I have attended my fair share of pop up dinners, tasting, pairings, and foodie events, but I have been very fearful of taking the plunge and hosting my own food related event. Everything I know is self taught so I don't always have confidence in my abilities given that I am the teacher and the student. My doubts were put to rest one evening after I paid $75 at a pop up dinner that had me looking for a Whataburger on the way home. I figure I had a fighting chance to put on a halfway decent dinner if I can pay $75 to be disappointed by someone that makes a living cooking. And so the MsIndependent Brunch was created.
Of course a pop up needs a theme, so mine was summer time fresh! I have grown to love local farmers markets, particularly the Urban Harvest Farmer's Market off Richmond. There is an amazing sense of vibrancy and zest for life when I come home and literally take things from the farm to my table. In preparation for the pop up brunch, I sat down with a friend that shares my love for food ( and my discriminating taste), and we created a menu solely based on the produce found at the market. I took these pictures a few weeks before designing the menu to give me an idea on what I might work with.
The flowers below found their way on my table at only $4 a bouquet. The market of course has produce but they also have vendors that supply meat ( including bison), fish, eggs, cheese, honey, soap, flowers, orchids, desserts, coffee, wine, and more. After a little bit of research and some inspiration from Pinterest, the menu for my pop up was finalized and ready for public eyes. To ensure that everything was fresh I waited til the Saturday before the Sunday brunch to pick up my produce. This is where seasonal produce can be really annoying. In just a week's time certain items that I needed were no longer in season, so I headed to Whole Food to fill in the blanks.
So once the menu is complete what else goes into creating a pop up? A lot of running around looking for affordable linens, napkins and dinnerware, and even more washing, chopping, and prepping veggies. I had a friend and her daughter come over to help me carve dozen of melon balls and shave cucumbers, while I mixed, tasted and tested. I did a practice run of making the crepes to be sure I got the consistency right, and pre-made the tomato jam for the shrimp and grits since I had never made it before. I hated the original recipe and completely went off script and ended up with a concoction that was a huge hit! When you follow your instincts over a recipe, magic happens. I jotted down a schedule of how everything would run for the brunch ( just in case things went as planned) and went to bed ready for game day!
The next morning I meticulously set up the table and nerves gave way to excitement. I was doing this! I was ready, and after years of just thinking about it, I was finally doing it. As guests arrived they were greeted with either a mimosa or sangria, and once everyone had arrived, the plates hit the table. Here's what was served.
The BLT Spring Roll with Avocado Vinaigrette made its way out first followed by the Watermelon Salad. The salad was labor intensive but simple. I might consider this a breakfast option from now on.
Next was the sweet and savory crepes. Here is where I hit a bit of a snag in my plans. I made the mistake of cooking some of the crepes in the skillet that I used the night before for my trial run, and adding an additional pan to expedite the process. Only problem is that pan cooked too fast, and the skillet cooked much slower, so I burned enough of the crepes meant for the sweet crepes that I had to stop and mix more batter. The only problem is I premixed the batter the night before, and in my now panicked state I couldn't remember the exact portions to mix all the ingredients. Getting the portions right and working with one slow skillet set me back quite a bit, so for obvious reasons I didn't snap any pics of the sweet crepes when they were ready, but the savory dill crepes came out perfect.
The shrimp and grits were my biggest risk and my biggest reward. Grits can be under-cooked, bland, too strong, dry and pasty, so although it's an easy enough thing to make, it can go wrong many different ways. My grits came out perfectly, the shrimp weren't rubbery or hard, and the tomato jam was a hit.
I use to love baking but it's been awhile since I've so much as baked a cookie, so I made sure to leave the desserts to more qualified hands. I did however make the baked peach with cinnamon ricotta cheese, but my best friend made the lemon pudding cake, and Kelly, owner of Bare Bakery, was kind enough to donate gluten free brownies.
Overall everything went well, I stayed calm and in control despite the crepe incident, and what's most important, everyone enjoyed the experience. I talked with the ladies after brunch about what inspired me and my philosophy on food, and as I was talking I realized that I really need to keep this going. Years ago I competed in a bodybuilding competition, and at that time I learned that food is fuel and nothing else. It doesn't have to taste good you just need to eat it as a function of nourishment and that's it. Since then I have learned that food can be love, comfort, a way to celebrate, and a common ground for all to stand on. My views on food are now somewhere in the middle. Food interacts with our body's cells, affects our mood, our lifespan, so why not respect where it comes from and how it's served? I'm excited for the next pop up and the opportunity to share my love and philosophy on food with those that love it too.