Secret Suppers: Report from the West Coast | Civil Eats

Secret Suppers: Report from the West Coast

wild-kitchen-group

The underground restaurant scene has been gaining ground, so to speak, and while I’ve been hearing about many iterations of secret eateries all over the country (and the world), I had yet to check one out for myself until last week, when I bought two tickets to attend Wild Kitchen—an underground supper put on by San Francisco upstart ForageSF.

ForageSF is the brainchild of Iso Rabins, a committed young scavenger who has made a business of the bounty of the Bay Area by creating a “community-supported forage” subscription service, much like a CSA. Members of Rabins’ CSF get a box full of whatever he’s pulled from land and sea, all subject to the seasons (some of which are even more fleeting then farm crop seasons, such as a quick blink of wild mushrooms and miner’s lettuce). Rabins began doing occasional secret suppers as a way to assemble community around the delights of cooking and eating foraged food.

I bought my tickets online based upon a menu sent by email that promised fried cattail hearts, wild vegetarian sushi, foraged nori, local spring vegetables, and acorn ice cream. On the day of the dinner, I received another email revealing the address of the temporary establishment—fortunately just a few blocks from my house in the Mission.

wild-kitchen-sushi

About twenty people showed up, some whom were already CSF subscribers and friends of Rabins, and others who were just passing through town from the east coast on their way to the weekend’s Maker Faire festivities. As Rabins said after the meal was complete, the crowd defines the evening, and this was a lively group. Conversation never ceased at the two long tables as we sampled radish greens from nearby McLaren Park, sipped 5-year miso soup, and drank a wide array of wine that arrived on the table via the BYOB policy.

Overall, the Wild Kitchen excelled as the sum of its parts. The food was very good, but the experience revolved as much on the novelty of eating unusual ingredients with a tangible backstory (I’d never tried cattails and certainly wouldn’t have thought to munch on the greens that grow in the shadows of McLaren park) and on the group of people that showed up to share it. I left thinking that the primary difference between making a great, interesting meal for friends and hosting a secret supper is that you recoup your costs and you get to be surprised by your own guest list. Certainly neither of these factors is to be underestimated—it was great fun to meet other local food enthusiasts and if felt good to support a venture founded on the principles of fair food and fulfilling work. As Iso Rabins builds a community around the fun of foraging, he’s also building himself a satisfying, independent career.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Sarah Rich is an editor at Dwell magazine, where she specializes in sustainable design and architecture. She was the managing editor of the Slow Food Nation blog leading up to the inaugural 2008 event in San Francisco. She was also the managing editor and co-author of the book Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century (Abrams, 2006). Sarah lives in the Mission district of San Francisco where fog is scarce and tacos are not. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    More from

    Local Food

    Featured

    A contract chicken farmer raises chickens under the tournament system

    Op-ed: It’s Time to End the Poultry Industry’s Exploitative Contracts

    Most chicken growers must compete in a tournament system that pays the top producers using money that would have gone to pay the lowest producers. The DOJ is putting a stop to the practice for some farmers—and now the USDA has a chance to follow suit.

    Popular

    The Field Report: What the Historic Climate Bill Means for Farmers and the Food System

    Flooded fields in winter

    Are Criollo Cattle a Regenerative Solution to a 1,200-Year Megadrought?

    criollo cattle grazing

    22 Solutions-Focused Stories on the Food System in 2022

    Abby Barrows pulling up one of her experimental oyster bags made of metal and wood at Long Cove Sea Farm. (Photo credit: Greta Rybus)

    Op-ed: Farmworkers Face Stress and Depression. The Pandemic Made It Worse.

    Migrant farm laborers have their temperature checked in King City, California. (Photo credit: Brent Stirton, Getty Images)