What You Missed at Further Food Stuffs’ First Pop-Up in Somerville
There are many reasons that enterprising chefs put together a pop-up dinner: the ability to experiment with new flavors and ideas, the opportunity to lure investors for upcoming restaurants, or, simply, to surround one’s self with friends. Further Food Stuff, the joint venture from chef Dan Amighi (La Brasa, Ribelle, Bondir) and barman Patrick Gaggiano (Viale, Brick & Mortar, La Brasa), falls into the latter category. Launched last month in La Brasa’s adjacent marketplace, the twenty-seat dinner is a welcome break from the regimented, multi-course sit-down monotony of most pop-up concepts. First and foremost, the two restaurant veterans want to create an intimate, laid-back atmosphere that’s fun.
That might seem obvious for any successful dining experience, but the idea of a “fun,” no-pressure dinner party is something that chefs love to name-drop, yet rarely manage in the staid (and all too often doomed) tasting menu format.
“How we look at it is, what would we cook for people if we had them over at our house?” Gaggiano says. “We don’t release a menu because we’re very adamant that in this day and age where everyone is Instagramming pictures and all the research can be done about a restaurant beforehand, that we don’t suck the romance and mystique out of visiting a restaurant. We just want people to know that there will be cocktails, wine on the table, and shots in between courses. It’s more of a choose-your-own-adventure story. There’s tons of wiggle room.”
The key for Amighi and Gaggiano? Limiting the guest list to 25, max, so they “give everyone some individualized attention,” and maintaining an organic sense of spontaneity, which the two pull off by creating most of the menu the day of. On the cusp of Further Food Stuffs’ second installment (stay tuned for an announcement on that front), we’ve asked the two founders how they approach the precarious pop-up, the type of ingredients that inspire them, and how they manage to execute “a very loose and whimsical” experience that’s, well, fun.
Kumamoto oysters with Meyer lemon
Champagne cocktail with Crème Yvette, Greenhook Old Tom Gin, lemon juice
Amighi: I spent some time on the West Coast and I fell in love with the flavor of Kumamoto oysters. And Meyer lemons are great because you can eat the whole thing. It’s kind of like a kumquat. I had a surplus of oysters at the end of shucking and we didn’t have any trays or anything, so I just loaded them up in my hands and walked around and was like, “Have an oyster!” We both come from pretty formal service backgrounds, so this pop-up format really allows us to do some fun stuff.
Smoked Martha’s Vineyard Bay scallops, avocado, pickled purple daikon, beet jam, celery root sourdough bread
“King of Downtown” with Krogstad Aquavit, Carpano Antica Bianco vermouth, amontillado sherry, Bols Genever rinse
Amighi: Most restaurants wouldn’t make bread its own course, but we chose to do so because we made this really nice celery root sourdough, which we served with a terrine of smoked Martha’s Vineyard Bay scallops, avocado, and pickled daikon. Essentially it was like bread and butter dish with the terrine acting as the butter—avocados and scallops being super creamy and buttery.
Gaggiano: We had wines just kind of placed around the table, a couple bigger reds like some barberas. We also had chilled rose if anyone wanted it. But we did pair a cocktail with each course, and these were full cocktails, none of that one-ounce crap. You’re drinking a cocktail! I made this one with Carpano Bianco, aquavit, amontillado sherry, and a rinse of Bols Genever, because to me that always smells really bready and herbaceous.
Scup torched over cedar, bay, and kombu. Salted yellow eye peas, burnt bay macerated cherries, toasted hemp seed, mushroom and kombu broth
“Guy Gin” with Luxardo Maraschino, sake, lime juice, Mezcal rinse
Amighi: Scup’s got a bunch of different names, but here in Massachusetts we just call it scup. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s a bycatch, but it’s certainly not a prized fish. It’s not the prom queen. But I think it’s delicious. It’s got darker flesh, and even though it’s not an oily fish, it’s certainly got more of an assertive flavor. We first brined it in maple water, salt, and rice wine vinegar, which helps draw out the blood and firms up the flesh. Once again, I went with that West Coast vibe thing and played off of cedar-roasted salmon. We placed the scup on kombu and bay leaf, and torched it, so it picks up all that flavor. The fish is still pretty much raw on the bottom, but you get that nice crispy skin.
Gaggiano: [La Brasa bartender] Ryan Sullivan helped me out with this one. He actually serves a version of this drink on his menu at La Brasa. I used a nice medium sake, some Luxardo to sweeten it up, a touch of lime juice, and we rimmed the glass with mezcal to play off the smoky flavors of the scup. This was the only drink that was like a little shooter, but it was more to sober everyone up before we hit them hard.
SWEET POTATO COURSE
Baby sweet potatoes roasted with dashi, two-year-old beer vin, roasted kale, pomello, Thai spice
“Blood Red Bridge” with amontillado sherry, grapefruit juice, Cynar, agave syrup, salt
Gaggiano: We were still writing the menus that day at 3 o’clock, finalizing them. That might change at future pop-ups, but we never want to slap a menu down on the table and say, “This is how it is.” We want to be able to go to the store that day and find something fresh and sort of shoot from the hip.
Amighi: I was at Siena Farms on the day of the event and they had these amazing little sweet potatoes that were hardly bigger than your finger. So I roasted them in La Brasa’s wood over with dashi and Genny Cream Ale. When I was working at Ribelle we used to take Genny Cream Ale and make vinegar out of it, so that’s a nice aged beer vinegar that we used. We topped the whole thing with a little spice seasoning made out of the pomelo zest, lime zest, and some Thai chilies, all ground into a powder.
Wood-roasted duck breast, parsley puree, hot sauce, roasted sunchokes tossed, dill, Meyer lemon juice.
“Heavy is the Head” with Four Roses bourbon, lemon juice, stepped maple syrup, burnt rosemary smoke
Amighi: Duck is my favorite thing to cook, hands down. The duck aged for about a week in La Brasa’s walk-in, which Daniel [Bojorquez] was nice enough to let us use. Aging it takes out some of that moisture and really concentrates the flavor of the duck. It also gives bacteria some time to do its thing, kind of like it would when you’re aging steaks. If you’re not going to be super French-y about, this is the best method for cooking duck because the fat renders out really easily. It’s nature’s way of preparing it. I plated the duck breast on a little parsley puree, roasted sunchokes, and a hot sauce I make out of roasted sunchoke and Mexican chilies; it’s almost a mole.
Gaggiano: This is where I got super douchey. I got tired of everyone taking pictures of all of Dan’s beautiful food, so I decided to blowtorch some shit. We blowtorched the hell out of some rosemary in a pan until it caught fire, then smoked the glass so it gave that wintery, cabin-like feel. I combined Four Roses bourbon with lemon juice and some Vermont maple syrup that I reduced down with brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice, vanilla beans, raisins, and apples. This is what I like to drink when I make cocktails, which isn’t that often. I’m a Genny Cream Ale kind of guy.
Layered crepe and frangipane, Fernet whipped cream, barley brittle
“Coffee and Cigarettes” with house-made sunflower orgeat syrup, milk, Borghetti, Fernet-Branca, American Spirit light blues
Amighi: I wouldn’t say I’m a pastry chef by any means, but when I was working at Bondir I did some pastry and when I was at Ribelle I would workshop desserts with my buddy Jake [Novick-Finder]. So, I took all their great knowledge and bastardized it. I made just a ton of crepe batter and sat there and made something like a hundred crepes. We had pretty limited resources at La Brasa, so I just took a blanching pot, lined it with grease and sugar, and layered the crepes with a sunflower frangipane. It came out almost a foot tall. And that Fernet whipped cream? When I made it I didn’t think it was all that boozy, but when I tasted it the next day it was like rocket fuel.
Gaggiano: I wanted to do something that looked and tasted like coffee, so I mixed together milk, Borghetti, and Fernet for the kind of earthiness you get from good coffee. The real key though was the house-made sunflower orgeat syrup, which we made from like three cups of almonds and six cups of sunflower seeds. That barely made enough for 25. It just doesn’t yield that much, but it tastes so good, almost like mascarpone. We shook it up so it looked like a frothed espresso. Dan was nice enough to actually let me skewer American Spirits as a garnish. It was cool, because people actually went outside and smoked them. We’re not smokers ourselves, but I think people appreciated the joke.