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First Pop Up Dinner a hit

by Eric Ginsburg

‘ eric@yesweekly.com

Before Greensboro’s first Pop Up Dinner had concluded, Chef Kristina Fuller said she was already excited to do it again.

Even without asking, I’m confident all of the attendees at the sold-out event would eagerly agree.

Inclement weather shifted the experimental experience from Feb. 1 Place — the home of the Pop Up Promenade — to Crafted, where dozens of people waited to indulge in Bhutanese momos, Ethiopian alicha and Burmese mohinga.

I’m an adventurous eater, by my own decree if not by practice, but my knowledge of Bhutan and Burma hardly extends beyond small nuggets I’ve gleaned from AP wire stories. In other words, I arrived with excited anticipation and no specific expectations, an enviable position to be in for any meal.

Before the event was underway, Crafted felt like a cross between a casual house party and a relaxed lounge. A cluster congregated by the bar underneath green, yellow and pink light, setting the scene for the appropriately meandering music from Wurlitzer Prize, fronted by the magnetic Molly McGinn.

The evening could be summarized for the impatient reader thusly. The high point: dipping the Bhutanese momos, or pork dumplings (one steamed, one fried) in the spicy tomato chutney, the first taste of an enviable globetrotting dinner. The low point: spilling a bite of said dumpling on my shirt, but instantly deciding that my disheveled image had already lowered people’s expectations enough that eating out of my lap would seem in character. Plus, it set the stage for some minimal slurping splatter from the mohinga’s fish broth later in the evening.

It would’ve been journalistic malpractice not to eat it, and my tablemate who pleaded for dumplings to take home likely would’ve been offended if I didn’t compromise table manners in this instance.

Event organizers, if asked, would likely say the low point occurred before the event itself, when weather forced the pop-up to relocate indoors, but in an attendee’s eyes, the dinner proceeded without a hitch.

Our servers — who like the other staff for the evening, were volunteers — advised that the Ethiopian alicha, or vegetable lentil curry, is intended to be scooped up with the porous, cool and slightly tender bread it’s served with, so our fingers plunged into the second course. While lentils seem to be a staple of all potlucks, those home-cooked (and frequently delicious) dishes could only hope of emulating this concoction.

Just an hour into the dining portion of the event, the third course arrived — Burmese mohinga. The catfish and aromatics and cilantro garnish looked almost like Thanksgiving stuffing given the smattering of orange and yellow shades. It came served with rice noodles reminiscent of clear angel hair that occasionally tied down my fork like Gulliver. Unsure if it is customary to slurp, I proceeded to anyway, emitting a mild splatter around the plate. I used to avoid seafood, but as I tried to savor my helping, I couldn’t for the life of me remember why.

Projected photos on a wall shared a stream of shots in real time as guests tagged them on Instagram, and several exclamations arose as a shot of two long rows of brownies on pristine white plates dusted with powdered sugar and complemented with caramel appeared. The dessert, supplied by Loaf Bakery, did not disappoint.

The evening technically began winding down with the announcement of raffle winners — each guest received a ticket to enter one of five drawings for an assortment of prizes — though full stomachs and a smattering of laughter indicated nobody would be ready to leave soon. As the emcee read out the first winning raffle number, I had an accurate premonition I’d be taking home the Boba House gift card and four Carolina Theatre tickets. At another event the hosts might have rigged the competition to try and score a favorable review, but tonight my luck was genuine, everyone aware that the dinner was capable of speaking for itself.

WANNA go?

The next Pop Up Dinner isn’t scheduled yet, though organizers and Fuller suggested it might happen in the spring so they can attempt to take to the streets again. E-mail Cecilia Thompson at cthompson@ actiongreensboro.org for details. The first event cost $45.

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