AOPC's Secret Dinners Are Legal, Spendy, and Taste Better Than a Chihuly

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What the fuck is this thing?
Does anyone remember the "underground dining" craze of a couple years ago? Secret and expensive dinners, cooked by famous chefs, prepared in unlicensed kitchens and served to people with too much money and not enough to talk about?

I can see the appeal of it: These clubs promised sensual delights, rare ingredients, masterful techniques, and exotic wines--AND, because they didn't need to bother spending money on all those bothersome government requirements like taxes, they could do it for cheaper than their law-abiding competitors. In theory it was supposed to be the culinary equivalent of Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. In practice these dinners sometimes ended up tasting like a Chihuly: too much money for a bunch of preposterous bullshit.

Which brings me to AOPC: it's a series of dinners held by retired ballerina Kari Brunson and How to Cook a Wolf's sous chef, Brandin Myett.

Like AOPC's underground forebears, it's a royal pain in the ass to sign up for these things, because Brunson or Myett have to invite you. Then they need your credit card number. Everything is legal, at least: They're holding the dinners in fully licensed, above-board facilities like Mistral Kitchen.

When I arrived, I was immediately handed a precious miniscule banh mi: a single steamed prawn on a caraway bun with a slice of pickle and a few shreds of julienned carrot, glistening with aoli. Another platter held coarse rounds of toast with a fishy but otherwise pleasant brandade, which had a good starchy mashed potato consistency.

Once all the amuse bouche had been eaten, we sat down at the communal table for the first course: a salad of arugula with grilled squid, Nicoise olives, and grapefruit supremes in a sprightly vinaigrette. This was very good and the inclusion of all the smoky squiggles of calamari was a nice twist.

Empanadas of ground beef had a flavorful filling, but I was put off by huge pallid chunks of garlic in the filling. Maybe they should've sautéed the garlic before throwing it into the pastry shell. Plus the salsa verde which accompanied the empanadas had the creamy green consistency of baby food. I felt like flicking a spoonful of this stuff on someone.

A foie gras torchon was creamy, perfectly emulsified and expertly prepared, served on crostini with ribbons of caramelized fennel and golden raisins. The fennel was an elegant touch, but I wish the flavor had been tart enough to slice through the testicle-pummeling richness of the foie. Mostly I'm just aggravated by how trendy torchons are right now. I just wish that, given the secretive and decadent nature of this elite event, that they'd wrapped the torchon in actual Egyptian mummy bandages stolen from the British Museum, and poached it in a midget's tears.

A grilled branzino filet with saffron rice, green peas, chorizo bits and Uli's sausage was REALLY GOOD, but it seemed like they wanted to make paella but just didn't go through with it. (A paella abortion!) The rice was really creamy, stained that brilliant canary yellow that comes only from saffron, and dotted with a constellation of bright green peas and spicy quarter rounds of sliced chorizo. Layered on top were flaky filets of grilled branzino with succulent white flesh and crispy grilled skin, and Uli's sausages. These were Portugese style pork sausages, masculine and erotic, bursting at their skins like an uncircumcised British heavy metaller wearing leather pants. Your mom would dump me for this sausage.

Dessert was a creamy lime custard, served in a shot glass, and topped with a couple tiny cubes of chalky and cloying meringue that tasted like the marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms.

I like AOPC. It's fun and the food is very good. My main criticism is that the dinner didn't really settle upon a theme--courses zig- zagged between Asian, Mediterranean, and South American cuisines. Plus it's TOO EXPENSIVE: while past episodes of AOPC were an affordable $50, this one clocked in at a wallet-shattering $100. Yeah, there was LOTS of food and a seemingly infinite amount of very good wine, but for that price I could have also gone to the Corson Building and jumped through far fewer hoops.

Also, for an "underground club" they didn't engage in enough flights of fancy. The calamari was nice and the foie gras torchon was quite a surprise, but when I go to a secret exclusive dinner I want to be FISTED BY DELICIOUSNESS. At AOPC I was, at best, merely molested by flavor.

Rating: 7 molesters out of 10

AOPC is a secret club and they don't want your money, but if you insist you could possibly contact them here.

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