that type of offering in Halifax,” she says. “We purchased really beautiful wood from this local mill owner in the valley. Then, with the help of a friend who used to run the Bus Stop Theatre, we built this pergola and wrapped it with an old tarp from a skating rink that a friend gave to me.”
Suddenly they had steating for 22 people. They used twitter and social media to get the world out. People could make reservations on Twitter, Facebook or by text.
Enter Virgil Muir: tacomaster
You might remember Virgil Muir from a stint at The Good Food Emporium a couple years ago. He cooked asian fusion meals on weeknights. Quality, homey stuff. He cooks all the food.
“Part of the creatvity that went into the food there transferred into Young&Dublin for sure. Virgil put a lot of creative thought into it. He did all the cooking and I was doing the hosting,” she says.
Muir created a wide range of tacos: korean beef bulgogi taco with kim chee and green onions; a jerk pork taco; a spicy pork Korean taco with Korean toppings; a more traditional Mexican beef taco and a really good Mexican tofu taco. He did a korean split meung bean pancake that was vegan and wheat free.
The kimchi and warm corn tortilla were all made in house and everything was served with sides of rice and beans.
Y&D’s main suppliers are Holdanca farms, “a really beautiful naturally pastured meat farm in Tatamagouche,” Dinicola’s Farm and Ted Hutten.
Lessons learned about supper clubs
Running a supper club gave Chavarie some surprises, not the least of which was just how deeply mainstream society has fallen for this trend.
“I was surprised by the demographic. There were lots of younger people that came, but the median was about 30-45. One other thing that surprised me was that there were lots of kids.”
“I think the essence of open air eating is a hunger for experiential dining and dining that maybe offers more unexpected elements to traditional dining. I think there’s a really big appetite for that. It’s something that we are seeing all over the world.”
She also didn’t expect that people would start organizing nights for themselves at Y&D, or that local restaurants would call up, asking to hold staff parties at her house.
“They would organize a group of ten people and then say, ‘OK, we’re meeting at this time.’ It was kind of like these satellite dinner clubs where one person is like, ‘Hey, I want to get together with all my friends.’”
She doesn’t consider the club illegal. She calls it, “an open air eating club whereby people were able to make reservations to a dinner club where we would serve. The payment was based on a cost recovery donation model and prices were itemized.”
As I said in my Coast article on this, the law depends on how hosts see diners – are they friends or customers? If you serve food in your home to friends, then ask for a donation, that’s fine.
Given that Chavarie tends to use words like “community,” and “neighbourhood,” when talking aboutt her club, the whole ethic points to friendship over custom.
The success of pop up dining shows it’s tapping into all sorts of social desires. It’s about focusing a meal the social experience rather than simply another exercise in taste. Eating and socializing are inseparable in my mind, anyway. Really, the law is an ass in cases like these. Fuck ’em.
This trend is 100% in keeping with the DIY esprit of this city. I hope this pop-up idea is here to stay, even if each one enjoys only the doomed lifespan of a teenaged hardcore band.
Someone should write a samizdat how-to manual for setting these up. We should all be doing these for friends, neighbours and people we ought to be, and want to be, friends with. Get the social network off Facebook and into the dining room. The city and our lives, would be a much better place for it.
I recently read a Catalan proverb in Colman Andrews book, Catalan Cuisine, that makes my point: “Si vols tenir molts amics, fes molts convits.” If you want to have lots of friends, give lots of parties.
Natalie and Virgil, I salute your work and look forward to a taco takedown in your company this Janaury.