Let’s get this out of the way up front: I like Chef Chris DeBarr. He’s an odd fellow, as am I, but more pertinently he has the sort of culinary imagination to which I aspire and the talent to pull it off. When he’s in a kitchen I’m paying attention, and so should you. DeBarr’s latest venture is a popup, Lit: A Storytelling Kitchen. That may sound like a pretentious name, but if you know DeBarr, you know he’s anything but.
What he is, is imaginative and whimsical and a little flighty and the kind of guy who delights in turning you on to new flavors and ingredients, then talking to you about them. One example: I’d only read about Huitlacoche until I tried it at Green Goddess, the restaurant DeBarr opened with Paul Artigues before leaving for other options. It’s got a sort of musty, earthy flavor that reminds most people of truffles. It’s not the sort of thing you find in the grocery, but DeBarr had it on the menu at Green Goddess over 10 years ago, and he was delighted to discuss it with anyone who’d listen.
When he was in the kitchen at the Delachaise he did similar stuff, and I think I got to know him when he brought food out from the kitchen then stayed to talk about his menu or what he was thinking about making in the future, and just food generally. More than anything, DeBarr is thoughtful.
On July 29, he and Christie Schaefer are doing a popup at Peaches Records. The menu honors the Miles Davis record Birth of the Cool, which is a great record though not quite as great as Kind of Blue. That the menu takes inspiration from a jazz record exemplifies DeBarr’s approach, but you don’t have to like bebop or cool jazz to enjoy it. Here’s a cut and paste of what the Lit: A Storytelling Kitchen Facebook page has as the menu:
- Gazpacho Blanco: The classic refreshing gazpacho as it might have been made in Cervantes' time, long before tomatoes arrived from the New World:
Almonds, roasted garlic, Sherry vinegar, bread garnished with grapes, cucumbers, smoky almonds, great olive
- James Beard's Pecan-Crusted Pimento Cheese Log, with radish & cucumbers
- "Bag's Groove:" Vietnamese pastel shrimp crackers stuffed w crab, basil, mango
- Moroccan lamb meatballs fortified w/ eggplant & apricots, served w/ yogurt mint/scallion sauce
- "Tumblin' Dice:" skewers of Persian spice crusted tuna, watermelon, furikake, Aleppo chile
- "Play & Permutations on a Spanish Theme:" Serrano ham, cantaloupe, various queso, membrillo, olives, smoked pimentón
- Black paella with chorizo and clams, aioli; w/ saffron shrimp escabeche, parsley oil
Blueberry Lemon Icebox Cake
Bear in mind that menus change, particularly in this context, but that should give you an idea of what to expect from the event.
Peaches is at 4318 Magazine St., and the event runs from 5 to 9 p.m. No reservations, but there are 24 seats, and I suspect they’ll have food for several turns. There will also be Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in the house, and Stanton Moore will be playing that night as well. Expect prices for the a la carte menu to run between $6 and $12. There will be beer, and as I understand it you can bring a bottle of wine if you like. Don’t expect stemware. A portion of the proceeds from the dinner and record sales at Peaches will go to feed the hungry at the St. Jude Mission.
Hope to see you there.