New underground dinner series kicks off Oct. 6 in Avon
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What: Inaugural VailPOP dinner. A six-course dinner with cocktails, wine or beer.
Where: Avon. Exact location will be disclosed 24 hours prior to the event in a text message or email.
When: Oct. 6. Tickets for the dinner go on sale at noon Friday.
AVON — Underground dinners aren’t a novel concept in the food world, but they are new to Eagle County. The guerrilla-style meals have been taking place in cities around the world — Buenos Aires, London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Vienna, Melbourne, the list goes on — for decades. Travel + Leisure, back in 2008, published “World’s Best Secret Dining Clubs: Underground restaurants, hidden kitchens, and fly-by-night food experiments from Austin to Tokyo.” Some of the clandestine events take place in private homes, or perhaps in an art gallery or even a garage, while others are held on roof tops with the best view of the starry night sky you can get. And forget reservations, much like a rock concert, it’s all about tickets for pop-up dinners.
Enter VailPOP, a new-to-the-Vail Valley underground dining option.
“The goal of VailPOP is to develop menus that encompass local and seasonal ingredients through a lens of imagination, wild flavor combinations, fascinating locations and a general adoration for good food and good company,” said one of the creators, Gretchen Hovey, also co-owner of Ripe produce stand in Edwards. “Then we throw in art, communal dining, secret locations, the occasional ‘themed party’ for a not-to-be missed, one-time experience, never to be offered again.”
The first dinner is slated for Oct. 6. Spago’s chef de cuisine, Jarad Montarbo, will prepare a six-course meal. Served with cocktails and wine or beer, tickets are $125 and go on sale at noon today at vailpop.com. According to Montarbo, the event will be capped at 50 people. The menu is a secret. Organizers did reveal the dinner will take place in Avon but the exact location won’t be announced — via text or email — until 24 hours prior to the event.
“This event will not be taking place in a restaurant but somewhere more fun and definitely out of the box. Weather permitting, there is an indoor and outdoor part,” Hovey said.
A press release about the event was sent out Wednesday.
“Vail has always had a special mixture of foodies, adventure seekers and those who bring the community together,” according to the release. “That is why some of the top chefs make their way to Vail every year filling restaurants with their knowledge and skill. Boasting some of the world’s best dining, guests come from near and far to take advantage of the tables with a view that are found sprinkled throughout this valley. The chefs who make up the restaurant scene know what their guests are seeking and they aim to please. Every once in a while, however, those unseen kitchen magicians like to shake it up, experimenting with their own kind of menus with their friends when the kitchen closes for the night. These back-of-house culinary adventures were just something for the chefs to enjoy. Until now.”
When Hovey approached Montarbo with the idea for VailPOP, he was intrigued, he said.
“I thought it’d be a cool thing to see here,” said Montarbo, who began working for Wolfgang Puck at age 18, right out of culinary school.
“Before I lived here, I lived in L.A. and Vegas, both of those are huge food scene towns,” Montarbo said. “In L.A., they do a lot of pop-up stuff; I’ve always been interested, just never had the opportunity.”
As for the menu, Montarbo was pretty hush hush, though a focus on great Colorado produce is a given, considering Hovey owns Ripe.
“I’m trying to use a lot of stuff from Gretchen,” Montarbo said. “(The event) will give me a lot of creative freedom.”
As for future VailPOP dinners, Hovey anticipates doing three or four this winter and then, starting next summer, hosting one a month.
“Each (dinner) will be completely different from the next,” Hovey said. “We just wanted to shake up the food scene a little, give our locals something new and different to look forward to and encourage chefs to explore their own unique talents.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 970-748-2984 and @caramieschnell.