What separates foodies from people that like food? One aspect about foodies is that they enjoy a sense of adventure: being the first to learn about a new restaurant, eating that exclusive dish that the average person can’t experience, or getting your picture taken with the latest hot chef from the Food Network.
Pop-up restaurants usually appear for one day only, typically in an establishment that has been approved by the Department of Health Services. Unlike existing eating establishments, you can’t go on-line and read the reviews of their food. In fact, sometimes the description of the pop-up restaurant lacks details. For that reason, a person has to rely on trust of the person recommending the pop-up or trust in the individual that is hosting the event. This type of adventure usually appeals to a foodie.
I found out about a pastrami pop-up event through a tweet from Nancy Silverton. A company named “Ugly Drum” featured a three course pop-up meal at Mendocino Farm’s downtown LA location. Given the number of great Jewish delis in LA, I figured anyone that had the guts to feature pastrami must do so in an innovative way.
Owners Erik Black and Joe Marcos teamed up to form Ugly Drum. They met while working at Campanile and are veterans from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza Restaurant Group.
Mendocino Farms closed early that day in order the Ugly Drum crew to set up operations. Arriving guests were treated to a glass of Saint Archer blonde ale. The Kolsch-style ale was a nice easy-to-drink beer.
After I was seated, my server immediately provided us with a generous plate of crudités: Santa Monica farmers market pickles with green tomato, cauliflower and spiced smoked almonds. The cauliflower was prepared in a vinegar based marinade and paired nicely with Saint Archer’s blond ale.
The pimento toast with cayenne rubbed turkey was served next. The turkey was smoked with pecan wood giving it a lot of flavor. The combination of the pimento spread, English peas and pea shoots worked very well together. The pimento spread balanced the smoked turkey and the baby pea shoots added both texture and color. Saint Archer’s wheat ale nicely complimented this offering.
The next dish blew everyone away. Their 12-hour pecan smoked brisket pastrami was the centerpiece of the smoked meat platter. Ugly Drum uses hand trimmed certified Angus beef, cures it for a few days, applies a thick dry rub and smokes it in a drum for 12 hours. The result is a thick sliced, tender pastrami full of smoked flavor. The dry rub ‘bark’ adds a lot of depth to the overall flavor. In fact, eating the outside edge was my favorite part.
The Thai chile chicken sausage caught my fancy because it was made with coconut milk and Thai chiles. The sausage was more like a bratwurst in nature and probably not something you would find in a Thai restaurant. I really enjoyed the Thai sausage as the combination of the smoked chicken with coconut milk worked nicely together. As you might expect, the classic Texas hot link was full of flavor and heat. The Saint Archer IPA was paired with this dish and I think it stood up well to the smokiness. I enjoyed their IPA because it wasn’t overpowered with hops.
The sausage platter was served with Drago Bakery’s deli rye and potato white bread “napkin”. I used the rye to make a sandwich and I liberally applied the Ugly Drum’s South Carolina Moppin’ Mustard Sauce. Their “Moppin” sauce is a blend of several mustards combined with brown sugar for a sweet and tangy flavor. It’s the perfect condiment to pair with their brisket pastrami.
Drago Bakery also supplied a creamy apple slaw and a Potato Salad with Haricot Vert and herb & dijon vinaigrette. Both were quite tasty, but I’m a bigger fan of mayonnaise based potato salads.
Crème Caramel provided two desserts: coconut cheesecake and their Kalamansi lemon ice box pie. The Kalamansi was topped with small pieces of ube fruit which added a lot of color to the pie. The rep from Saint Archer served me their “Coffee Brown” brew and wouldn’t you know it, it tastes just like coffee. It was the perfect beverage to pair with Crème Caramel’s tasty desserts.
My ticket was only $27.37 which I thought was a remarkable bargain for what I experienced. Quite a few people worked the event and no one experienced a significant wait time. I found the servers to be knowledgeable about both the food and the beverage offerings. If you want to experience Ugly Drum’s smoked meats yourself, make sure you follow their Facebook page.