I wasn’t sure what to expect as we entered the butcher, but were warmly greeted with a glass of champagne by Chef (Chris) Plum himself and were shown to our table. Butcher’s Best deli and butcher in Newtown, CT has been transformed twice in 2013 to offer 30 lucky diners one of Plum’s "Dinner Undergound" culinary evenings. I was lucky enough to enjoy night #2.
Chef Plum is a graduate from The Culinary Institute of America with over 18 years of experience. He has worked all over the east coast in five-star hotels and resorts, as well as small neighborhood restaurants. Plum-Luv-Foods was born in 2006 and since then has brought whole farm foods to families, small parties, Broadway actors, executives, Food Network and network TV.
Plum’s happy demeanor shines through his food. His inventive style and clever riffs show both his appreciation for food and simple enjoyment of offering his guests thoughtfully created dishes. As each course is served, Plum tells us about where the food is from, his inspiration and why he chose to marry the components.
We began with a seared sashimi tuna with black garlic and lemon miso threads. Plum explained that black garlic has been smoked and roasted giving it a rich garlickly taste without the sometimes pungent aftertaste. The tuna was perfectly seared and partnered with delicately seasoned lemon miso rice threads. My taste buds were primed and I eagerly looked forward to the next course. Our table guests included people from Rhode Island and locals alike who all shared an interest in food. I learned that these tickets sold out in 18 hours.
I snuck back to watch Plum plating the pork belly meatballs and he explained that he had experimented with 8 different recipes until he got the rice encrusted then fried pork belly meatball. When he came out to talk about the plate, he told us the rice turned green by being placed on a bamboo leaf which rendered the rice a pleasingly light green color. The pork belly meatball was also covered in the green rice then fried which gave it an aroncini crispy meets succulent pork belly combination that left me practically licking my plate.
A freshly cut spinach salad just cut from Hollbrook Farms was brought out next and was a refreshing palate cleanser after the rich pork belly. Chef Plum motioned for me to come back to the kitchen and showed me how he was dredging cubes of watermelon in what looked like friend chicken flour. He told me when he was in LA shooting The Taste, he met a chef who made Chicken Fried Watermelon and he “stole” this idea from him. I wasn’t sure about the combination, but as he scooped one out of the deep fryer and I popped it in my mouth, the crispy combination and juicy sweetness of the watermelon totally worked. He served this with a piece of buttery hickory smoked salmon filet with bits of pickled watermelon rind over a bed of parsnip puree.
Everyone at the table was in the groove now and the fun of a pop up restaurant is a bit like being on a boat excursion to somewhere new. You’re all in it together and enjoying the ride. We eagerly awaited the next course of a rosemary infused lamb pop with a thick nutty mint pesto that tasted just like spring. It was served with simple roasted asparagus and poached peppers. We all happily picked up our lamb chop with our fingers and sucked on the bone.
Finally, Chef Plum arrived with hands on hips and said, “ grilled cheese for dessert.” His humor and tongue in cheek attitude is clearly apparent in his food and this dessert was no different. Home made pound cake was grilled then filled with mascarpone and served with an apple confit and Bailey’s cream. A delicious way to end a special meal.
To learn about the next Dinner Underground, follow plum on Twitter at Chef_Plum or go to plumluvfoods.com