by Steven Doyle
The pop-up dinner is the ultimate in self-expression for a chef. No longer are the constraints of concept in play, instead the chef may allow his culinary imagination to take flight and escape the daily grind of a set menu. This may have been true at a recent dinner held in the warehouse of 1888 Olive Press located in East Dallas and owned by a former Lamborghini salesman, Kenneth Hamburger, II who hosted the James Beard winning and exec chef from Smoke, Tim Byres.
Chef Byres is part of an on-going pop-up company called RVC Promotions owned by Ryan and Sunnye Childers, and their company comes up with these totally unique ideas, chefs and locations through out each month. An olive juicing company is merely one of the many locations used by the Childers. Think more traditional locales such as the Whole Foods demo kitchen and Neiman Marcus, to the sublime as breweries and distilleries. And these are not always necessarily dinners, they are often cooking classes which end in guests dining on their lesson plans.
The dinner last week hosted by the olive juicers was one of the more interesting pop-up dinners I had experienced to date. Imagine dining in a warehouse with about 45 other guests on a long table feet away from an olive juicer and bottler. The juice is briny and bright with flavors with the intention of being used to mix the perfect and dirtiest martini you will ever sample. Each course was carefully plotted by chef Byres with cocktail pairings by Hamburger himself making for a night of powerful flavors.
As with most of Byres dinner plans ingredients relied heavily on grilling and smoking techniques, and at this particular pop-up had a does of olives in almost all the dishes. Some of my favorite dishes included a plate of white anchovies with orange sections and olives. We were also served a dazzling olive juice pesto with arugula and roasted eggplant with olives.
Unique flavors included grilled calamari with black olive puree, brined creamer potatoes, sweet corn with an olive cream and one giant haunch of beef in the way of a smoked beef shank. The latter was the star of the table with a presentation served family-style which dotted the table every four feet making for this eye-popping display that caused gasps upon arrival.
One of our favorites for the evening was actually a dish assembled by Byres and was made up of a simple manchego cured in a very good olive oil served with sour grapes. The flavors were complex and invigorating.
Byres also created a beautiful dessert made up of an olive cake laden with olives and served with roasted peaches and figs dolloped with creme fraiche for a rich and satisfying ending to an excited meal.
Cocktails included a clarified New Orleans style bloody Mary, an extreme dirty martini which was infused with the 1888 juice, ending with a dirty rosemary lemon drop martini. All skillfully poured by the 1888 owner and host himself.
We will be bringing you more information on these fun pop-ups as they come up in the near future.