Underground dining comes to Memphis

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending the first Clandestino Dining event in Memphis. Clandestino is a Chicago-based underground supper club. Attendees view a 7-to-10 course gourmet menu and RSVP and pay in advance, and the venue is not announced until the day before. Venues are usually cool spaces like art galleries and warehouses.

The people who operate Clandestino are on my BBQ team, the Ques Brothers. On Tuesday, they sent out a message to the group, saying they were looking for a photographer who would work for food. I stepped up. They gave me permission to post some of the photos I took on my blog, so here’s a look at what we had to eat:

We began the evening at Art Village Gallery at 410 S. Main for cocktails.
Guanciale-wrapped grilled strawberries were the hors d’oeuvres at Art Village.
We then moved down the street to a second location that had been kept secret from the attendees – the back room of Earnestine & Hazel’s – for dinner.
As the first course was being prepared, guests were entertained by a honky tonk band.
The theme of the menu was the Seven Deadly Sins. The first course, “Greed,” was a Chicken Fried Oyster Po’ Boy, housemade bretzel roll, harissa remoulade, pickled green tomatoes, and watercress.
Second course, “Sloth,” Pea, Mint, and Pork Trotter Soup w/ water cracker.
Third course, “Envy,” Baby lettuce and herb salad, honey vinaigrette, local cheese tasting.
Fourth course was “Lust.” Maize Sope w/ Trout Gravlax, pickled ramps and rhubarb, and fresh strawberries.
At that point we had a palate refresher, Cucumber Oregano Sorbet or as one guest called it, “a cucumber popsicle.” Here’s a pic of the Nuh-Uh Girl eating.
Course five, “Greed,” Foie Gras French Toast w/ Maple Gastrique and Peach Compote. The Nuh-Uh Girl enjoyed this course so much that she came back to the kitchen to see if there were leftovers.
Chef Efrain, in Clandestino-logo apron, carrying the sixth course, “Wrath,” Mustard Green Pappardelle w/ Braised Oxtail Ragu.
Seventh course, “Pride,” Chocolate Basil Ice Cream, Honey Panna Cotta, Chocolate Meringue Cookie, Mexican Chocolate Truffle, and Strawberry Fizz.

When Clandestino Dining started in Chicago, it was originally a true underground dining club, flouting the city/state licensing requirements. This is why venues are only announced the day before the dinner. A few years ago, they went legit, acquiring a catering license. In Memphis they partnered with Circa/Bar None chef John Bragg to make things all nice’n’legit.

Additional photos will be on the Clandestino Dining website soon. The dinner seemed to be well received, and I know they are contemplating a return to Memphis. If you’d like to see them come back, get on their site, shoot them an email and let them know.

Thanks so much to Efrain and his crew for letting me shoot photos, hang out in the kitchen, and eat. It was an experience I’ll never forget.