This supper was designed for the concept of inciting conversation and building community. I used half plates, serving only half the meal to some people, and the other half of the meal to the rest; in order for the guests to complete their meals, they would need to interact, communicate, and share to get everything that was served. The food, done by Leif Hedendal, was an important part of the meal and was showcased through the subtle (and not so subtle) eating design.
I really wanted to really play up the awkwardness and messiness of the half plates and use the table as an eating surface. We put a total of nine different hour d' ourves out on the table (literally, on the table) for people to nibble on while they waited for the meal to begin. People were able to get comfortable with the food not having to stay just on the plate starting with the finger food and eating off the table; it was a good segue into the plate swap. Leif out did himself with the menu, it was incredible. We picked up everything from the Portland Farmer's Market early that day; there was an amazing selection of so much fresh produce (Portland has a great farmers market:). It was interesting to be a part of Leif's process too; picking the freshest produce that morning, tweaking the menu a few times over, and working out what could go on the table vs. plates. He is a true chef with incredible skills!
chips (fresh potato slices with an oregano leaf through the middle, fried)
crispy lotus root
chevre and crispy artichoke crostini
sichimi togarashi popcorn
assorted breads with home made butter and smoked salt
raw radishes with home made butter and murray river salt
carrots, turnips, chiogga beets, and green garlic with nettles and asparagus
tahini Cauliflower with piment d'espelette and fried ginger
greens with porcini and cherry
wild fungi and roasted shallot galette
leaves with fennel, kumquat, and Pedro Ximenez
Abbaye de Belloc
flourless chocolate cake
People enjoyed the food as well as the company. This experience with the half plates, food on the table, and awkwardness of using one's hands to eat was a fun and easy way to get people involved with one another that in a traditional dining situation may not have happened. I am so interested in how social barriers can be broken down with just a few simple gestures, allowing people from different walks of life to come together at the same table and share who they are/ what they know. The food was absolutely amazing (Leif cooks a few times a month at Chez Panisse in SF). But most interesting for me was the pairing of this excellent quality meal with how it was consumed. Eating it without all the rules of a five star restaurant took away those social barriers (there weren't even any butter knives on the table, people only had forks and a cup) that could easily have cropped up; table manners have huge class implications, I wanted to see what would happen when people were only given a bare minimum (and a half one at that)! The dinner was a sucess on all fronts; I am excited to have done this and am looking forward to my next eating design event!