A serious week of eating in and around the Bay Area was capped off by yet another Sri Lankan Supper Club last week as I introduced this food mecca to something which is a bit of a rarity around these parts—rice & curry. In the interests of full-disclosure, there is a Sri Lankan restaurant located about 45 minutes outside the city, but this is the first time San Francisco residents could venture down to the iconic neighborhood of Haight Ashbury and have a full, traditional island meal which included heirloom red rice direct from Sri Lanka (courtesy of Rural Returns) as well as a very special Sri Lankan cocktail called the Aria—with Arrack (courtesy of White Lion V.S.O.A.), lime juice, palm sugar and water.
The event was co-sponsored by Buyer’s Best Friend, a broker for small artisanal food producers (like myself), who have recently opened a store on the Haight, and are about to open a couple more locations around the city. The BBF Wholesale & Mercantile Store provides an intimate, homey environment for discovering new, small-batch products like Skiz’s Original Spice Blends, and the best part of the experience is that everything is open for tasting, sampling, touching or sniffing. So while the staff was busy arranging a single long table and laying place settings, supper club attendees could browse the various merchandise racks while enjoying a complimentary cocktail courtesy of White Lion V.S.O.A (which stands for Very Special Old Arrack), which is available now in SF and LA.
In addition to red rice, I also prepared chicken curry, fish ambul thiyal, dahl, mallun (sautéed greens), a beet curry, salad, and fish cutlets for the appetizer. I also made Caramel Pudding, the Sri Lankan version of flan for dessert. The recipes for all of these dishes may be found in my cookbook, Rice & Curry: Sri Lankan Home Cooking (Hippocrene Books, 2011) As the dinner was served buffet style, plates were piled high, and the 30 in attendance did serious justice to all the food, leaving very little in the way of leftovers, which was a very good sign.
Despite all the planning and work that goes into these events, the dinner was a blast! I saw many old friends, whom I had not seen in a while, made some new ones, and threw back some good food and drink while introducing Sri Lankan food, one plate at a time, to an eager and enthusiastic bunch of eaters.
Thanks to Joyce & Adam at BBF for letting me cook in their kitchen and serve dinner in their store, Anna & Shea for helping with the cooking and logistics, and my good friends, Sean, Sassan, Gabe, Kelly & Laurie, who did a lot of work behind-the-scenes, and really helped make this dinner a big hit! Also thanks to Rural Returns and White Lion for co-sponsoring the event.