I thought you might say yes!
I’ve told you before about my love for pop-up events and one-of-a-kind experiences — there’s something so fun and exclusive about them! So when I heard Filigree Suppers, a pop-up dining experience in Chicago, NYC and beyond, was hosting an evening of 19th century proportions, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Especially since the evening was being held at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, The Winchester.
Bent on offering intimate, one-of-a-kind meals while showcasing local talent and American craftsmanship, Filigree Suppers was launched by Elise Metzger and Brita Olsen to celebrate their love for food, design and good conversation. And their 19th Century supper entitled “Victoria & America” perfectly bridged their vision with historical accuracy and some incredible local talent.
Dining in the 19th century was a far more civilized and orchestrated process than it is now, often involving more than seven courses complete with palette cleansers! While modern meals often follow the simple formula of “appetizer, possibly soup/salad, entrée, and then dessert”, Victorian meals were grand productions that narrated a unique culinary tale as you moved through each course.
So are you ready?
Grab your top hats and corsets — we’re about to travel back in time! To set the mood, the supper was beautifully appointed with towering floral arrangements from Asrai Garden as well as countless bowls and glass boxes of colorful terrariums. Much of the lighting was candlelight as well, adding a gorgeous warm glow to the ambiance as our meal progressed.
Once Hubby and I were seated, we found lovely personalized calling cards (a Victorian tradition that predates the “business” card) as well as a stunning marblelized custom spoon by Leah Ball who also designed the plates and bowls our dinner was served on. Hubby was convinced his calling card was the spitting image of him…We were also given large booklets with the evening’s menu printed on the cover, whetting our appetite.
Inside we found pages of information surrounding the Victorian dining culture and the history behind many of the design elements that played into the atmosphere of our supper that evening.
We started out with one of my new favorite cocktails, the “Strawberry Thief”: City of London Gin, Trouussippinette Blanc, Lemon, Strawberry Syrup, Ancho Chili Liquor and Mint. Named after a print designed by William Morris (originally inspired by birds stealing fruit from his garden), this fruity concoction had a sweet, spring flavor that was positively addictive! Not to mention photogenic! Our first course consisted of this steaming appetizer, Oysters Katherine — oysters roasted with cream, garlic, onion and mushroom. It was a rich and creamy spread that tasted both comforting and luxurious. Next came a sprawling platter of fried smelts with sauce tartare. Hubby had never eaten a smelt before but with a little positive encouragement from our fellow diners, he took the plunge… and LOVED THEM!
Smelts lend themselves beautifully to being fried because their salty nature doesn’t get lost in the process. In the end you’re left with a satisfyingly crunchy dish that tastes like an oceanic fried onion string!
Our second course consisted of this clarified bone broth flavored with lemon, ginger and a light mirepoix to cleanse the palette and strengthen the immune system.
And I love that the broth was served in mugs — slightly less period appropriate but far more practical after a few glasses of “Strawberry Thief” and wine.
Next we moved on to the main event of Crispy roasted moulard duck with red wine brandy duck jus.
It was served with…crusty potato gratin.And roasted sweet onions, served in one of Leah Ball’s beautiful marble bowls.
We were also served fluffy rolls, completing the course of Victorian proportions!Filigree Suppers also kindly accommodated my palette with this beautifully roasted whole fish served with toasty hazelnuts. It was a scrumptious spring entrée that I’m hoping to recreate in my own kitchen soon!
As we dined on, the sun set and the warm glow of the candles filled the space. We were served a chilled champagne course of Veuve Cliquot Demi-Sec after the meat as a ‘vin d’entremets’ or interval between courses.And finally it was time for my favorite course… Dessert! The dessert course consisted of two chocolates (including one with caramel), lemon poppy seed marshmallows and beet jellies. All freshly made with delicious ingredients (like every other dish I’ve had at the Winchester), these desserts were the perfect bite-sized nibble to finish off our Victorian feast!I loved how the poppy seeds lent a spotted texture to the marshmallow which was spongy and creamy with just a hint of sugar and lemon. Light and refreshing!Of all the desserts, the beet jellies were certainly the most foreign with their rich, earthy flavor being an especially acquired taste.
Let’s be honest, if you don’t care for beets, then you won’t care for beet jellies.
But I love beets and fell hard for these unique nibbles. They were soft and coated in sugar with a rich depth of flavor that felt very period appropriate. Often desserts of the time had more savory elements than modern desserts and I found the fusion of flavors in these simple jellies pretty addicting.
And I might have eaten three of them…Our supper was a refined evening of excellent company, conversation, local craftsmanship, and historical flavors. I can’t help but wish that Filigree Suppers would offer the same dinner again so I can continue to fuel my new-found addictions: the Strawberry Thief cocktail, the beautifully roasted whole fish with hazelnuts and those beet jellies.
But that’s the beauty of a pop-up dinner — the experience is one you can never repeat though the flavors and conceptualization haunt you for weeks after. Be sure and read Starr’s review of our evening as well if you’re hungry for more Victoriana!