Hi friends! I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I was going to a pop-up restaurant for dinner and I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. I got an email a few weeks ago asking if I was interested in two tickets to Barrio, a pop-up dinner from Wheeler del Torro, the guy behind the vegan treats at 3 Scoops. He was pairing up with Ex Momofuku chef Tim Maslow, who I happened to be aware of because he is now the chef at Strip T’s, a restaurant in my own neighborhood.
I immediately said yes!
Not sure what a pop-up dinner is? The idea of a pop-up restaurant or dinner is that the chef sets up shop in an unusual and unexpected space. Places like coffee shops, abandoned commercial spaces, and in our case, an ice cream shop, open their doors for diners to come together in a community style. There is no requesting the best table in the house or looking over a menu before you arrive. There is an element of surprise that is unlike any other restaurant experience. In most cases, the pop-up location is secret up until the night before the dinner. Surprise!
The Scientist and I arrived Thursday night to 3 Scoops to see that the shop had been transformed into a lovely dining space with decorated tables, lovely floral arrangements, and a super friendly staff. Around this time is when I realized that my camera battery was dead. iPhone photos FTW! Ugh…bad food blogger.
All the little touches were in place, including mint and lemon in our own water carafe. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most, but I can down around 32 oz of water in a typical dinner no problem so I love when the water is on the table.
We took our seat and were immediately poured a glass of Dom Perignon champagne. Gettin’ fancy… CHEERS!
Our first plate was a sampling of crostinis. Each was topped with a different vegetable, spread, fruit or cheese.
1: Red pepper hummus, blue cheese crumbles, and cantaloupe. I’m not a fan of melon, but I do love blue cheese and hummus!
2: Smoked fish spread, truffle, and mango. I loved the smokiness of the spread with the sweetness of the mango. It was a lovely combo!
3: Eggplant bruschetta with manchego cheese. I could eat both of these separately for a full meal (true story!) so the combo of these two was a winner on my plate.
4: Goat cheese, unidentified but slightly quinoa like mix, and grilled zucchini. This was my favorite of the entire plate. I love the hidden goat cheese and the softened zucchini was the perfect texture to finish off this bite.
Next up was the Wicked Small Caesar…or in my case a mixture of unique greens. I had mentioned that I wanted the vegetarian version of the whole because I don’t eat pork or red meat. It just is easier that way. I am assuming that the caesar salad was made with anchovies so I was given the alternative. Which was just delicious!
Next up…more greens! Of all the courses, this was my favorite. A soft poached farm egg was paired with early peas, ramps, and sesame. I used to think I hated peas. I realized that I don’t like mushy peas. These peas were slightly crunchy and when I had a bite with the runny yolk of the egg I was in heaven. There was a sweetness to this dish from the peas that was perfectly matched with the sesame and egg savory flavors. Must create at home! First I have to figure out how to poach an egg. Eh. Minor details.
Our entrée for the night was a grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, roasted sunchokes, fried maitake mushrooms, and pickled peppers.
Veggie version was the same but without the skirt steak. I had never had roasted sunchokes before, but you can believe I will again. I loved the texture and the slightly sweeter taste when compared to the savory and crispy mushrooms. The pickled peppers were the perfect topper.
I guess The Scientist must have had a hungry look on his face or “I’m a big ol’ meat eater” sign on his back because our wonderful server offered him a second portion of the entrée. He said yes…of course. SERIOUSLY. That portion size is nuts.
The finale for the meal was unlike any other I have had. It was a chocolate and shiitake pot de crème with thyme butterscotch, crouton and lemon confit. There was something so delicate about the creaminess of this dish with bits of crunch from the croutons every now and then. The addition of thyme was genius and gave this dessert just a touch savory.
I was secretly hoping they would come by and offer me an additional portion of this dessert. No such luck though!
Our night at Barrio was wonderful. Our glasses of champagne were never empty and The Scientist and I got a chance to experience a meal that isn’t ever going to be replicated. The excitement of not knowing what was next or what to expect made for a fantastic night!
Have you ever been to a pop-up restaurant? Do you they have them in your area?