Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Research Club Talk: What is Special Snowflake Supperclub?

Many thanks to Nim and Beth of Research Club for inviting us to talk on Sunday July 31st at Gallery Homeland within the Ford Building in SE Portland. We are always looking for diners, entertainers, and collaborators for our events. Find us on Facebook or email us at

What Is Special Snowflake Supperclub? Special Snowflake Supperclub is a roving dining experience that is equal parts art project, food laboratory, and social club.

Each event, at venues ranging so far from a church to a bakery to an art gallery, has a different, usually research-intensive theme that may or may not be historical, as has been the case in some instances, but it’s always conceptual. The supperclub is a food event that is idea-based, and the menu is not simply “local/fresh/seasonal,” “look what I picked up at the market today;” instead, our menus are more idiosyncratic and reflect a preoccupation with creating a narrative, arranging things familiar and strange in a shared tableau, exciting some cognitive dissonance.

One of the major influences for the supperclub is Lawrence and Anna Halprin’s RSVP Cycles: Creative Processes in the Human Environment. Basically, the book is about collaboration and the creative processes of planning, design, and performance.

So our supperclubs are more like scores for a performance; they are designed as collaborations. Our event invitations are like offering up scores or scripts or choreography, and our diners are the musicians, the dancers, the cast and crew; they get to choose their roles and their level of involvement in response to the themes and concepts that we throw out.

Unique aspects of Special Snowflake Supperclub 
We crowdsource entertainment and some of our labor: Our diners who volunteer at the event pay a reduced fee if they choose to work on set up crew, bring greenery for the table, do some food running, or provide entertainment. Working together and "bringing something to the table" creates connection among diners and helps us to keep our costs low. 

We’ve introduced the practice of starting the events with "Cocktails and Commerce," an opportunity for guests to sell and show off their cottage industries, DIY ventures, and small businesses.


August 21 at The Palace of Industry, a vintage store in NE Portland. A Victorian high and low supper, featuring versions of food from the manors of the rich, and street cart food that would have been eaten by the working class poor.

September 17, ADX Fabrication Feast: a collaboration. ADX is a 10,000 sq. ft. workspace shared by architects, builders and fabricators. ADX members are invited to build the tables, seating, lighting, linens for the event; Snowflake diners will be invited to bring their own place setting and accompanying “table story” of the origins or significance of the objects in their dining kit.

We’re still sketching concepts, and so far the food inspirations for the Fabrication Feast are communities of builders: bees, Amish barn raisings, and Carthage (present-day Tunisia), one of the largest pre-industrial cities, and ancient Rome’s chief rival: feared, reviled, respected, mythologized in art and literature by Timaeus, Vergil, Spenser, Purcell.

Some of the interactive components may include: diners shaking cream into butter, chipping their own ice from large blocks, caramelizing the fruit for their dessert with kitchen torches; inviting volunteers to bake bread with active yeast starters that will pick up the “terroir” of each baker’s neighborhood/kitchen microclimate, so we can consume and compare to see if we can taste the difference.  Possibly a dessert that looks like dirt so diners can “plant their own garden.”


Old/New South (April 2011): We served traditional and innovative Southern American food. Menu highlights: On-the-third-day fried chicken (a day of brine, a day of buttermilk, and a fry-up in lard seasoned with smoked ham), chicken-fried hen of the woods mushrooms, collards bathed in ham broth, a tipsy cake, pecan pie with sorghum syrump.

The Monk & The Explorer (June 2011): We asked the question, “What if a Buddhist Monk and a European Explorer shared a meal?” We served Asian temple food and Continental cuisine: fried fish bones, buckwheat soba noodles, Tibetan water buffalo jerky, wild boar legs, saffron’d fish pie, and rhubarb pie with an elderflower and earl grey crème anglaise.

Planetary Sculpture Dinner (June 2011) (collaboration with The Center for Genomic Gastronomy & Gorilla Meats Co.) vegetarian tomato bouillabaisse with pa amb tomaquet, pimentón, fennel and lemony aioli; pressed tofu with scallion oil and Sichuan peppersalt, pickled seaweed, and a pill capsule stuffed with toasted rice powder, wild lime and lemongrass. Polenta with buttermilk (nixmatalized- cornmeal soaked in lime water).

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