We did a rather odd thing in a way in Paris last week. We attended a private dinner party hosted by two young ex-pats in their grand old Right Bank apartment where we didn’t know our hosts or the other guests. The guests were mostly American and we paid to attend this dinner.
Kinda odd really. Visiting Paris and eating food cooked by Americans and eating it with Americans. I typically look for “authentic” experiences, not hanging out with other Americans.
But it was lovely and I recommend attending a Hidden Kitchen dinner.
The young couple–Laura and Braden–up and quit their jobs in Seattle a couple of years ago and moved to Paris. They started doing dinners as a way to satisfy their need to cook and to entertain and to make a little income. They call themselves Hidden Kitchen because guests learn about them through word of mouth, blogs and an occasional travel article.
Well, the New York Times discovered them and they aren’t so hidden any more. They are now booked through November. But, don’t hesitate to get on their waiting list. We did and two seats became available within a month of our signing on.
They are quoted in the Times article as saying, ” We figured we’d do this once a month, invite some cool strangers, get some cool people at the table, strike up a conversation and from that meet some new people.” The concept caught on and the pair now serve two dinners a week. The menu changes every month.
The apartment was beautiful and the table set elegantly. About twenty of us gathered in the entry of the apartment for champagne and then trooped into the large living room, set up with a long table for a beautifully served dinner.
At each course, Braden, the chef, came out of the cheery red kitchen to explain what we were eating. Laura and a friend efficiently served the many courses, whisked away dishes and poured the wines carefully selected for each course. One course included quail eggs with spring vegetables while another dazzled me with house made linguine within radish leaf pesto, asparagus and ricotta salad.
I particularly liked the rabbit liver ravioli with braised artichoke and preserved lemon. Of course, we had a cheese course and then dessert was a delicate strawberry shiso sorbet with puff pastry, cream and rhubarb. Servings were small and each course a work of art, so it was possible to savor our way through eight courses and then end with miniature donuts with coffee.
Conversation flowed freely. The man across the table from me had spent the day in cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu. How interesting to hear about that. And down the table a bit, a young Delta pilot shared stories about how the airlines have changed since 9/11. He is based out of Atlanta but spends two weeks a month with his wife who lives and works in Paris. The young woman next to me was a film editor–taking some time between assignments to visit Paris. She was planning t o tour Euro Disney being interested in the film and entertainment industry.
There was one French person but she sat too far from me to chat with. Laura says they often get European tourists who somehow find their web site and book for the dinner that costs approximately $100 a person including wines.
I loved a short tour of the apartment with its wood floors, crown moldings, marble fireplace, soothing colors and candles everywhere. The couple also work for Williams Sonoma, sourcing products for them as well as taking on projects for other food oriented companies. As you can imagine, the decor of the apartment was simple, slightly trendy and a perfect backdrop for the elegant dinners.
All in all, the experience was delightful and midnight rolled around quickly. I can’t tell you the location of the apartment (hidden, remember?) but know that it is not far from the Lourve. We walked there after dinner to enjoy the lights at night before catching a taxi to our 7th Arrondissement apartment.
Hidden kitchen contact: hkmenus.com