Good Food Attitude at VUDE

There’s an interesting allure to the secret (and not-so-secret) dining scene, with its underground restaurants and supper clubs and the like. Especially in Seattle, the in-crowd wants to be in-the-know and on-the-list for culinary events. The craze is partly why events like Foodportunity and Baconopolis and Feedingtubetopia (okay, I made that one up) are so successful. The larger events draw people who want to see and be seen, taste and (in a way) be tasted. In contrast, the smaller events appeal to the more adventurous—those who are willing to roll the dice on both the menu and the people at their communal table.

I recently rolled the dice on dinner at The Wandering Table. “At” might not be the best word, as The Wandering Table, like the name implies, moves for its monthly meals. Changing cities. Changing venues. Changing diners. Changing seasons. Changing ingredients. Constant is Adam Hegsted, Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort’s executive chef, with a brother or two in tow. (Ryan serves as second-in-command in the kitchen.)

A “secret” dinner enables chefs to play and experiment. The Hegsteds construct menus with one ingredient (or technique) providing the transition from one course to the next. For example, charred corn with shaved pecorino and truffle was followed by shaved celery with peanut butter and carbonated raisins, which gave way to peanut butter-chocolate tart with raspberry and sourdough ice cream. Playful, indeed.

With Wandering Table, the menu is not secretive—it’s posted on their website for all to see—but the venue is held secret until a last-minute email. There are about a dozen dishes per dinner, typically designed for no more than a dozen people. My dinner crowd was about three times that number, so the chefs might have been more stretched than usual, resulting in some execution errors through the course of the night. (Pasta was too cold, egg yolks set instead of runny, and plating inconsistent.)

Still, I loved the transitions between the dishes and some of the surprising flavor combinations. Plating was interesting, like walking through a modern art museum with debating critics in your earplugs. And each course provided something to think about, talk about, and sometimes laugh about—including nostalgic notions like Green Eggs and Ham, ants on a log, and peanut butter + jelly.

Less secretive, and well-worth knowing about, is VUDE: Velvet Underground Dining Experience. Owner Jon Staenberg is a venture capitalist and a food and wine enthusiast who has built a fabulous venue for events in South Lake Union. The open kitchen is not just a treat for the diners, but the chefs rave about it as well. For more information and to get on the list for future events, like The Wandering Table’s pop-up dinner, check out the VUDE website.

And check out the photos below of VUDE (you might get a glimpse of the Hand of God, an inspiration for one of Staenberg’s passions, which will play a prominent role at VUDE), as well as shots of the meal, captioned exactly from the menu I received, with the “transition” item in uppercase.

Clay Baked Clams. PINENUTS. pine. brown butter vinaigrette.

Pinenuts Milanese. WA chicken osso bucco. PEAS. tomatoes.

Pea soup. Parmesan. poached EGG. proscuitto.

Eggstravaganza. quail. roe. chicken. DUCK.

Duck ham. fig. MELON soup. almonds.

waterMelon tartare. pickled rind. tuna. tempura. BASIL.

Basil-orange sorbet. (Intermezzo, and actually one of my favorite bites of the dinner.)

Pork dishes getting plated.

Roasted Pork. CORN. seaweed. sesame seeds. black pepper pasta.

Charred Corn. SHAVED pecorino. truffle.

Shaved celery. PEANUT BUTTER ice cream. carbonated raisins. (Ants on a log, anyone?)

Chefs preparing the dessert course.

Sweetness times infinity.

Peanut Butter-chocolate tart. RASPBERRY. sourdough ice cream.

Raspberry-pepper truffles. dark chocolate.

Inside VUDE.

Another look inside VUDE.

VUDE’s kitchen, where The Wandering Table landed for one night.

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