dinner with strangers

dinner w strangersAt the TEDxCLE event a few weeks ago, Room Service owner and a good friend of mine, Danielle DeBoe, talked about a dinner party she went to in Paris where no one knew each other – and that it was one of the most amazing nights of her life. This concept, that’s part dining with strangers, part underground supper club, was something she knew she wanted to try to pull off in Cleveland. And this past weekend she did just that. Lucky for us, we had a seat at the mighty long table.

Though the idea was to gather with mostly strangers and ideally leave with new friends, we did in fact know a few people there. Even so, we met so many interesting people and really enjoyed ourselves talking through the crowd and getting to know everyone.

Twenty-five of us eagerly gathered in the quaint back room of Market Avenue Wine Bar (I did not realize there was this added space – great to know for parties, etc. ) The chef was Ryan Santos who works with Nolan Konkoski at Tartine and also owns his own catering company, Please. Though I’m quite familiar with Nolan, this was the first time I had heard of Ryan.

The cost was $30 pp; alcohol was byob or in our case,  we just bought a bottle of recommended cabernet at the bar. The chef’s theme for the night was brunch for dinner. The menu consisted of:

  • amuse-bouche / tomato donut hole with sriracha, worcestershire powder,  and black peppercorn lemon sugar
  • first-course / cereal & coffee: pumpkin seed fennel black pepper granola, cereal milk custard, squash sheets and coffee soil
  • second-course / bagel & lox: smoked to order fish (this was served under a rocks glass & the smoked, campfire-esque smell revealed once you lifted it up was a very nice touch), everything pretzel, black olive cream cheese, scallion and edamame kimchi
  • intermezzo / champagne shooter with cucumber, shiso, candied red chile and lemon
  • third-course / bacon & eggs: soft boiled egg, pork belly, English muffin crouton, smoked maple consomme and rhubarb
  • dessert / housemade pop tart plate with  cranberry jalapeno, maple bacon and sage grapefruit

Santos may have been among the strangers at the start of the night, but not anymore. He is a chef I look forward to getting to know better. Not only was each dish beautifully constructed and quite interesting, but was genuinely enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed each course – the taste, presentation and unique use of ingredients. For example, the chilled cereal bar. What an interesting approach to cereal, I’ve never tasted anything quite like this and would happily order  off a menu. My only complaint of the meal was that I would have liked slightly larger portions, but only because nearly everything tasted so good I wanted more.

I know the concept of roaming / underground dinner party isn’t necessarily new to our area and is quite popular in other cities, but this is the first time I’ve attended one. I really hope Danielle continues this, and it sounds like with a few modifications she’s going to. From the setting to the company to the food, what a night we had and look forward to participating in one again soon.

Once more information becomes available, I’ll be sure to pass it on. In the meantime, here are Danielle’s pictures from that night.


  1. Posted March 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    what an amazing idea. how interesting- chilled cereal – who knew!

  2. Posted March 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    How fun!

  3. dustin
    Posted March 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink


  4. rockandroller
    Posted March 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    What a cool concept. I’m kind of out of it so I hadn’t heard of this before, particularly in our area. But with a small baby, as you know, you’re kind of out of the loop on most “in” things. Good to know about the room at the wine bar as well, thanks!

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