No Menus: an underground restaurant affair

Hi! I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques while giving you the confidence and inspiration to cook without recipes too!

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The past few weeks have been busy for me, for those that subscribe to my Twitter feed you’ve heard me dropping hints about a secret event that I was hosting. Well, today I get to tell you all about it! [ No Recipes ] was one of 24 blogs selected to commemorate the official launch

The past few weeks have been busy for me, for those that subscribe to my Twitter feed you've heard me dropping hints about a secret event that I was hosting. Well, today I get to tell you all about it!

[ No Recipes ] was one of 24 blogs selected to commemorate the official launch of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community by creating a unique meal, then blogging about it. Foodbuzz is a community of food lovers buzzing about everything from restaurants, to food porn, to recipes. While I'm not going to be quitting my day job anytime soon, their Publisher Community helps me pay for some of the costs involved in running this blog through the ads in the right column. If you're interested in signing your blog up for this program, click here

From the moment I first got their email calling for proposals I knew exactly what I wanted to do. With the density of over-hyped, over-decorated, over-priced restaurants here in Manhattan, there's been a food-counter-culture backlash of "underground restaurants" popping up all over town. The term refers to an unlicensed restaurants that opens up for one night, usually out of someone's apartment. The decor is typically pretty sparse and they are illegal in the way speakeasy's were during prohibition.

Perhaps the prospect of getting an amazing multi-course dinner for the price of a take-out Chinese meal is the draw, or maybe it's the surreptitious nature of the dining experience. Whatever the case, underground restaurants have been growing in popularity in big cities around the world.

I set out to turn my 550 sq/ft hole-in-the-wall apartment into a comfortable dining experience rivaling someone of my favourite Manhattan restaurants. Being one that likes a challenge (and one that likes to support sustainable agriculture), I also committed to sourcing the majority of my ingredients locally.

While it wasn't simple, turning my living room and kitchen into a restaurant proved a lot easier than sourcing all my food locally. In the end I'd say I got about 80% of my ingredients from producers within a couple hundred miles of NYC.

I started with small vendors specializing in local goods like Saxelby Cheesemonger in Essex Market and Vintage New York in SoHo. Then there were many trips to the local Green Markets held throughout the week in the parks around New York City. As a last resort I found that Wholefoods actually has a decent selection of locally sourced food, all of which is conveniently labeled with a big green "local" sticker.

By buying local goods you not only help out small family run farms, but you're also reducing your carbon footprint because it doesn't need to be trucked/trained/flown in from across the country.

The social and environmental impact aside, I like buying local because the food just tastes better and is better for you. With fruit they are typically organic and riper/sweeter because they don't have to be picked green (to survive the shipping time). Meat tends to be more flavorful because the animals are fed wholesome natural diets rather than the hormone and antibiotic laden formulas used in overcrowded feedlots trying to maximize a large corporation's bottom line.

For those that have wondered what you can accomplish in the trailer-home-sized kitchens provided with most Manhattan apartments, this whole dinner (as well as every recipe on this blog) was prepped in this kitchen. No, there isn't more to it that's been cropped off, that's all of it. This shot was taken from the middle of my living room.

After a day of work, the theft of 2 folding chairs from work, and the acquisition of a $20 card table off Craigslist, I was in business. I set up a dimmer on the room lighting and used candles on the tables to create some ambiance. The glassware and flatware were a bit of a grab bag, but I figured I could pass that off euphemistically as "charm".

So what was for dinner at No Menus? Read on for the course-by-course replay. Hit the links for recipes.

Faux Gras de Poulet with vanilla white plum preserve and brioche

Frozen Caprese Salad - Heirloom tomato granita on top of basil and fresh mozzarella

Kuromitsu pork chop served with kinako powder and creamy maple polenta succotash

Selection of four local cheeses: Mecox Sunrise, Prima Cacciotta, Sprout Creek Rita, Old Chatham Ewe's Blue

Kaffir Lime yogurt panna cotta with a summer rasberry puree.

The best part? This restaurant comes with a couch to lounge around on after dinner.

For more photos of the event check out our Flickr album. Many thanks go out to Foodbuzz for making this happen, as well as all the local vendors for putting up with my incessant questions about the source of their food. Also special thanks to L for all her help in making this thing happen.

Disclaimer: For any city health inspectors that may be reading this post, I didn't collect any money from my guests, so there was no food being sold to the public.


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