ONCE in Valhalla Pop-Up Dinner

By: Anne Vickman

When I was a kid, dinnertime fun meant my dad, older brother, and I sticking our mashed-potato-laden tongues out at one another from across the dinner table until someone couldn’t keep a straight face anymore. Now that I’m ostensibly a grown-up, mealtime merriment involves events like the ONCE in Valhalla pop-up dinner at Somerville’s Arts at the Armory this Saturday, January 22. Hosted by JJ Gonson of personal chef service Cuisine en Locale, this ONCE (One Night Culinary Event) dinner is a Scandinavian-mythology-themed feast for 200, using about 97 percent local ingredients—including lamb, quail, beets, and carrots from local farms, as well as Duxbury’s famed Island Creek Oysters.

So what is Valhalla, exactly? “It’s the name of the dining room in heaven, Asgard,” explains Gonson, who has hosted more than 15 ONCE dinners thus far. “In Scandinavian mythology, if you fall in battle you go to Valhalla, where Odin, who is like Zeus, has a big dining room where everyone goes to party.” Actors dressed as Odin, Thor, and other famous gods will sup with the guests—keep an eye out for Njord, god of the sea, who may or may not look exactly like Island Creek’s C.J. Husk.

A Lord and Lady ticket, priced at $85, gets you all the food you can eat. A Brute Squad ticket (“Always get a Princess Bride reference in, if possible,” jokes Gonson) is the vegetarian option at $70, while a Peasant ticket ($55) is a vegetarian pass but doesn’t come with a hat. Ah yes, how could we forget to mention the hats? Local designer Short Army will provide a hand-knit, horned Viking hat with detachable braids for each (non-Peasant) ticket-holder. Pretty Things is making a cask ale specifically for the event (Jack D’or and St. Botolph’s Town will also be available), while Green River Ambrosia will supply the mead. Feasters take note, though: Alcohol costs extra.

Gonson’s MO is to support local farmers—and between growing seasons is when they need the most help. “I will be writing huge checks to farms that really need it,” she says. “This isn’t a profitable enterprise, but to me this is what the whole project is about: a chance to give local farms a big payday.”

Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-718-2191, artsatthearmory.org.

Tickets can be purchased here.