This post is sponsored by Houndstooth.
While the fine dining scene has witnessed some notable closings of late, pop-ups, typically showcasing one chef and one menu for one night, are alive and well. Pop-up dinners offer chefs the latitude to present their creative vision, if only for a brief time.
And they provide a wonderful complement to the traditional restaurant model. Executive chefs and chef-owners host pop-ups for a number of reasons. Some want to create food that is not congruent with their current digs; others do it as a source of income and excitement between projects.
Cook St. Paul, a diner in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, hosts pop-ups nearly every weekend. By day, Cook serves breakfast and lunch, but on weekend evenings the place is transformed.
On January 29, Cook will host a promising pop-up called Houndstooth, featuring the premiere Canadian chef Rick Didora and a notable supporting cast. Didora, formerly of Tilia and St. Genevieve, has a background in fine dining, French technique, and hyper-seasonal ingredients. His experience at Montreal’s H4C, under the decorated chef Dany Bolduc, has shaped the concept for Houndstooth.
“Dany’s approach to food definitely helped shape my culinary identity,” says Didora. “He uses ingredients that are as fresh and as local as possible. He taught me to embrace new technique without being obnoxious.” After taking a brief break from the kitchen, Didora is returning to this approach in full force.
Though a pop-up may feel like a junior restaurant akin to the Restaurant Wars episode of any Top Chef season, it’s far from it. Didora and his team are responsible for all elements of service, including hospitality and beverage pairings.
The kitchen will be manned by Mitch Robbie, a longtime Tilia veteran, Kyual Cribben of 112 Eatery and Tilia, Jackie Von, the pastry chef at Esker Grove, and Teg Graham, former entremetier chef de partie (soup and vegetable lead chef) at H4C. Paige Didora will provide beer pairings for the five-course ticketed event, based on her experience at The Four Firkins and as a writer for The Heavy Table under the name Paige Latham.
“I like working with a positive attitude, and with people who share that same attitude,” says chef Didora of his eclectic crew. “Everyone is bringing several years of experience in various restaurants to the table. We are all excited to work together.”
For the menu, diners can expect a sophisticated mix of ingredients with Korean and Mexican influences. The two cuisine are complementary due in part to their countries’ similar climates. “People can expect refined technique, unique flavor combinations, and fun,” says Didora. “We are definitely going to be playing with textures.”
Each of the five courses promises to introduce new ingredients in new flavor combinations. The beer pairings may feel unexpected in an upscale setting, but the Houndstooth team is united behind high-quality beer, carefully chosen to complement each dish. Pairings will range from international to local in both classic and surprising combos.
“I chose beer because of its myriad abilities in pairing with food,” says Didora. “Wine is fine, but it’s been done to death. I think given the breadth of flavors we are going to be working with, beer is the clear choice for pairing.”
The one-night event promises to be memorable and inviting, with exciting collaborative efforts by some of the Twin Cities’ unsung culinary talent.