Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hush Supper Club, DC

As intriguing as it sounds, Hush is a secret supper club where supper and storytelling meet. This concept can be found in many cities around the world, but little did I know a vegetarian supper club has been operating in DC for over a year.  While the supper club is vegetarian, it is not vegan, as the chef cooks traditional Indian food from Gujarat which is heavy on the yogurt, milk, and ghee (clarified butter).

To make a reservation, you apply by completing a form on the Hush Supper Club website. Once approved, you receive an email from the host/chef named, "Geeta."  Geeta confirmed that she would be able to accommodate me with a vegan meal and with that, my reservation had been set.

On the morning of, I received an email disclosing the location of the dinner with instructions ranging from what to bring to what to wear. If nothing else, we knew this would be interesting.

We found the home, just as described, and made our way to the front door. It was cracked, but I knocked anyway. I was promptly greeted by Geeta's assistant. I gave the password and was allowed into this mysterious place. There were already several people there chatting it up on the couches in the living room. The home had a warm feeling to it as it was artfully decorated with pieces from India. Shortly thereafter, Geeta made her appearance and the night began.

I was served a cocktail called "The Viceroy" that had the sweetness of agave nectar and the earthiness of saffron. My friend and I got to know the other guests as we waited for Geeta to begin.  She introduced the evening by telling us why she had decided to host these dinner parties: (1) because she wanted to share traditional Indian cuisine, (2) to allow us to experience the food of non-famous chefs, (3) to support the local food movement.

The first course was a Kachori Chaat, which was assembled in front of our eyes. She started by explaining the origin of the streetfood-type dish, then began assembling a plate for each of us.  In each bowl, she placed a Dhokla, a delicately spiced ball made of matpe beans, and topped it with fresh chickpeas, red onions, cilantro, tamarind-date chutney, and cilantro-mint chutney. This dish was stunningly good as my taste buds tried to process the warm bean ball along with the incredibly flavorful chutneys and fresh organic ingredients. Everyone seemed very satisfied with the chaat.

After that, we sat down at the table to enjoy some warm sesame seed bread and chutney as we waited for the next course.

The next course was a rice dish -- Pulao Biryani. This delicious pilaf was flavored with saffron, caradamom, clove, cinnamon, and tamarind, but the real flavor came from the delicious ginger pickle. Again, I was blown away by the flavors. Everyone else was served a similar dish, but as a soup that had dairy in it. I was incredibly satisfied and couldn't wait to try more.

It was at this point that Geeta began "the spice tour." She showed us her spice box and began telling us about her spices. I was pleased to be the first one ever to identify one of her unique spices. She spoke about the state of Gujarat -- about the people, their principles, and the Jain religion. But, she made it clear that the evening should be judged on the flavor of the food, not the religion. I found the history incredibly interesting, but she did speak for a very long time.

By the time we sat down for the final entree, we were all ready for it. The final meal was served family style so we all helped ourselves to the bowls.  One was filled with creamed corn made with coconut milk while the other had red bell peppers with chickpea flour and jaggery (a spice).  These delectable items were served with a spinach paratha. Again, amazing. Words can not describe how good this food tasted.

For dessert, she served me a soy chai while others received a traditional chai. The mint and ginger really brought out the flavors of the chai. She also prepared a fruit plate for me while the others had a dessert that was not vegan. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

I had not realized just how long we had been there until everyone remarked that they needed to leave. The night had spanned almost 6 hours. For a night filled with great conversation and amazing food, $75 was a small price to pay. I gained an understanding of Gujarati Jain culture and religion, met new friends, and enjoyed delicious food. I'll definitely be coming back for more. *hush*

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