What an unbelievable perk of this little side project of ours.
Last Friday was Portland Hunt & Alpine Club‘s Hush, Hush #4, and like children on Christmas morning, Meredith and I were absolutely giddy when we received our invites a few weeks ago. Last month’s event with Chris Gould was an unbelievable evening of amazing cocktails and tastebud-tantalizing cuisine, so with calendars cleared, we prepped with the highest of expectations.
Implying “normal” when a Hush, Hush event is anything but is almost an affront, but you need to believe me when I say that Andrew Volk is redefining the norm when it comes to the way he approaches his craft cocktails and the impeccable taste that Portland Hunt & Alpine is exhibiting in its selection of chefs and spirits for these events.
This month, Andrew teamed up with chef David Levi for the edible part of the evening. Levi, who will be opening Vinland on Congress Street this summer, uses the guidelines of the Weston A. Price Foundation to create completely locally sourced, gluten-free meals that delight and amaze. His first dish, radish with carrot, ginger, and miso, seemingly played tricks on my tastebuds as the peppery spice of the radish built up in my mouth, but was quickly cooled by the refreshing ginger. He followed it with a delicious fermented oak cake with bresaola, and I heard from a number of people who were in agreement that the flavors and textures of his dried cod, butter, and wakame selection were the best of the three. Meredith and I each spoke to David about the motivation and inspiration behind his creative cuisine, and we were astounded by his passion and knowledge for his craft. We’re greatly looking forward to the day that he can apply both in his own space.
What’s a Hush, Hush without its drinks? Using genever, Belgium’s national spirit and a pre-prohibition bar staple that is only now being revitalized in the States under Véronique Beittel’s Diep9 label, Andrew put together three inspired drinks that played out more like a three-course meal than a few rounds of booze. We started with his refreshing Tryphon Tournesol punch (jonge Diep9, Royal Rose lavendar-lemon simple syrup, lemon, and Luxardo). This was followed by a bottled Genever + Tonic (oude Diep9 and house-made tonic). If I hadn’t been trying to play it so cool, I probably would’ve begged to take the leftover bottles home with me, to be enjoyed from a cooler in the backyard as the weather gets warmer. Finally, my favorite of the evening, was the Strength Through Unity (oude Diep9, benedictine, sweet vermouth, and bitters), a deep herbal drink with a hint of citrus. As the night progressed, Andrew even went off-menu, spontaneously and effortlessly whipping up perfectly-balanced drinks with the practiced skill of a seasoned pro. He did this all while carrying on multiple conversations (one of which was me bombarding him with questions) over the noise of the party, and with the help of his wife Brianna, graciously playing host to the entire room. Impressed.
It can sometimes take a lot to get me to leave my role of awkward room-watcher in outwardly social situations, but Hush, Hush events instill a certain level of comfort in the shared enjoyment of drink and dish, and over the course of the evening Meredith and I had many conversations with a number of interesting guests. There was Wyley Owens, who moved back to his home state from the west coast to work on starting a line of organic sodas that we’re anxiously anticipating, and Emily Butters and Forrest Butler, the delightful duo behind the Royal Rose simple syrups that are highlighting the flavors of many of the Hush Hush cocktails (we’re planning on visiting them for Map & Menu in the very near future). We spent another awesome evening in foodie conversation with Anestes Fotiades, and I’ll have to admit that I was more than a little bit star-struck when we had the opportunity to talk Hugo’s renovations and Eventide biscuits and lobsters rolls with Arlin Smith and Andrew Taylor. What an unbelievable evening!
Hush Hush #4 was an overwhelming success in my (and every last person I spoke to’s) book, and I’m sure that the day Portland Hunt & Alpine Club opens its doors to the public the line outide will include many many more than just Meredith and I.