Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Barrio Pop Up

Barrio is the latest in a series of underground dinner parties hosted by chef Wheeler Del Torro. This pop up begs of diners to embrace mystery, as you won't know where it is being held until the morning of and you likely won't be privy to the menu, even upon arrival. Every soiree is a little different than the last, it's a chance for Del Torro and his guest chef, in this case Tim Maslow of Stip T's to collaborate, unleash their creativity and cook for an entirely new crowd. 
 Out host, Rayna Verbek oversees the operation while cheerful waitresses deliver courses and refill our champagne often. Del Torro works his magic in the kitchen, but is also chatting up guests who wander towards the back of the (secret) establishment. He's calm and charismatic and wants to get to know you. He is vegan himself and therefore particularly fond of catering to special menu and diet requests in advance. My dinner guest and friend DeMane (who is vegan and has been for quite sometime) at one point during the meal looked at me and said "you can't get a vegan dinner like this in Boston, I'd have to go to New York for a meal this good."  (All photos pictured are of my meal, which was not vegan.)
An elevated crostini and cheese course kicks things off. Where one bite consists of sharp blue cheese meets juicy cantaloupe meets a swipe of roasted red pepper hummus over a soft slice of bread, another is a sautéed zucchini draped over a spoonful of quinoa and a hunk of blueberry goat cheese. There was also an eggplant and onion relish topped with a slice of manchego. The pairings were unexpected and the results truly harmonious. Overflowing with crisp greens and homemade croutons dressed with restraint, a ceasar salad is delivered for course number two. I wasn't tallying up major points for creativity, but still, this was a solid, straightforward dish as we moved towards more complex flavors. 
What appeared next, a bowl of sweet peas studded with sesame seeds, fresh mint and bathing in cilantro oil, was sensational. 

The piece de resistance, a perfectly poached egg topped with sauteed green onions, drenched the peas in its runny yolk. This course sparked lots of conversation and elicited a kind of euphoria among our table, and the table next to us (and presumably everyone around us) as we diligently scraped our bowls clean. The entree showcases a gorgeous and generous portion of marinated medium rare skirt steak accompanied by a fingerling potato here, a sunchoke there, flanked by a bed of braised escarole over a chimichuri sauce, and deep fried maitake mushrooms. This plate was interesting and dynamic, I felt the chefs personal and unique interpretation of the ingredients really shined through. 

A chocolate pot de creme for dessert is another revelation, where the rich yet fluffy custard is enhanced with lemon confit, a butterscotch topping, sourdough croutons and fresh thyme. The ingredients strike an enchanting balance of sweet, sour and savory, ending the meal on a high note.
Suspense, surprise, incredible food, and a serious amount of champagne (it's Dom Perignon, by the way) are a glimpse of what you can expect when dining at Barrio. Enjoying the moments of intrigue leading up the reveal, from the location to the next course, are all a part of the experience 

received complimentary tickets to this dinner, however, was not required to write a review. If you are interested in attending a Barrio Pop Up, go here or here for more information on how to obtain tickets. And for some additional perspectives on this dinner, read my lovely dining companions blog posts here and here.

25 comments:

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

What an excellent evening! That poached egg is perfection!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

It looks like you had a wonderful evening!

In and Around Town said...

Look likes such a great night! That pea and egg dish look incredible!

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Awesome pics! Looks like such a wonderful meal!

Elizabeth said...

I love what he does with vegetables! It all sounds fabulous

Hogger and Co. said...

Looks like an excellent time. I was invited as well, but because we have dietary restrictions Rayna advised against going; boo! I didn't know there were vegan options! Next time!

Tracey said...

what an amazingly fun experience!

kfenton917 said...

An underground dinner party, wow! Sounds lovely. I am definitely going to try infusing oil with fresh cilantro for my veggies. I love cilantro and it has reseeded in my garden from last year.

Michelle Collins said...

Looks like such a wonderful evening!

Shannon said...

love the looks of that pea dish with a poached egg!! yum. fabulous evening :)

Amber said...

that steak looks perfectly cooked and so so yummy.

MelissaNibbles said...

The cheese plate! The egg dish! Oh God, I want it all.

Megan said...

That egg dish with the peas looks phenomenal!

Colleen @ Culinary Colleen said...

This dinner looks AMAZING. I would have been happy with just that pea and egg course!

Ameena said...

What a lucky person you are! You get to have the most amazing meals and experiences... so envious! :)

Meghan said...

This looks fabulous!

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

YUM the poached egg dish looks amazing!

Sacha said...

This looks like such a unique experience. I went over Chef Del Torro's page -- what an interesting guy! Like everyone else, I'm lusting over that egg and pea dish.

MOLLY GALLER said...

This meal looks sensational! I want that egg and pea dish! I see Wheeler often in Brighton Center at 3 Scoops. I have to admit, I never realized he was also a savory chef!

mr. pineapple man said...

Oh deliciousness!

love2dine said...

Gorgeous photos, so beautifully styled!

Natasha Price said...

The poached egg with sweet peas looks especially good here!

Simply Life said...

what a fun time! I'm loving all the different food!

meesh said...

this meal looks incredible! wish i could have made it!

Jen said...

As always, great pics and writeup! Those peas still haunt me. I need to try to recreate that dish at home...