a few months ago I read that chef Tony Adams of Big Wheel Provisions and the Big Wheel Food Truck was opening a pop-up restaurant for five or six days to serve full dinners based on the same local and nose-to-tail principles that he uses at the food truck. I was so excited that we would be able to have a fun and unique dinner experience, until Z found out that the trip was going to be real and fall over the same time period that the pop-up-named Kennebec, was going to be open. I lamented the fact to one of my co-workers and less than an hour later she chimed across the cubicles, ‘We’ve got a reservation!’ Hurrah-something to look forward to! Well, the big day arrived and my co-worker was lamentably downed by the flu. But our reservation included my boss and along with her husband and daughter we decided to go anyway.
We arrived at the location, a multi-use location close to downtown Orlando where anyone can rent office or meeting space for an hour, morning or day, called Urban Rethink. It can be used as a workspace or meeting space and is a unique space. We were seated quickly at a long table that would be considered somewhat communal. You could be seated with space in between or right next to your neighbor. We were seated in the four seats at the end of the row and had a brief explanation of what the evening would hold. Part of the proceeds from our check would include a donation to Urban Rethink and our server would be right with us. The menu was updated and changed each evening to reflect what was available that day in the marketplace and local farms. They brought the printed menus and a drink menu. I ordered a complicated drink that turned out to be a beer cocktail called the Fogdog that included Meyer Lemon, Ginger, Witbier, Vanilla and Honey Bitters. At first sip I wasn’t won over but it kind of grew on me and in retrospect was super refreshing. They also delivered a brussels sprout amuse and I asked our server what it was and she said she would check….
fog·dog (fôg dôg , -d g , f g -). n. A bright or clear spot that appears in breaking fog.
We shared two appetizers – Banh Mi Pork Rillettes – a small bit of toasted baguette with some fresh vegetables and fish sauce and my favorite, Rhody style sweet corn johnny cakes with sweet duck confit, celery leaf, white birch syrup and fuji apple. I loved this and am going to try to make some corn pancakes soon at home. I love the idea of a savory pancake with soft meat and a bit of crisp apple. For my main course, three of us in our group ordered braised Kurobata pork cheeks with roasted carrots and spaetzle. I do want to pull back a minute here and talk about the funny servicewear. At some point during our meal we realized everything was from Ikea. I suppose if you were running a short term place that you wouldn’t want to go in big on dishes and I guess Ikea is less costly even than renting. We also commented on and liked the garnishes of aspen printed paper straws in our drinks and little bamboo paper cups with tea lights. But that pork rose way above the humble dishware. Succulent and soft but still with enough chew and texture to be pleasing. And the spaetzle was cooked but had a little chew and a bit of crispness, maybe from a pan finish. It was topped with some fresh lemony gremolata and creme fraiche Rahm sauce. I got to taste the lamb bolognese made with local 4-H lamb and Anson Mills polenta. I really liked the polenta as a change from the standard noodles I have always had.
I finished with a blueberry hand pie with maple pop rocks on top and a spoon of creme fraiche. So amazing. The fizz of the maple against the earthy sweet blueberries. Lovely. We also enjoyed other offerings including a deconstructed key lime pie with the wierdest molecular jellies of dark and stormy and the most delightful creamy merigue and dollop of sweet tart key limes. It was an interesting evening. Our server never did tell me what the amuse had in it and at some point I realized that I had met her before. She said, ‘you know, I’m sorry – I’m a fish monger at my day job.’ It got me thinking about how pop-ups do it-get staff and servers but I suppose it is mostly friends and colleagues who have a stake in what they are doing. Our server is a fish monger who just a couple of weeks ago had given part of our tour at Lake Meadow Naturals, explaining the fishing methods and line catches of Wild Ocean. I told her I remembered her at this point and she was cute, telling us we had been great guests and she loved serving us. My boss busted out with, ‘Kathy has a blog-it’s myurbanpantry’ and handed me a pen so I could write it down for her. She reciprocated by offering me a tour of Wild Ocean which reminds me that I need to get out there and do that!
Overall I enjoyed the experience. It was fun and we missed our other co-worker (I reserve all their names for their privacy.) I’d do it again and again. Z didn’t get to have all the fun this time. **And an after the fact note-Chef Tony Adams is closing up shop and moving to Nantucket to take a position. This makes me sad. We are losing a great asset and his food will be missed.