I've been wanting to try a Commune dinner for a while now, ever since I first heard about them in 2014. The idea is that they bring a couple of local chefs together for a four-course meal (with cocktail pairings) and basically just let them have free reign of the menu to be as fun and creative as they want.
This month's dinner was at High Wire Distillery and featured chefs Mike Perez and Andy McLeod of Indaco, Jacob Huder and Kevin Getzewich of The Macintosh, and Vinson Petrillo of Zero George. Each restaurant was in charge of one aspect of each course, with each restaurant preparing two dishes.
Jared Chafin of Indaco provided the cocktail pairings.
As we walked in around 6:00 p.m., we were handed a glass of "Peering Through the Window at the Rich," a drink that Chafin prepared to be an homage to a Fitzgerald, that consisted of Hat Trick gin, his homemade rosemary and lime limoncello, fresh Ambrose Farm strawberry and lemon puree, and Scott's aromatic bitters.
As we were sipping on our cocktails, a flurry of Commune staffers wielding trays delivered the first course hors d'oeuvres style while we were waiting to be officially seated. The first course, prepared by the chefs from Zero George, was chicken liver toast with preserved rhubarb, white strawberry, buttered rye toast, and heirloom radish. It was a perfect two-bite treat that had just the right amount of smokiness, sweetness, and crunch. The meal was off to a great start.
At about 6:45 p.m., we were invited into the main dining area of High Wire's distilling room. Two long tables were set up, looking like you were attending a rehearsal dinner for a not-so-close aquaintance, as you didn't really know anyone else in the room. High Wire is one of my favorite venues downtown, and the decor was simple, yet elegant. The backdrop of the sun setting on the Shepard Fairey mural definitely helped to set the mood. A female duo was playing live music, singing indie versions of popular songs like "Home" by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.
Our second cocktail, "Sow in Season," was delivered by Commune staff as we sat at our community tables. The drinks were definitely conducive to helping everyone start conversations with their neighbors. The drink itself was delightful. Belonger's whiskey barrel–aged rum, Cardamaro, Turbinado, peach, and Peychaud's bitters all came together so smoothly and eloquently; if I didn't know better, I wouldn't have guessed there was alcohol in it. That could be dangerous. All at once, platters were set down in front of us, consisting of the two second-course dishes. The first, prepared by Zero George, was pressurized octopus with chermoula, wild-onion panisse, and Ambrose Farms bitter greens. Looking at the descriptions of the menu made me glad that smart phones exist because my vocabulary was clearly lacking.
The second dish, prepared by Indaco, was rye farfalle with nettle, ramp, morel, and mascarpone. Everything was served family style, and everyone was forced to make friends with their neighbors by passing the dishes around to ensure that everyone was served. One of my neighbors remarked, "This is like pesto on steroids," and I'm inclined to agree. Everything was flavorful and unique, unlike anything I've ever had before.
As they came around to clear away our old plates and place new, clean ones in front of us, we were also handed our third cocktail of the evening. "Mi Amigo Al Pastor" consisted of Hat Trick barrel-rested gin, Braulio Amaro, Carpano Bianco, and Scott's orange bitters. The only way I can think to describe this drink would be that it's the best alcoholic sweet tea I've ever had that didn't actually have any sweet tea in it.
The third course was served and immediately everyone dove in. The first dish, prepared by Indaco, consisted of quail with romesco and spring onion. It was delicious, but I think I need to have someone teach me how to properly eat quail; I looked like a wild hyena. The second dish, prepared by The Macintosh, was lambchetta stuffed with spicy pork sausage, Parisienne gnocchi, duck fat, spring onions, sugar snap peas, and lamb neck jus. This was definitely the most unique course, in my opinion, as I got to try a number of new things that I'd never heard of before (Parisienne gnocchi? lambchetta?), and they were all just so tasty.
Our dessert cocktail was called "Blood, Sweat, and Cream," and contained Dumante, Nardini Amaro, High Wire four-grain whiskey, and cream, and was kind of a take on a White Russian. It was quite tasty—not too sweet and not too creamy. I could definitely drink one of these again. Indaco has a happy hour, right?
Our dessert course, prepared by The Macintosh, caught me by surprise a bit (although it wouldn't have if I'd paid more attention in learning my seventh-grade SAT hot words...or at least the title of the accompanying cocktail). The dish was a fried strawberry hand pie with bacon-marshmallow, malted-milk ice cream and sanguinaccio dolce, which was not, as I thought by looking at it, a fancy way of saying "chocolate drizzle." Rather, it was a sweet sauce made using pork blood, but I had no idea.
I had a total blast at the Commune dinner. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone a bit and try things I never would've ordered on my own, as well as make friends with strangers and bond over the completely unique experience we were sharing together. The next dinner is taking place at Dirthugger Farm and features Travis Grimes of Husk and Josh Walker of Xiao Bao Biscuit. Tickets can be purchased here.