After a short hiatus, Closed-Loop Cooking is back on track! I spent the past two weeks gearing up for our first ever Scrap Supper pop-up dinner! And not surprisingly, putting on a 5 course intimate dining experience for 12 people is all consuming, but incredibly rewarding. So apologies to my dedicated readers (chat bot I see you :D) – I learned so much from this event but most importantly the necessity of working ahead in my editorial calendar and balancing an intense workload.
About the dinner
The first Scrap Supper happened this past Saturday, Sept 22. I’ve considered the idea of starting a pop-up series for a few months – my love of feeding people and putting on a good show seemed to pair well with the idea of elevating low impact cooking. I’ve long worked in the service industry but never had the opportunity to bring the entirety of my vision to life. I also knew if I didn’t just chose a date and start inviting people, it might never happen. So by the power of societal obligation Closed-Loop Cooking came into a physical space with our first sold out dinner. I collaborated with our newest team member, Kaitlyn Chock, to put on a pretty memorable event.
It wasn’t perfect, I would be alarmed if it was, but it was fantastic. All of my research, experimentation, and design work came into play to create a truly unique experience around a topic not many people have had presented to them in such a way. I was inspired to call the series “Scrap Supper” to highlight unconventional ingredients used throughout the meal, to help capture our resourcefulness, and provide meaning to an often overlooked subject. This was more than just a meal, this was an occasion. I was delighted by the resounding support I received from family and friends to put this on. In the weeks leading up to the event I was uncertain if it was something I would be able to create a series out of, but after such positive feedback both Kaitlyn and I feel confident in calling this a “series.”
I started planning for this dinner with a few restrictions in mind – this would be 100% vegan + gluten-free, as close to low impact / zero waste as possible, and the majority of ingredients would be sourced locally. Hey, I like a challenge, or 4. I brought in Waz Wu, a Portland-based vegan lifestyle blogger who runs her own pop-up series, Veganizer, working with local chefs to recreate their menus using only vegan friendly recipes. Waz’s work around ethical consumption was a great segue for folx who didn’t have prior context of low impact practices and helped lead dinner conversation. It was great to have her participation and our rotating guest speakers will be an important component of future services.
With those structures in place I started exploring my local farmer’s market extensively. I got to know vendors better by asking questions per seasonal and unwanted produce. Carrot tops are seemingly endless and often already removed for easy consumption. If you ask your apple vendor for seconds or bruised pieces it’s possible to walk away with a 30 pound box of pluots and apples for $5. Hello sculpted arms! That box stretched so far in this meal! It was such a great learning experience in putting together a seasonal menu – one must be adaptable, resourceful, and thoughtful when pulling somewhat random ingredients together. This was my favorite part of bringing the meal together. And to be quite honest some of the dishes didn’t come together until day of; the necessity of working within a continually changing produce environment pushed me to understand the potential of each of my ingredients before I cooked with them.
All of the dishes and linens for this event were sourced second hand. In line with my vision to create a low impact resource index on Closed-Loop Cooking, any IRL event should align with the same values. I thrifted dishware and made use of glasses and flatware I had on hand. (Sometimes you just gotta host a 12 person Passover seder.) My talented friend Tyda sewed all of our napkins and produce bags out of second-hand (but clean!) cotton sheets. We borrowed aprons and made use of literally everything with a lid in my kitchen. We really put the scrap work in.
Making good use of my pattern design background, I block printed all of our linens with an eco-friendly ink pad, creating 4 unique designs. These were minimal, inspired by playful, irregular produce shapes. Block printing and pattern making has always been a focused, meditative practice for me and creating these pieces helped me find some calm during the overwhelm of putting this event together.
Day of, we had a seasonal, locally-focused menu with 3 small plates, a main dish, dessert, 2 cocktails, and a take home. This was a completely vegan / gluten-free menu. My goal was to have everyone leave pleasantly full and with a better understanding of how to approach low impact cooking.
– a fennel stalk, butternut squash skin, carrot, thyme + lentil soup
– balsamic marinated mushrooms + beet stems with a sunflower seed + carrot top pesto
– a root to stem beet + rosemary flatbread with a lemony white bean spread, wilted beet greens + mushroom stems, + topped off with a fennel frond salt
– butternut squash gnocchi with a zucchini top butter topped with toasted squash seeds
– a repurposed pluot + applesauce bread with cashew cream and maple toasted coconut butter
cocktails: (liquor from local Townshend’s Distillery)
– zucchini water with a tea-based liquor and a splash of soda water and a rosemary rim
– a warm ginger apple cider + alpine liqueur
– block printed produce bag for convenient grocery shopping with simple, dried bruised apple chips
The fennel stalks and fronds came from an overflowing compost-bound bin at one of the market stands, as did the carrot tops. Making use of the beet greens was less expensive than buying kale or collard greens. Squash skin was a delicious way to extend the soup base, zucchini tops are just honestly tasty as hell, and that $5, 30 pound box of imperfect pluots and applesauce made this meal! These were all items I just asked vendors about and each of them were more than happy to pass on these unwanted ingredients. Making the most of those scraps! Pretty dang empowering.
The main dish and dessert were definitely crowd favorites, we cut and passed out the extra dessert loaf for everyone to take a second slice home. I thought we did an excellent job of creating continuity within this menu and was so pleased to have been able to represent a true root-to-stem ideology with all of the dishes.
All in all
I’m incredibly grateful to have had such a successful first dinner and supportive group of friends / family. This is an exciting opportunity to explore low waste / scrap cooking and build community. I’m recognizing the importance of putting the practices from Closed-Loop Cooking into action and providing inclusive, accessible space for others to participate. Is the old Olive Garden slogan inappropriate for this? When you’re here, you’re family? Or better, When you’re here, you’re part of a conscious group of individuals looking to lessen their personal environmental impact and partake in some good eats? Yeah, that sounds about right.
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