Updated April 6
I can’t remember the last time I sat down for a three-course meal and walked out of the place empty-handed. I’m notorious for leaving restaurants with at least one takeaway box, usually paired with a too-full stomach. That’s why I felt somewhat surprised Saturday night leaving Little House Cafe. No boxes. No sore stomachs. Mere satisfaction.
That’s the beauty of manageable portions, creative dinner medleys, and a warm drizzle of local ingredients. I have a Food Minded Fellow to thank.
Private Chef Gavin Smith of Food Minded Fellow occupied the Little House kitchen on Saturday, March 30, for the restaurant’s first ever pop-up dinner. Seatings were booked solid throughout the evening. Smith offered two options for starters, two options for mains, and two options for dessert. Indecision wasn’t an issue. Either this, or that. Prices were fixed at $48 per person. We tried everything on the menu.
A butternut squash soup was the first dish to allure our table. A healthy serving of the delicate harvest orange purée was just right — temperature, taste, everything. It was served alongside a light coconut foam, and garnished with arugula, sprouts, and a pinch of pepitas. The soup was cooked in ginger and tasted rich in roasted butternut flavor. A sweet start.
The other first course option was venison toast. It was served on sourdough with a charred onion relish and chimichurri. Tender, slightly pink, and thinly chopped pieces of steak topped the fresh slice of sourdough.
I chose roasted shiitake mushrooms for my entrée, and an array of the earthy, smoky medallions were served on kale and mustard in a burnt vegetable demi. Varied in color, size, and flavor, the mushrooms came from Jansal Valley. Local shiitake won’t be ready for another few weeks, according to Smith.
The second entrée choice was local bay scallops from Sengekontacket Pond. The small scallops were soft and cooked golden, sweet like candy. They were topped with Brussels sprouts, and served with what looked like a serving of mashed potatoes, or was it mashed cauliflower?
“Whipped parsnips with white chocolate,” Smith said as he made the mid-dinner table rounds. He later told me this was a recipe he discovered himself.
“We were trying to work chocolate into each dish for a Valentine’s Day menu,” Smith said. “It ended up turning out really nice. There’s a little bit of sweetness in parsnips and scallops, and if you don’t overdo it with the white chocolate, it can really elevate the whole thing.” If I were handing out superlatives, I’d dub Smith’s scallops most memorable.
On to desserts. There was an apple crumble made with an assortment of chopped apples served under a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There was also a vanilla panna cotta, made with sweetened cream thickened with gelatin. It was paired with a crumble made with local rye flour from Lost and Found Grains, which can be found at Mermaid Farm in Chilmark. It was served on top of splashes of raspberry flavor.
Saturday’s dinner was completely sold out, with a waitlist they couldn’t get to. Colton Gilpin assisted Smith in the kitchen. “There were just two of us,” he said. “We served 72 people.”
Smith said new kitchens always present new challenges, but he was able to adjust; “It went really well.”
Smith also said he’s hoping to host more pop-ups this summer, and will keep us all posted on the schedule.
*Updated to correct where the venison was sourced.