“When we arrived earlier today, it was like ‘the parting of the soy’,” our host giggled to me describing what it took to prepare the dining space within the local warehouse of Bourbon Barrel Foods. Two long tables, flanked by bourbon barrels of fermenting soy sauce, were elegantly decorated for the latest of jimihatt’s* brainchild, Guerrilla Cuisine’s “On The Road” series, as it landed in Louisville this week bringing together a subversive, secretive dining experience that included food, art, music and strangers to benefit Dare to Care.
Since 2007, Guerrilla Cuisine has been renowned for their underground dining events that feature experimental cuisine, music and art. On Tuesday, April 3, Seviche chef/owner Anthony Lamas joined the ranks of celebrated chefs participating in the organization’s “On the Road” series, which took the feast for the senses beyond Charleston to our home in Louisville.
I spoke on the phone to the host and rock-star of Charleston’s underground a couple of times prior to the dinner and still didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. The event is communicated almost using a skort-methodology (a “skort” being a pair of shorts that look like a skirt – giving you a hint of something special while keeping it’s secrets safe). Announced electronically, usually via the website guerrillacuisine.com, you purchase your tickets online knowing only the featured chef, type of the cuisine and the date. Roughly a day before the event are you actually sent the location, which provides you a mixture of excitement and anticipation somewhere between Christmas morning and a trip to the principle’s office. Either way, you wait with baited breath for the event feeling like one of the "cool kids" who is in "the know" - wanting to tell a secret that you yourself know very little about.
It’s the mixture of celebration and surprise that makes jimihatt’s Guerilla Cuisine dinner experiences so unique. The event started late for reasons explained by our host and Chef Anthony Lamas prior to the first course. “You see, I usually host these things in Charleston on Sunday afternoons, so I forgot that there may be some traffic on a Tuesday evening after work in downtown Louisville,” jimihatt laughed arm in arm with Lamas. Seeing them together giving the ‘the rules are there are no rules’ speech, you’d think they were long-time friends who hadn’t seen each other for a long time. Lamas joked about jimihatt’s arrival in Louisville earlier in the week, “You see he (jimihatt) called and told me when he was arriving, but didn’t know it was in the middle of the UofL/UK game, and I was like ‘um can you get a cab and meet us at my place?’, I didn’t want to be rude, but come on, I wanted to see the game,”. Realizing now that the Chef had his priorities straight jimihatt laughed and added, “…and I was like, ‘what a d___!”
It was all in good fun, as the two spent the days leading up to the event enjoying some of the best food Louisville has to offer together including Doc Crows, The Fish House and of course, Seviche. Hearing them joke together while a small band played from between stacks of warehouse crates in the corner set the scene perfectly: as the striking thing about a Guerilla Cuisine dinner is that beyond the exclusivity is a real sense of togetherness.
The first course arrived and Chef Lamas, dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt, explained that he wanted to take us on a culinary journey of his past mixed with Louisville’s present. We sampled Albacore Tuna Tiradito which is a Peruvian-style seviche' that was cooked in a blend of citrus and chilies accompanied with the coolness of cucumber, celery, yuzu and Bourbon Barrel soy.
As the guests enjoyed their small yet tasty sampling, the Chef touted how much Louisville has to offer as if a kid in a candy store. He made note that the soy sauce he used (and that coated the floor and surrounded us) was provided by the present Matt Jaime, owner of Bourbon Barrel Foods and the warehouse where we were eating; that the blue-cheese we would be enjoying of from local Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, the housemade chorizo was made from a whole hog procured locally from Kentucky’s own Marksbury Farm, the herbs were from locally-based Grateful Greens, and sounded almost giddy as he described the land he rented from Farmer Fred’s to grow heirloom tomatoes for his restaurant, Seviche, and the evening’s feast.
The event as always was BYOB, and the drinks were as diverse as the guests. From their Derby-best hats to jeans and flip-flops, the participants brought bottles of wine from all price ranges, craft beers, ice chests of homemade concoctions, and of course tumblers of local bourbon were scattered across the table tops. The unity was within the diversity, which is what makes a Guerilla Cuisine dinner so special.
The remainder of the meal included fares such as the ‘Housemade Chorizo’ (which included manchego poblano grits, bourbon chipotle demi-glace and wild ramps), the ‘Grateful Greens Arugula Salad’, ‘Marksbury Farm Roasted Pork’ including tacu-tacu, aji-rocoto with Farmer Fred’s greens and no meal would be complete without a dessert consisting of ‘Avocado Ice Cream’ that included liquid nitrogen caramel popcorn, gooseberries and edible flowers.
Our host, jimihatt (who looks very much like the dwarf Gimli from Lord of the Rings), has made an impression in Charleston and so far has found success taking is madcap brainchild, Guerilla Cuisine from rolling sushi in a friends house for "Sushi Sundays" to his newest adventure “On The Road”. In his own words, he describes his idea as “Food for the people. People in this and age eat what is convenient, so with the trust and know-how of the cooks and chefs I’m lucky enough to have made friends with, we can make a difference!”
You are encouraged to keep an eye out for the next Guerilla Cuisine event via their website where you’ll find only a date of his next adventure that is sure be a success but where and how is yet to be determined. Past Guerrilla Cuisine events have been held in warehouses, vineyards and private homes - the only guarantees are great music, terrific artists, new friends, of course the best local food your area has to offer. Each culinary experience is unique, bringing together art, food and music in an inspiring environment for one night only. For more information, visit guerrillacuisine.com.
- Seviche is located at 1538 Bardstown Road in Louisville, Ky. Chef/owner Anthony Lamas was a 2010 and 2011 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation “Best Chef Southeast” award, and the restaurant was named one of the “ten great places for Latino flavor and flair” in the country by USA Today. To make reservations or for more information, call (502) 473-8560 or visit sevicherestaurant.com.
*jimihatt is not his real name, rather a moniker he picked up during his 15+ years working in kitchens around Charleston. He prefers not to use his real name and keeps "jimihatt" in lower-case to signify humility he prefers to keep.
(Photo: Kit Helton)