I’m always on the lookout for special and different food experiences. When a co-worker asked if I had heard of Blank Plate Boulder, my ears piqued, as I hadn’t and it was all about experiential dining and food.
I needed no encouragement. Immediately I Googled them, and signed up for the next pop-up dinner, and anxiously awaited the details of where and what it would be. Part of their allure is telling you right before the dinner where it will be hosted (they’re hyper-focused in Boulder) and what the evening will entail.
Started by L.R. Laggy, he told me the idea came from a “whimsical suggestion that made a lot of sense,” from his roommate and friend Eva, who suggested they “put a restaurant in our backyard.” Literally. He notes that because it scared him, something was probably worth pursuing. Their first pop-up dinner was in September 2014, and they had their fifth this June.
Laggy believes the popularity of pop-ups are “because of the adventure of the unknown – there are no Yelp reviews for pop-up dinners,” which I think makes for that unknown element. He loves that the dinners are “self-selecting,” by nature. The people who attend are already seeking something different. As he shared, “No one’s coming to a pop-up dinner because they couldn’t get into Oak or The Kitchen on a given night.”
I personally believe there’s an ethereal nature to pop-up dinners. There’s an intangible that we might crave and I love to be wowed. Sometimes the unpredictable feels good; it shakes things up since so much of our lives are regulated, and habitual.
Every pop-up dinner location will differ, as will the chef, drinks, and food with Blank Plate. Laggy believes it’s also a “creative outlet for talented cooks and chefs in Boulder to share their gifts directly and get full credit for what they do, to have a moment in the sun.” We all know chefs typically are over the fire, moving rapidly in the back of the kitchen as creative geniuses, and subsequently they don’t often interact with patrons, on a given night in a restaurant. People like the idea of seeing who created their food, talking with that other side of the house, and getting that access which ties you closer to your food and perhaps maker, at a pop-up.
May | Blank Plate Boulder Dinner:
We arrived at a house near the Flatirons in Boulder, welcomed with special brewed beer just for that evening, and mingling over delicious passed appetizers. It was a rainy May evening, so we huddled close together, as I glanced around at everyone filtering in. I like to think of the people that seek out and/or attend pop-up dinners are my kind of people, looking for adventure, something out of the norm, but love community and food. I secretly wonder their story as we make eye contact. Smile, then silently acknowledge we’re about to get into something good and break bread together.
As we sat at long tables side by side, we were a bit squished in, but it was cozy and warm, and the room began buzzing with conversation as you settled into your neighbors. We each had a nametag just saying our name, and a fun fact about ourselves. Always a conversation starter, but not too cheesy or forced.
One thing that’s worth noting, is that with pop-up dinners, remembering that chefs don’t have their typical setup (if at all), you appreciate what they’re pumping out even more. Whether they’re using camping stoves, coolers, running up and down to other prep stations, having a few burners on an old non-industrial-grade stove, you have to appreciate the sweat that goes into it. Sometimes I wonder how they pull it off. On this evening, I saw the chefs in a tiny house kitchen, behind a small divider from where we ate. They kept their cool, and I never heard a shout. They are after all, professionals from my favorite The Kitchen in Boulder (shout-out to Chef Paul), so I’m not surprised.
Laggy and his team (of volunteers!) had so much passion. Perhaps that’s an overused word, but you can tell that they’re moved by food and community, and cared a lot about creating an evening that was memorable. Everyone has day or restaurant jobs that write their check, but as they ramp up, they’re hoping to turn this into something viable that keeps people coming back. When someone cares so much about something, you immediately feel empathy and a connection, which is what Laggy did that evening.
We started with hors d’oeuvres of buffalo chicken chicharrones bites, chicken liver pate with rhubarb and mustard, and goat cheese and spread vegetable crositini. This was paired with a Grisette and English Bitter (yes two) home brewed beers. Every dish was carefully brewed by Dan Phelps (another longtime Kitchen employee) just for this evening, thoughtfully alongside the dishes.
The first course was a fritatta mizuna with pickled ramps, paired with a Smoked California Common beer. I could have eaten a handful of these delightfully light, and savory fritatta’s.
To round things out we had a cheese course (after my own heart), with an English stilton with celery relish, Munster with dried fruit compote alongside homemade toffee. This was paired with a Baltic Porter with Early Grey and Vanilla, as well as a Barley Wine which was delicious. Knocked it out of the park, really.
If you’re looking for something different for your evening, perhaps go with a group of friends, a date night, or bring visitors from out of town – these pop-ups are a great way to get outside your box.
You can learn more about Blank Plate Boulder here: blankplateboulder.com.