Participatory Dining

Fran and I have always said we were going to write about “road trips”. That would be events or experiences that didn’t happen in our kitchens or on her farm. Since this took place in a local restaurant, it qualifies. A few nights ago some friends and I went to a new place here in Columbus with a new dining concept, The Kitchen. The concept, as stated in the title is participatory dining. For those of you who may not know, that means you prepare and cook your meal (under the guidance of far more practiced individuals than I), enjoy your meal, then leave the mess for somebody else to clean up.

The night we were there, there were only 9 of us and we had a ball. The evening was billed as a “Julie and Julia” book club evening with a somewhat “aggressive” menu. Their word not mine, although it was a little challenging. It consisted of a themed cocktail, French 75, Artichokes with Hollandaise Sauce, French Onion Soup, Filet of Sole, Peas with Mint, Pommes Anna and Apple Tarte-Tatin.




The space itself is open with exposed brick walls and a pressed tin ceiling. Yes, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were involved. Here we are getting to know one another. Prep stations are on the right, ingredients are in place and aprons are available.









As things got under way, artichokes were first up on the menu. Here they are being cleaned and trimmed.











Then they were simmered until tender and served with butter.














Next up, French Onion Soup. The onions were peeled and halved. Then they disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared thinly sliced and ready for simmering.










While all this is taking place, one person (who assigned herself to the Filet of Sole), stepped away for a few minutes to take a break. After all, the Filet would only take a few minutes, required no real prep and would be prepared just before we sat down.









Next up, Pommes Anna prep. The potatoes were sliced on a mandolin. And, apparently, according to our oversight chef, my prep partner and I were a little cavalier with our mandolin. Nonetheless, the potatoes were sliced and no fingers, finger tips nor even finger prints were lost in the process.






One of the reasons I wanted to work on the Pommes Anna was because I had been less than successful with my attempts in the past. The first time I made them, they turned out great. The next three times, they stuck. I was determined to triumph. After slicing they were artfully arranged in a cast iron skillet (with the assistance of our chef overseer, Jen) that had been prepared with plenty of butter.









In the mean time, apples were being peeled, cored and sliced….










…serious consultations were underway…













…and dough was being prepared.













Finally, it was time for the Filet of Sole. Pepper was mixed into the flour, the filets were lightly dredged and fried to perfection.












The Pommes Anna was turned out of the pan…










…and it was time for dinner.










I can only speak for myself but I had a great time. If you were one of the participants and feel your preparations or dish got short shrift, I apologize but I had my Pommes Anna to attend to and something to prove to myself. To all who were there, Jen and Anne included, I had a great evening and I will be back to do it again, and again, and again. I can only hope that everyone enjoyed themselves as much as I did.

For those of you who don’t have a Participatory Dining location where you live, consider creating one in your kitchen for you and your friends. I can’t believe you’d be sorry.

And, since this was a Julie and Julie evening, “Bon Appetit!”


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