The Rise of the Roving Supper Club
Recently, the artist, writer, and fashion designer Beatrix Ost invited a group of perfect strangers over for dinner. Ost, a striking woman who wraps her lavender hair in silk turbans and wears burgundy lipstick, had recently met the team behind Filigree Suppers and agreed to host one of their monthly pop-up dinners at her Upper West Side apartment. The 30 guests who signed up for the event savored gin cocktails and coq au vin inside a landmarked home filled with vibrant paintings, wax sculptures, antler chandeliers, and Gothic-style boiserie, a space that could have been dreamed up by Wes Anderson. It was a rare opportunity to enter into a highly stylized atmosphere and meet a living icon.
Filigree Suppers, founded a year ago by longtime friends Brita Olsen and Elise Metzger, has held dinners at Oderdonk House (a gorgeously landscaped historic estate in Ridgewood, New York), at Rhine Hall Distillery in Chicago, and at a floral designer’s studio in Los Angeles. This up-and-coming outfit joins a small group of itinerant supper clubs that are increasingly focused on providing unique travel experiences. Food may be their raison d’être, but their success hinges on having insider access to desirable venues and destinations.
“People love to travel through food,” says Jim Denevan, considered the forefather of roving culinary feasts. A decade ago, when Denevan started offering communal meals in farms across North America, the idea of traveling to remote settings to eat with strangers seemed odd. “It took a really long time to catch on,” he says. “But eventually people became really turned on by it, and are now very curious and willing to try all these new concepts.”
His company, Outstanding in the Field, has lured food-loving adventurers to all 50 states, several European countries, and Brazil. This year marks Denevan’s first foray into Asia. On September 4, he will disembark at Fujisan Winery in central Japan to offer a multi-course meal featuring fish, meat, vegetables, and grains sourced from nearby farms, paired with a selection of local sakes. The setting: a long, family-style table surrounded by rows of koshu vines (koshu is a pink-skinned grape grown in Japan since the eighth century) in the foothills of Mount Fuji.
“In this day and age we are consumed by schedules, and Outstanding in the Field has become this special way to connect to the land and to where the food comes from,” says frequent patron Francey Grund, a brand manager in California.
While Outstanding in the Field provides bucolic sojourns, and Filigree Suppers attracts a design-minded clientele, Dining Impossible caters to luxury seekers.
Headed by Kristian Brask Thomsen, a Danish bon vivant who has the world’s greatest chefs on speed dial, Dining Impossible organizes three-day food extravaganzas in cities like Barcelona, San Sebastian, Paris, New York, and Chicago. It started six years ago in Copenhagen, where Brask Thomsen began hosting informal dinner parties that evolved into more elaborate affairs inside the private dining rooms of Noma, A.O.C., and Geranium, the most acclaimed restaurants in Denmark. Attendees, who often traveled from abroad for the occasion, spent three days enjoying lengthy group dinners doused with fine wine.
“There have been billionaires, famous artists, and sports stars, but also people who used part of their savings to come to the events,” says Brask Thomsen. “The common thread is a passion for gastronomy.”
Two years ago, Dining Impossible began to expand globally. First it headed to some of the best kitchens in Barcelona (Albert Adrià’s Tickets and El Celler de Roca, for example), then repeated the formula in major cities in Europe and the U.S. In March, the company ventured even further afield, to Hong Kong. The Asian bacchanal started with French food at Amber, followed by Cantonese specialties at the three-Michelin-starred Lung King Heen, ending with a tasting menu of global dishes paired with champagnes at the Krug Room. In between meals, there were afternoon cocktails, late-night drinks, and an exploration of street food in the lively Mong Kok district.
Next up on the roster: Sao Paulo and Lima, Latin America’s food meccas.
“I think it’s fantastic to explore the world through fine dining, and many people agree,” says Brask Thomsen. “At the beginning it was all about Michelin stars and accolades, now I also want to show a bit of diversity and explore a city’s culinary DNA.”