Extra Bite: Feasting on Füd

Check out a truly off-the-menu offering–a blow-by-blow account of dinner at Füd to accompany my column. (There’s only so much I can fit in print–but the limits are endless on the internets!)

What a week it’s been for local foodies, from the opening of long-awaited Restaurant 1833 to the premier of the Monterey Peninsula’s first popup restaurant, Füd, the food community has been abuzz this past week.

Monterey is finally getting in on the popup restaurant trend.

Füd, the brainchild of Crowded House events, debuted their popup restaurant at East Village Coffee Lounge, offering a four-course prix fixe prepared by John Knight, the sous chef at Roy’s at Spanish Bay, for $45 (including the cost of a single cocktail), plus tax and tip.

Dinner service started with cocktails, including margaritas made with coffee-infused tequila, then launched into a meal heavily influenced by the coffeehouse location.

The shrimp mofongo had a deliciously rich shrimp stock.

The first course was a shrimp mofongo—a ball of mashed plantains and Pig Wizard bacon sitting in shrimp soup with four shrimp tails. The shrimp soup was easily the star of this dish—it was full of flavor and body, prepared by building a shrimp stock from scratch. The plantains had several nuggets of tasty pork—that Pig Wizard really does work magic on pork products!

The green tea and plum granita cleansed the palate between savory courses.

Next up was a green tea and plum granita, intended to cleanse the palate between courses. Spiked with a touch of liqueur, this was refreshingly simple dish.

The main course was coffee-brined duck, rubbed with Ancho and Poblano chilies, and served with a coffee mole infused with Acme’s coffee grounds. Served with rice and beans, a cabbage salad and freshly made guacamole and pico de gallo, this was a sophisticated take on a classic plate of rice, beans and meat.

While the duck was a little tough, the coffee mole was tasty.

I found my duck to be a little tough, likely suffering from the challenge of preparing two dozen plates of ducks at one time. Under such constraints, it’s hard to execute each plate to perfection, especially with a meat as finicky as duck. The mole felt so sophisticated, especially with the infusion of Acme coffee. But I will admit, everything else felt a little weak after such a  strong burst of coffee.

Dessert was a rum baba—a rum-infused yeast cake, glazed with apricot and served with a small cup of bacon hot chocolate. The cake was very rummy and very yeasty. But the accompanying dandelion jelly—handpicked and handmade by John Knight—helped cut that strong flavor. Our host likened it to sunshine in food form—and I’d definitely agree.

An interesting pairing of rum yeast cake and bacon hot chocolate.

But the unsung star was the bacon hot chocolate. Yep, you read it right—bacon hot chocolate. Chef Knight prepared this rich indulgence by cooking up some bacon, adding milk, reducing it and adding chocolate. The product of a challenge for a bacon party, this drink had a surprising mix of smoky bacon and sweet chocolate.

While the food was a little rough around the edges, I think the concept was a welcome addition to our local food scene. Hosting a small dinner for no more than 30 diners for just two nights a month makes for a very intimate dining experience. Diners sat at large communal tables, encouraging you to get to know your neighbors.

The informal setting at communal tables made for a more intimate dinner.

Chef came out after each course to explain the dish and the inspiration behind it. At the end, he joined us for a lively discussion and took questions from diners eager to replicate the chili rub or the bacon hot chocolate at home. I appreciated this informal dinner setting—it felt like we’d been invited into the Chef’s home. This more personal setting was refreshing.

It was also nice to hear that the evening’s proceeds were going directly to charity—the Monterey County Food Bank this month. Likewise, the chef and waitstaff had donated their time that evening for a good cause. There’s nothing better than getting good food and doing good at the same time!

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