One of the proponents of Underground Dining is Chef Amy Jurist, a former film marketing exec who, ten years ago, decided she’d rather promote food than film, and getting a degree from the Westlake Culinary Institute, Chef Amy picked up her utensils and began to cook.
She’s now the owner of Amy’s Culinary Adventures, a full service catering business. She also helps companies like Trader Joes create new food products and teaches classes around the L.A. area. But her favorite endeavor is these Underground Dinners. I attended her latest: “ The Bounty of California.” This $105 per person evening featured fresh seasonal fare from the San Joaquin Valley. It was a 4-course meal with wine pairings located at the world famous Surfas restaurant supply store in Culver City. No one knew the location until just before the event. All they knew was that it was going to be in Culver City. It’s all part of the experience.
The event was outdoors in the patio of Surfas with long tables decked out with linens, candles and bottles of wine. The décor was provided by Jonathan Fong, who’s been working with Amy for years, both having started in the film industry.
His creative innovations for the evening, in keeping with the theme, included bouquets of sunflowers with fresh celery serving as the flower stalks. You can check out some of his other inventions at jonathanfongstyle.com
Prior to being seated, appetizers were served along with several wines from the Temecula Valley and Limoncello Snow Cones from the Ventura Limoncello Company.
Appetizers included Proscuito Wrapped Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese; Shrimp, Artichoke Hearts and Avocado in little Cucumber Cups; a nice chunky Guacamole; and my favorite: a 12 Grilled Vegetable and Cheese Pizza.
Amy told me her trick to keeping the dough from getting soggy is to bake it prior to heaping it with the veggies and cheese, which are also cooked separately. Then the toppings are added to the crust, and it’s placed in the oven to brown. Thanks for sharing, Amy!
Once everyone was seated, the first course was served: Cream of Farm Fresh Corn Soup topped with a chunk of King Crab and an edible pansy. A heaping basket of sourdough bread was placed on the table along with little bowls of roasted garlic butter.
Next came a Pistachio Crusted Halibut with a Tangle of Root Vegetables that included yams, purple potatoes and yucca. Beautiful presentation.
And for meat eaters Chef Amy prepared Flowering Thyme and Garlic Grilled Baby Lamb Chops with Wild Rice Pilaf and Dried California Fruit. My husband, who doesn’t usually like lamb, loved these chops. We discovered the meat was from Colorado rather than New Zealand…not as gamey.
And while most of us were already loosening our belts, we were then served a trio of desserts: A Date Shake Shooter, an Almond Florentine Napoleon with Cherry Almond Ice Cream and an Amaretto Macerated Cherry Compote. The best of the three: the little Date Shake…creamy vanilla ice cream blended with dates….not as “datey” as some I’ve had en route to Palm Springs.
As Chef Amy herself describes her meals, this was definitely “yummy, decadent food.”
The wines paired with the dinner included selections from Vindemia, Hart and Palumbo Wineries in the Temecula Valley. My fave: Vindemia’s Cabernet Franc. My husband’s: Palumbo’s Tre Fratelli.
If you’re interested in checking out Amy Jurist’s underground events you can get on her email list at email@example.com, and for other underground adventures there’s theghet.com.
Dining out has just gotten a lot more interesting…..