In praise of the pop-up, plus closings, openings, and rumor-mongerings
After the social media explosion in response to last week's story about the San Antonio Cocktail Conference ("The Elephant in the Room," Jan. 25), all I can say is, off with my head! I hired a San Antonio writer to cover it for us and made the mistake of trusting the information he submitted. Next year, I'll arrange to send someone knowledgeable from the local cocktail community as a blogger for the Chronicle. Tipsy Texan David Alan was a presenter at the conference, and he described to me the local reaction to our coverage this way: "If that guy attended the conference at all, it sure sounded like he attended a completely different conference than the rest of us. It was a cocktail conference, so of course people were pushing the envelope with their recipes and networking is what industry trade shows are designed for. His observation that no one was drinking seemed ridiculous, too. Sampling drinks starts at 10am and goes all day. We've even added a panel addressing the issue of how to cover these kinds of events in moderation. And there's absolutely no way anyone who was there could have mistaken Jessica Sanders for her husband in drag. Mike was in the front row, cheering her on!" Our sincere apologies to everyone concerned. We won't let this happen again.
Pop-up restaurants are a hot culinary trend across the country just now, and seeing one in action was what I enjoyed most about covering the Indie Chefs Week pop-up dinners hosted by Foreign & Domestic earlier this month. For four nights in a row, a different lineup of chefs put out distinctive tasting menus paired with wines from area vintners. Check out our photo galleries (austinchronicle.com/photos) for Jeff Scott's excellent photos from the event. I also had the opportunity to interview three young chefs who are at the cutting edge of the pop-up trend in California: Gary Menes, who operates the wildly popular Le Comptoir in Glendale; Craig Thornton, whose hot-ticket Wolvesmouth dinners in Los Angeles are about to move from his loft apartment to a brick-and-mortar spot; and David Barzelay, creator of the Lazy Bear rogue dining events that sell out weekly in San Francisco's Mission District. While each young man has a somewhat different spin on the pop-up concept, all are using the dinners to build the financial base and a loyal clientele for an eventual brick-and-mortar business. They also had one more thing in common – a passion for creating food their way, without the straightjacket of a regular, established menu. Local practitioners of the pop-up concept also demonstrate that independent culinary spirit: A lineup of guest chefs regularly strut their stuff at 2 Dine 4 Fine Catering's Swoop House in East Austin, selling out a variety of different menus to a huge email list; chef Sonya Coté's quirky Homegrown Revival dinners pop up in the most interesting places; and musician/cook Fiore Tedesco's new L'Oca D'Oro supper club will be taking over Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th) on Sunday nights for a dinner series titled Dinners to Rock to. Firmly rooted in the Sunday dinner traditions of his Italian family heritage, Tedesco's weekly dinners will be built around a different rock band, with each of the five courses drawing inspiration from a specific album. The musical foundations of the dinners will be announced a month at a time, and tickets for the 6:30pm and 9pm seatings ($125 per person with wine pairings; $90 without) are available at www.locadoroaustin.com. Space is limited, and we hear seats are selling like, well, Franklin's brisket.