Want to give something more? How about a pop-up? Not familiar with the pop-up concept? It's simple enough — on a regular schedule, operators announce the time and place they'll "pop up" next, and then offer reservations for as many seats as the space allows. Venues can be coffee shops, bakeries, galleries, warehouses, urban farms, even brick-and-mortar restaurants willing to lend out their space for an evening. Though it's not a stocking-stuffer like many of the food products in these pages, there is a way to give the gift that pops up. Make your reservations for two and invite a friend.
First to pop
Last year, friends April Boyle, Deanne Iovan and Gina Onyx began an experiment: Komodo Kitchen, an Indonesian pop-up restaurant and supper club offered once a month in metro Detroit. Originally intended as a means to get the word out about Indonesian-born Onyx's cooking, Komodo is one of the most popular pop-ups in metro Detroit. These days, tickets for the monthly pop-up can sell out in less than five minutes. According to Onyx, one of the reasons Komodo has been able to sustain its momentum over the past year is because Indonesian fare is so rare in the area — and it doesn't hurt that food enthusiasts are curious eaters with a hankering for exploring exotic flavors. If you want to bring somebody along for this ride, you'll need to be quick on the draw. Join the mailing list at komodokitchen.com.
Brunch Underground is a collaboration between Emily Eisele, chef Tony Aja, and hostess Nikole Moore, all of whom are familiar with professional restaurant environments. At its best, their pop-up does things that traditional restaurants simply can't do anymore. "It's really tough to have a restaurant," Eisele says. "And a pop-up allows talented chefs and local food growers to 'play restaurant' instead of sinking six or seven years into being in the red. They can present food that is creative and delicious and solid and have a really good time doing it." The three-person collective is determined to keep the brunch, which takes place 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every other week, affordable. "A lot of pop-ups are $50 and up per person, mostly because of the labor that goes into them," Eisele says. "We try to keep it at $15 or less, with food that is 85 percent local." Sources for Brunch Underground's meals include the student organic farm at Oakland University, produce from Rhiza Food Company, which runs a farm in Highland Park growing what Eisele calls "awesome, restaurant-quality produce" including 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Their next event is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 16. To learn more, see their Facebook page.
Corinne Rice is the certified raw and vegan chef who runs a dinner pop-up called Chartreuse. Her aim was to create "a memorable culinary and social moment that exists briefly and disappears immediately, as if it were a dream," and the venture has so far been a success. For $50, diners get four courses, including an appetizer, soup or salad, entrée and dessert. June's event at the Fisher Building, for instance, included Asian salad (mixed greens, coconut noodles, baby corn, scallions and more), a jalapeño-watermelon gazpacho, a crab cake (with Creole slaw, red jalapeño cream and saffron-corn pico de gallo) and ending with a combination of almond nougatine, orange-cardamom white chocolate and vanilla bean-sour cherry marmalade. All menus are vegan, raw, organic, gluten-free and, lately, pretty much all made with local produce. And since it's local, it's also seasonal, with menus based on what's available at the moment. "I try and hop around from farm to farm and kind of promote them and what they're doing at the dinners." The events usually overtake interesting surroundings, often with live music. Rice says, "I usually have one long table, with people sitting with people they never met before, so people are having conversations and leaving with new friends. Some people are drawn by that — by meeting new people every time they come." To learn more about Chartreuse, see chartreusedetroit.com; to learn about future events, join the mailing list at [email protected]. Chartreuse also offers gift certificates for $50; certificates can be used to attend any Chartreuse dinner.