After a series of pop-up dinners at Cafe Options, which played host to chef Max MacKissock and several squad members of the soon-to-reopen Squeaky Bean on Friday and Saturday night, the staff celebrated by shotgunning beers in the kitchen.
The Squeaky Bean's irreverence is alive and well.
And so, too, is MacKissock's virtually untouchable talent in the kitchen. Good God, this guy can cook. In fact, MacKissock, who might as well be wielding his knives in Michelin-star restaurants in France, taps into our culinary fantasies so fluently -- so effortlessly -- that cooking is clearly as natural to him as breathing is to the rest of us.
The ambitious five-course dinner, which was a benefit for Work Options for Women, a local nonprofit that equips impoverished women with the tools and education to find employment in the food-service industry, was nothing short of perfection, each dish a beautifully composed universe of transfixing flavors and textures that made you shake your head in reverent awe.
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And this was just one of several pop-up meals that the Bean has planned before it reopens next spring in a build-out space on the corner of 15th and Wynkoop. Chief bean czar Johnny Ballen, who's renowned for his enamoring idiosyncrasies -- like running off with pigs from Euclid Hall -- says he'd like do a second pop-up dinner, a pop-up brunch and a spur-of-the-moment "flash" dinner, all within the next several months.
If -- and when -- those happen, we implore you to go, but in the meantime, check out what you may have missed at the first pop-up dinners.
White-wine-poached smoked mussel with shaved fennel greens, fennel ribbon, speck, red pepper and orange soubise partnered with a Parmesan-potato cannoli embracing whipped-potato mousse. The sea urchin wrapped with angel-hair pasta and haloed with micro opal basil, preserved lemon, dehydrated garlic and parsley coulis, was spectacular, as was its sidekick, an eggshell stowing parsnip puree topped with a yellow-beet liquid gel and parsley coulis. Salt-baked orange and white carrots and golden and red beets propped on a plate with celery-root mousseline and celery leaves pooled in a black-truffle vinaigrette. Glistening hiramasa with raw radishes, Parisian potatoes -- they're named for Paris's Pont Neuf -- lemon, sea beans (often called the "asparagus of the sea"), parsley and the most exquisite bites of egg yolk, which were formed in a tube and melted on the tongue like butter. Chicken and mushrooms "fried chicken," which, as Ballen quipped, was really "deconstructed-and-reconstructed fried chicken." MacKissock removed the dark meat and white meat from the bone, made a chicken-liver mousseline and then cloaked the flesh in its own skin, which he then reattached to the bone and deep-fried, serving the chicken in a fragrant chicken veloute bobbing with poultry herbs, pickled mushrooms and a black trumpet mushroom puree. I want this next year for Thanksgiving. My favorite dish of the night -- and it was very difficult to choose -- was the lamb-wrapped-lamb-belly-wrapped loin with whipped sweet potatoes, green garlic soubise, borage blossoms (which taste like cucumbers), crisp kale leaves, dots of mint gel and frisée. Pastry wizard Matthew Thompson didn't disappoint when it came to desserts, turning out a Tom and Jerry gingerbread jelly roll with cranberries and crushed pecans wreathed in brandy cream sauce.