Chicks with Knives is an underground, invite-only supper club. It is a gathering of individuals with one thing in common: an interest in consuming delicious dishes creatively prepared using sustainable, organic, local, and ethical ingredients. The night is a celebration of one of life’s simple joys - pure gastronomic pleasure.
I was fortunate enough to join these secret ranks for an evening, and so I offer you a rare glimpse inside Chicks with Knives.
The setting for tonight’s dinner is a non-descript building on a quiet Downtown street. The night is dark and the sky dewy from the day's rain. I walk up a narrow staircase along the side of a building to the loft above. When I enter I am greeted by warm smiles. In true Chicks with Knives fashion, the space is big, bright, and convivial, just like the women behind the dinner.
The main course of the evening was duck. For an amuse bouché, our hostesses used the delicious duck liver to create creamy duck liver mousse on house-made brioche toast topped with apricot-saffron jam. I’m generally not one for mousse or pate, but this improvised concoction was a savory delight. The brioche toast had a nice toasted edge to compliment the smooth duck mousse. Flecks of salt enhanced the sweet, smoky apricot jam. A few of these and our appetites were whetted.
The dining area contained three small tables that were precisely set. At each table were the cutest Kichu tangerines fresh from the farmer’s market. They were a sweet palate cleanser. While we waited for the appetizer, we nibbled on the Easter-egg radishes with cultured butter, pickled Persian cucumbers, and German butterball potatoes.
I have never enjoyed pickled food more than I do when it is pickled by the hands of Rachael of Chicks with Knives. She has a talent for pickling that is unmatched. At a previous dinner I had the pleasure of attending, I enjoyed the most amazing pickled beets. For tonight’s dinner, we were served a lovely dish of pickled Persian cucumbers. Crunchy yet soft, tangy with a hint of sweetness, these pickles were altogether perfect.
There is something so wonderful about a simple plate of radishes with butter. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top and each bite is blissful. To go with tonight’s radishes, the Chicks provided homemade cultured butter that had more flavor than any other butter I’ve tasted. This butter was truly inspired.
The roasted German butterball potatoes with green olive and roasted garlic tapenade surprised me. This was not your average spud. The green olive and roasted garlic tapenade was explosive with flavor. The rosemary spike in each potato provided a fragrant compliment to the flavors.
The first course was a wild mushroom consommé with smoked mushroom tortellini and roasted chanterelles. The broth was comforting and rich. There were a few beautiful strands of chanterelles sprinkled throughout. Tender pillows of tortellini rested in the broth. With each loud slurp satisfying warmth filled my body.
The second course was a pain d’epices blini with roasted fennel, winter citrus and hollandaise. The verdant flavor of the fennel paired well with the zesty Oro Blanco grapefruit, while the Cara Cara oranges provided delicate sweetness to offset the rich Hollandaise.
The main course was a duck pot-pie with pate a choux crust and English peas. This sat atop a duo of buttered carrots and sautéed garden greens (kale, sorrel, Swiss chard, amaranth and collard greens) with garlic. The duck was tender and rich, swimming in a sea of savory béchamel and peas. This viscous stew was pleated between two soft flaky crusts of bread- the pate a choux. The bitterness of the sautéed greens nicely offset the lush pot pie. This meal was sumptuous and memorable.
Along side the main course was a vanilla scented rutabaga puree. This was the most heavenly bowl of creamy, smooth, vibrante mash I haven't ever tasted. The vanilla beans shine through the buttery rutabaga. Each bowl was practically licked clean. (Find recipe below)
Already full from the bounty of amazing dishes, each guest was presented with a bowl of key lime cheesecake with key lime curd and rhubarb compote. These petite works of art were crowned with a “graham cracker” tuille. The dessert was transcendent. The cheesecake made from farmer’s cheese was silky and lush. The key lime curd was so deliciously tart there were puckered lips around the table, followed by satisfied smiles. The subtle rhubarb compote paired harmoniously with the bright flavors of the key lime. The graham cracker tuille was firm with a delicate crumble. I wanted three or four more of these tuilles they were so good.
Our small group left bewitched and delighted. Each course was mesmerizing and impossible to forget. To be invited to one of these secret dinners is to be one of the lucky few that gets to enjoy one of the best meals in Los Angeles among the a select group of new friends.
** Chicks with Knives recipe Vanilla Scented Rutabaga Puree**
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 pound rutabaga (aka Swede)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream (yup!)
2 (more) teaspoons vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, and seeds scraped out
Preheat your oven to 275F.
Toss the hazelnuts with the oil, extract and some salt. Roast for 5 -8 minutes or until just fragrant. Rough chop and set aside.
Peel and chop the potatoes and the rutabaga. Boil in salted water until soft (the rutabaga takes longer...so either chop it smaller than the potato or boil them separately.)
Drain and mash with the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning to preference.