In lieu of a book party, which authors customarily use to promote their books, I usually opt for throwing a supper club or “pop-up” restaurant whenever possible. In addition to allowing people to sample the food, such an event also appeals to my DIY roots in independent music. Create a program that is fun and unique, keep it small, and people will want to come out and be a part of it. Plus, I like cooking for people, and throwing dinner parties in different cities across the country is a great way to introduce people to Sri Lankan food, one plate at a time.
This time, I packed up my spices and headed to Chi-town, the “Windy City,” in the dead of winter, no less. My cousin Raj graciously agreed to host the dinner at his newly renovated digs in the hip neighborhood of Bucktown. Though we had originally decided to invite 20-25 people, my cousin has a lot of friends, so the guest list kept growing. In the end, I served 56 people a typical Sri Lankan “rice & curry” meal, which consisted of the following menu:
The Sri Lankan Supper Club – Chicago
Saturday, January 28th 2012
Fish Cutlets – deep-fried croquettes of fish, potato, & spices
Fish Ambul Thiyal – chunks of fish cooked in a tangy sauce
Parippu – yellow lentils stewed in coconut milk
Ala Thel Dala – potatoes sautéed with onions, chili and Maldive fish
French bean curry
Papadum – thin, crispy lentil-flour wafers
Caramel Pudding (flan)
For me, this dinner was a first, feeding so many people. I wanted to make sure everything was on point, so I started cooking the day in advance. I can usually handle all the work by myself, but when I discovered how much food I would really have to make, my cousin enlisted the aid of some friends. Thanks to the help of Voula, Arianna, Jessica and Carol, I was able to get the last dish made just as guests were filtering in and enjoying cocktails.
All in all a very successful event: I had just enough food and everyone went away happy and satisfied and with a new appreciation for a cuisine which has been below the radar for too long. I also sold a lot of books.
As I belong to a community of food bloggers know as Food Buzz, The Chicago Sri Lankan Supper club was also chosen to be a part of that organization’s monthly series called “24×24” in which 24 different dinner parties are thrown across the country on the same night and then documented on blogs. As far as I know, this is the first time Sri Lankan food has played center stage.