For anyone who watched the Tastemade Snapchat takeover live, you saw the the crazy and the calm of pop-up day. Even beyond that though, so much prep went into it to making the night as special as it was.
In the weeks leading up to the Pop-up, tons of research went into the countries, their dishes, and their cocktails. Dini used Pinterest for inspiration, had late night dates with google, and even watched Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern episodes that highlighted the countries she selected just to fully learn about the countries and their cuisine. Recipes were then made over and over to make sure they were perfect so no problems would come up and the night would run as smoothly as possible. Things are never that easy though, right?
Pop Up Week!
Monday August 1
Dini and I head up to Stamford. We made trips running in all of the candles, baskets, vases, and other global inspired pieces that Dini borrowed from her partner catering company Above and Beyond Catering– huge thank you to them for helping set the ethnic mood that night!
I got to meet Dan the general manager at Six Thirteen Restaurant and the fabulous kitchen staff. We then saw the custom cedar boards made for special for the Scandinavia inspired dish, so gorgeous, and we then spoke about the general color scheme of the evening, decor etc. As everyone has completely different style, Dini and Dan had a few disagreements in terms of set up, but after 20 minutes or so they figured it out, and I think their joint effort ended up looking incredible!
We then sat down with Jorge, the executive chef, and made a schedule for the rest of the week so that everything would be organized leading up to the event.
We head back home pumped for tomorrow!
Tuesday August 2
Before driving up to Stamford, we head to Stop and Shop to buy some banana leaves for the Dominican dish, and look for flax seeds- this menu required some specialty items! After not finding the banana leaves at Stop and Shop, we realizing that it was Shop Rite that had them. Mix up! We run over there and continue the hunt.
Yes! We found them. Who knew you could buy banana leaves in the freezer section? The lady checking us out was actually Dominican so she was telling us all about the Pasteles en Hojas that she had growing up. Pretty cool!
When we got to the restaurant, it was kitchen day!! We washed up, strapped on our aprons and began making the Scandinavian crackers, and seed breads. We then tasted some more of the proteins for each of the dishes including the gravlax that was curing, and we whipped up some sauces to get as much as possible out of the way.
Counting plates and bowls to ensure we have enough of everything is not a glamorous activity but needs to get done none-the-less, and if we (by we I mean those of legal drinking age), have to taste some cocktails while we do that to make sure we like them, well I guess it’s just part of the job. Dan makes some killer cocktails- you can tell by Dini’s excitement!
Next we start discussing plating design, garnishes etc. Which beautiful produce do we want to put on the wood Scandinavia boards to make them look REALLY beautiful?
Dini- “We must find some watermelon radishes and candy striped beets. That would complete the dish and look absolutely gorgeous. Tomorrow at the farmers market we will pick some up!” By the way, when Dini has her heart set on something, she makes it happen. She “needed” these radishes!
I’m out with my family and I get a text from Dini:
Dini-“Tomorrow’s blog post is set to to post at 12pm”
Me- “Yay! k…wait- did you still want to use the recipe that was in there?”
Dini- “Yes. It’s there already. We’re set to post.”
Me- “I don’t think we checked the adjustments of the recipe.”
Dini- “Oh man..”
Me – “I’m not home right now but I can check it when I get back. We are out of Techina anyways so happy to whip up a batch.”
Dini- “If you can that would be great. Thank you!!”
Me- “It’s perfect just half the salt.”
Dini-“Awesome. Thank you! Edited. Sleep. Now.”
Wednesday August 3rd
Dini and I head to the White Plains Farmer’s Market in search of candy striped beets, watermelon radishes, and other seasonal produce to brighten up the dishes.
We found purple basil, different color peppers, flowers, candy striped beets, but no watermelon radishes. Ugh!! Union Square has watermelon radishes- Dini mentioned she saw people posting pictures of them on Instagram- Got to love social media! So Dini called her husband Mike who works in the city, and he was sent on a hunt for watermelon radishes. And boy was it a hunt! He went from stand to stand asking if they had them. He called us about to lose hope when suddenly we hear him ask, “how much are they a pound?” Score! Three pounds of watermelon radishes later, and huge smiles, and we were set!
We get to the restaurant. time to lug in our Farmer’s Market Finds, and head back to the kitchen. Dini starts the dessert, and I’m on the next workstation on cracker duty. Everything so far is going pretty smoothly, but there is no such thing as an event without a minor disaster. BUM BUM BUM….
Dini Prepped, peeled, chopped mangoes, and made 10 batches of the bottom Tahitian Po’e layer for the two layer Po’e and Panna Cotta dessert. We remove the Po’e from the oven and it’s not even across the sheet pan since the pans were dented, it’s really thin, and it was just a disaster. Dini had perfected this recipe at home using her ovens, using small baking pans, and making single portions of the dish. Definitely different than baking in a restaurant as we quickly found out! It got really stressful, really fast. We need to make the desserts over again since Dini wasn’t happy with how this looked. It was almost 5pm and after a long day of working in this dish only for it to flop, Dini was incredibly stressed and frustrated. Jorge kept his cool throughout the whole disaster, and ended sending us home, so we could rest, give it a break, and come back tomorrow ready to bounce back and conquer. We felt kind of defeated and we didn’t have a plan for tomorrow, so we had no idea what was going to happen with this dessert. The ride home was pretty quiet..
Dini’s kids are asleep, she relaxed a bit, and now back to work. We need to plan for pop up day tomorrow. There is no room for mistakes with this dessert. We must nail this dessert tomorrow! First off we need more jello packets so we could make the panna cotta top. After a few phone calls on the way back home from the restaurant earlier, two stores were out of them. I called my dad who was in Queens at the time and had him pick up 20 jello packets for us. Phew! Things were already starting to look up! We also needed lots more coconut milk which is never easy to find. Jorge was going to the store tomorrow and will hopefully find!
Dini got the login for Tastemade’s Snapchat and tomorrow we will be documenting the entire day! This will be epic!
The pop-up is tomorrow!!!!! Must try to sleep a bit!
Thursday August 4th
Don’t ask me why I’m up this early. I think it’s the excitement/ adrenaline.
So we are going to head out earlier than planned. We are off to Homegoods to pick up some throw pillows before we head to the restaurant.
First customers in. We fly around the store, find the perfect pillows, and we even found another tapestry to hang on the wall! Such excitement! Dini is hysterical when she is excited about something!
We fly back to the restaurant to start the day (since a lot needed to be done as the desserts flopped yesterday!) Jorge is getting some stuff at Restaurant Depot, and it seems as though we are the only ones who are this excited, because we are waiting outside the restaurant and nobody is there yet to let us in! 25 anxious minutes later the doors open. Let’s do this!
The restaurant was closed for the day for Dini’s Pop up so all of the staff was delegated to work on different dishes. It was like a well oiled machine. Everyone worked so quickly, and was getting their task done.
Dini and I started the desserts right away! We needed all the time we could get because between the cooking, prepping, social media, interviews, filming… there was a lot that was going on throughout the day, and many people that Dini needed to be available for right before the night begins, so it was crunch time! We had a little chat and figured out a game plan to make this work like it had at home. We used pre-pureed mangoes this time that Jorge found at the store, so that was a major time saver! I also recommended we use disposable 9X13 pans so it will come out the way it had at home. Even if it takes a bit longer. We also measure out the exact amount of batter between the pans to ensure everything was even and perfect. The convection setting in the industrial oven cooked the dessert way too quickly the first round so we made sure to shut it off this time. It our last chance to make this dessert happen! Fingers crossed.
Jorge wasn’t able to find the coconut milk we needed at the store so he had his wife help out- It’s incredible how many people had a hand in this pop up! His wife called saying she was only able to find ‘Lite Coconut Milk’. It will have to do at this point and we’ll mix it together with the regular coconut milk we already had. Hope it works!
Po’e come out of the oven and it looks perfect! Thank goodness! Dini had a little sense of relief. Now on to the top layer-coconut panna cotta. We get it done and put the desserts in the fridge to set up.
Everything is coming together. Dini was running around tasting sauces, giving guidance, adding more flavor to the gravlax, and giving suggestions on how we will serve it. the Ethiopian Doro Wat is simmering away, the duck is being pulled for the Lumpia, vegetables are being prepped, herbs and garnishes checked and cleaned, cocktails are being adjusted..We’re getting there!
We start to dehydrate the egg yolks (they had cured for 4 days, I then was told to rinse them off, place on baking rack and place in oven) and thankfully we had two trays of them because the first batch majorly overcooked in the industrial restaurant oven. What I am realizing is that cooking in a restaurant is a totally different beast than cooking at home! Second batch comes out perfect. Wow..
The rest of the day was fast paced. One minute it was noon, the next there was an hour until the first seating. Dini told me that the day always flies, but it really went by in blink of an eye!
We get dressed and cleaned up for the night- in the restaurant bathroom since there was no time to go home and risk getting stuck in traffic!
Dini then had me cut menu cards to size. She designed and made these herself too-She really takes on everything!
Quick check in the fridge. Some of the panna cotta isn’t quite setting.. why can’t anything just be easy? It must have been that the liquid wasn’t hot enough when we added the jello mix in. Oh man.. We throw them in the freezer and figure it will have to do. It was late and at this point it seemed like we would need to use some of the desserts that didn’t quite look that great, but then Dini found 2 sheet pans of the Po’e in the fridge that looks semi-decent from the day before and had me make finish them off with extra jello we had that had actually almost gotten thrown out. We figured we have nothing to lose and if these work we will have more options of nice looking pieces of dessert. I get them made and in the fridge to set. Talk about last minute. Please work! Please work!
It worked! Now everyone can have a perfect looking dessert and no need to use the mess ups. Relief! Wow so much stress.
Just about everything is prepped, cooked, heating, and ready for service. We start setting out the wood boards to get the scandinavian dish out on the tables by 6:20.
Dini’s production company Big Chief Entertainment arrives and get’s dini mic’d up and ready to film!
Next in comes Shifra Klein from Joy of Kosher Magazine to interview and get information for her magazine feature. So much fun meeting her!
Adi Heyman of Fabologie.com arrives and starts getting her shots for a feature she’s working on. So much going on here!
Stamford Advocate journalist and photographer arrive to start getting the story. Dini is interviewed and smiling from ear to ear. Finally she feels relaxed and confident about the night!
Getting exciting here! Front of the house is lighting candles, Scandinvian boards are going out on the tables, napkins are being folded, and people are starting to trickle in. Adrenaline!
Both seating went as smoothly as possible. Everybody from front of the house to back of the house stepped up their game. Drinks were flowing. The dishes came out of the kitchen looking like perfection. Here are some shots of those dishes:
We documented the entire day on Tastemade’s Snapchat account so you can see how it all went down. Check it out:
It seems like everyone enjoyed watching the day progress as much as I enjoyed being part of it:
I left the second seating early, so I’m home now recapping the week. This past week was AMAZING. The whole staff at 613 was so gracious to make it such a nice experience for me (and Dini) to work there. Tonight was so much fun! I got to meet some amazing people, from bloggers, to members of the community, to Dini Klein mega-fans.
Everything was amazing and I am so happy i was able to be a part of it.
A video recap of the night is being edited as we speak to keep posted for that on Dini Delivers YouTube channel to get a full view of the dishes, behind the scenes, and how the actual event unfolded.
Dini, you most certainly delivered!