An intimate atmosphere made us all feel welcome and comfortable which gave a fun night for all of us
In Milan, dinners in private homes seem to be the order of the day. As you might remember, earlier this year I participated in a delicious breakfast on a rainy spring Sunday. As the experience there was very interesting, I did not hesitate at all when an invitation for a similar kind of event arrived in my mailbox.

It is already for a few years that new kinds of dining-out are invented. For smartphones there are many apps available which enable people to share leftovers on a kind of ‘marketplace’. The so-called Restaurant Day gives amateur cooks the possibility to expose their kitchen skills every three months. To me, it all suits to the trend in which bottom-up initiatives are more appreciated than the traditional economic activities.

Tour the Forks’ history started with the inventions of ‘secret dinners’. Secret in different ways: you never know where you are expected and whom you can expect. It offers the participants (I think you cannot use the word guest here) another way of having a fun night out.

After almost two years of ‘secret dinner silence’, the move to a new studio and many interesting food-related activities, Tour de Fork decided it was time to re-vive the successful event. The first hint was given about a month up front followed by the invitation a few weeks later. This didn’t say more than the date and time and, off-course, the theme of the dinner. With accepting the invitation we said yes to a dinner centred around bread, which was prepared by a be-friended cook.

Bread does not seem the most exiting topic for a dinner. I mean, we are in Italy. The bread here is usually not that outstanding, even though things are changing. But maybe the choice for this topic made me even more curious, as a bread-loving Dutch girl like me. Besides that the published menu already showed that we would travel around the world following the historical discovery of the baker. As at this moment when food and history are daily matters for me, I could not wait to start the journey.

To stop the first hunger, we were welcomed with a good glass of gin-tonic accompanied by Indian papadums and a yoghurt mint-dip. It might have been the way the drinks were served, but within a few minutes, people were chatting with each other. Since it was the first ‘secret dinner’ in the new series, Tour de Fork decided to only invite friends. Which made that we at least had one thing in common, namely knowing the hosts. It felt a bit like we arrived all from the same family but that somehow we never got to meet each other. This dinner was a good opportunity to make up for that!

When the drinks started to do its’ job, we were invited to sit-down at the big table hosting all the 18 guests. I know the studio from an earlier collaboration. At that time it had a cold feeling, literally as well as figurative. But the way it was decorated now, made me completely forget about that. It felt like being hosted in someone’s warm living room instead of sitting in a sober basement.

While chatting with a fellow ‘stranger’ we enjoyed the one and only Italian dish of the night: the ribollita, a Tuscan stile soup with different kind of vegetables and beans. Completely in line with the farm-style dish it was sided by two big pieces of heavy bread. One of them included garlic, the other made out of rye. Here it would have been great if the pater familias had asked us a moment of silence and used this to explain about the choice of the theme and made us all aware of the story it has. Later it was explained that it was a choice not to take this role as it was also an opportunity for the hosts to have a relaxing evening among friends. Next time though, I hope they will do it to give the event also a more educative side.

I think the third course was the most exotic dish for every-one, even though it was based on the northern kitchen of the cold Sweden. Six small pieces of self-made rye bread where topped with different spreads and toppings; homemade mayonnaise, smoked mackerel, boiled eggs and pickled cucumber. Flavours all unfamiliar to us and therefore more exciting to talk about. Whether it was this or the shots of vodka that traditionally help the Swedish to digest their heavy meals, we all had fun and the ‘family members’ started to feel more related and chatted along like they’ve never done else.

Before we knew, midnight was long behind us and it was time for the last part of the dinner. The dessert (bread pudding) another shot of vodka (there was a lot to digest) and the envelop, meant for the payments which were announced already on the invitation. Although this might be the most undesired part of the evening, (you feel like staying at your friends and then they ask you to pay…) in this case they made it part of the whole concept which avoided possible embarrassing moments.

The next ‘secretdinner’ is planned for January. So if you got curious while reading this blog (you should) I suggest you start to follow the studio and make sure that you are between the next run of invitees.