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Secret Suppers with Jenn Garbee

June 4, 2008 | 11:03 am


It started with a story about underground restaurants written for The Times in November 2006. Now Jenn Garbee is publishing a book on the subject -- Secret Suppers: Rogue Chefs and Underground Restaurants in Warehouses, Townhouses, Open Fields, and Everywhere in Between.

Last Friday, she was the guest of honor at a secret supper celebrating the book to be released by Sasquatch Books in October. (Jenn is the pretty redhead in the green sweater. I'm the lady on the left.) Garbee arrived at The Times two years ago as a kitchen intern.
A smashing writer as well as a cook, we put her to work on the editorial side as well. Garbee has moved on to be the editor of a new lifestyle magazine -- Santa Monica Style -- to launch this fall, but to our delight, she continues to write for The Times.
In her book, Garbee takes the reader to 10 underground restaurants across the country, with recipes at the end of each chapter. "They are all completely different. Some are grungy, some are professional chefs, some are home cooks, some are who knows what. That's what I like best about them. Go to one, find another, go again," Garbee says. You never have the same experience twice.
Friday's dinner was an al fresco event in the backyard gardens of floral designer Tara Kolla hosted by Carrie Norton, founder of Silver Lake Supper Club. Norton is a home cook who loves to entertain and, so far, she's hosted four underground dinners. "She does it for fun -- to meet people, gather people, share food," Garbee says. Make money? Forget about it. Secret suppers are less profitable than joyful.

Rich Mead, exec chef-owner of Sage on the Coast in Newport Beach (Chapter 9), created Friday night's meal. There were two appetizers offered to guests when they arrived: grilled garlic bruschetta with tomato jam, arugula and fresh mozzarella and Vietnamese-style butter lettuce cups filled with green papaya salad, barbecue beef and spicy Thai sauce. Dinner was served family style starting with a green salad tossed with strawberries, goat cheese and pistachios. There were two main dishes: a slow-cooked Schaner Farms whole pig with tomatillos and steamed sesame teriyaki Loch Duarte Scottish salmon on soba noddles with grilled baby bok choy. Dessert was a sensational collection of pastries by Zoe Nathan, pastry chef at Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen (Chapter 10). I'm still dreaming about the fresh blueberry corn cake with vanilla ice cream. Amazing!
-- Corie Brown
Photo by Chris Fager