With Food and Love: Midsummer
For you pop-up dinner lovers, I've got another option for you: fellow food blogger Sherrie Castellano of With Food and Love has started a series of small, intimate dinners. And, unlike almost every other pop-up I've seen in St. Louis, these are entirely vegetarian. That means you non-meat eaters no longer have to suffer through steamed cauliflower 'steak' for your main. I asked Sherrie what drove her to start the pop-ups, considering the prep and stress involved with putting on a dinner for 15-20 people:
"I created these dinners as a tangible way to experience my work. Because I am a recipe developer, food writer and photographer, most of my work is done at home in my kitchen, behind my computer or lens. But, these pop-ups allow me to experience community and meet super interesting food folks from all over the region. My menu is inspired by whatever season we are in, and the produce that is available to me. Since they are plant-based, the fresh produce behind the meal is the foundation."
"I want to create an affordable, luxurious food experience for everyone to attend. I carefully curate everything from the food and drink, decor and ambiance, music, you name it. I want people to come, feel relaxed, eat good food, have great conversation and leave feeling refreshed and inspired. "
She started us off with The Smash, a cocktail made with Pickney Bend gin, Retrailer hibiscus syrup, lemon thyme, and Eckert's blackberries. Fresh and floral, it was a nice start to the evening—and the sweet fruit covered up the flavor of the gin, so no one knew they were well on their way to inebriation. With Old Bakery Beer and Aerie's wine also available, Sherrie had us well taken care of.
Food kicked off with a 'cream' of basil soup, topped with a cucumber and corn salad. The pale green soup, thickened with white beans and deeply flavored with Genovese basil, was my favorite dish of the night. I could have been served this for 5 courses and I would have been happy. At the end of the night, I volunteered to help clean the kitchen in hope of finding more of it left over. If she had found a way to incorporate tomatoes, this dish would have been everything I love about summer in one.
And like magic, the next course was a giant yellow heirloom tomato over a sorrel and fennel sauce, with thin slices of Flory's Truckle (a truly great cheese) on top. I'd call it the Midwestern cousin to the traditional Caprese. She finished off the savory side with a hearty bowl of Braggadocio polenta mixed with local sweet corn, topped with Arthouse coffee-braised zucchini and garlic.
As the night dwindled down, she hit us with one last cocktail—a Nightcap made with 360 vodka, Big O ginger liqueur, Bitt's cold pressed coffee, Retrailer fake coffee syrup, and cashew milk. I took a sip, assessed that it was, in fact, quite tasty, and then chugged the rest of it.
Dessert was my second favorite course of the evening, consumed on my side of the table with a speed and voracity that would surely disappoint our mothers. Sherrie made a cashew cheesecake (with an oat and date base, mmmm), covered with Eckert's blackberries, Retrailer's hibiscus syrup, and Seed Geek's honey. See what she did there? It was a call back to the welcome drink. Savvy.