This past Sunday evening brought a unique experience to Chattanooga-and that distinctiveness is measured by the high standard set by the constantly innovating Scenic City Supper Club team. In the ninth iteration of the dinner party series, a single table was set up in the middle of a downtown street to seat the largest crowd the event has hosted yet.
One hundred and fifty people attended Party in the Passageways: Spring Block Party, which was held in the 700 block of Cherry Street, beside the Urban Chandelier and Garden Grass Inversions, Chattanooga’s public alleyway art exhibits. Presented by Easy Bistro & Bar‘s Erik and Amanda Niel and Nooga.com, the dinner featured the culinary talents of Adam Evans, former executive chef of The Optimist and Brezza Cucina in Atlanta, who will shortly be the chef/owner of a new concept restaurant in Birmingham.
Evans collaborated with Erik (executive chef and owner of Easy Bistro and Main Street Meats) to create a four-course meal in one of the city’s most artistic locations. They worked with pastry chef Dane Frazier of St. John’s Restaurant; grillmaster Lawton Haygood of Boathouse Rotisserie and Raw Bar, Canyon Grill, Side Track and Sugar’s Ribs; chef Jake Cornish of Main Street Meats; and owner and brewer Joe Winland of Heaven and Ale.
As the supper clubbers arrived, they encountered a single long table, constructed by Haskel Sears Design and adorned with floral arrangements by Petaline Floral and dinnerware from McQueen Pottery. Lights were strung over the scene by Solid Rock, and PV Design provided hosting space at their office, right next to the dinner’s setting. San Pellegrino provided water for the tables, and Hand Family Cos. supplied the brews from their extensive list of products. The details of the night were captured by photographer Jaime Smialek of Our Ampersand Photography.
A welcome cocktail called “Spring Affair” from Brandy Cross at Easy Bistro combined Chattanooga Whiskey, strawberry allspice, angostura, ginger beer and lemon. Wiseacre’s Tony Bomb American pilsner was also available for sipping while guests wandered and nibbled hors d’oeuvres. Winland curated a selection of beer pairings for the meal, which began with the sweet and sour Hibiscus Gose from Boulevard Brewing to go with the appetizers.
The starters included a rye cracker with pickled ramp pimento cheese from Frazier; Haygood’s grilled oysters Rockefeller with ramp butter, Main Street Meats bacon, watercress and Asiago; cured mullet on a paste of English peas with a fried garlic benne seed oil, created by Evans; and Cornish’s Main Street Meats bacon rillettes on a charred baguette with pickled ramps and kimchi powder.
While the crowd mingled, the creative team was hard at work nearby on the dinner courses, which were cooking on KUDU Safari Braai grills and then plated on tables set up at the south end of the block. As guests made their way to the tables, they were able to watch the meal come together in an amazing choreography of activity that moved from fire to plate.
The dinner began with Bell’s Brewing Co. Oberon, a classic summer ale, paired with Cornish’s gorgeous smoked Pickett’s trout with strawberries, ramps, peas and squash blossoms, served on a smear of hibiscus labneh with rhubarb caviar. It was light, colorful and packed with flavor. Some delicious bread also appeared on the table during the first course-a tangy rosemary sourdough contributed by Frazier.
The second course featured Heaven and Ale‘s debut brew, Born Again pale ale, served along with Haygood’s incredible wood-roasted pork tamale cochinita pibil, wrapped in a banana leaf and served with a grilled ramp-tomatillo salsa. It was a spicy turn, nicely leading up to the featured dish from the dinner’s headline chef.
For the penultimate course, Winland chose Founders Curmudgeon old ale, a malty oak-aged brew, paired with the entrée from Evans: swordfish, which contrasted beautifully with a savory glazed oxtail marmalade, all served with marinated spring vegetables and a soubise of melted onion thickened with risotto rice and finished with crème fraîche.
This adventure of a meal was capped off with a dessert course that opened with Goose Island Beer Co.’s Lolita, a wild Belgian-style cabernet barrel-aged ale. And Frazier finished with a flourishing blueberry cheesecake sundae with toasted almonds and fresh mint, served in a crisp shell alongside a blueberry macaron. It was a sweet finish to a wonderfully paced dinner, which ended just as a chill was starting to settle into the spring evening.
In his welcoming remarks as the event began, Erik reminded guests that the impetus behind this ongoing series of creative experiences is to “do something together that’s fun, noncompetitive and allows us to share our talents.” Anyone watching the delight of the diners and the rapport among the collaborating creatives, chefs and volunteers who pulled it off would agree that they hit the mark yet again.
Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.