A notice appears on your networking feed that Hidden Dinner is happening in a month. A few weeks later, the glorious menu is revealed to tantalize you mercilessly. Shortly before the intriguing event, you receive via email the exact location address with directions and a map. Finally, on the day of, you reach your destination with wine bottle(s) tucked in your purse or under your coat, surreptitiously trying to avoid detection from passersby not in the know.

Your printed instructions direct you to enter through the side gate. There, a framed chalkboard with the signature chandelier logo greets you with confirmation that you have arrived. Indeed, you have arrived. What transpires for the duration of the evening is an exclusive dinner party that feels as though it was thrown especially for you.

Hidden Dinner is a chef’s table akin to those in fine dining restaurants where VIPS and special guests are invited to partake in a special, often thematic menu prepared by the Executive Chef. In the case of Hidden Dinner, the table is always traveling and the muy simpatico Chef Anahita prefers to play musical chairs, visiting briefly with all of her guests rather than sitting prominently at the head of the table.

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Anahita Naderi, Persian-born and Orange County-educated, is a personal chef and former Executive Food Editor for OC Life Magazine. Along with event coordinator Betty Lang and media director Justin Veiga, they have been orchestrating these fabulous happenings called Hidden Dinners for just under a year now. Past Hidden Dinners have popped-up at a photography studio, clubhouse and storefront easement. There was even a Hidden Brunch amidst an English garden setting.

¡Vamos a España!, took place poolside and candlelit amidst tropical foliage at a lovely residence in Fullerton. The menu for the evening reigned from the main regions of Sevilla, Valencia and Madrid. After the momentous occasion of meeting the world’s greatest chef, the legendary Ferran Adrià of El Bulli — the world’s greatest restaurant, now turned into a foundation– at Omnivore Books in San Francisco, Chef Anahita was inspired to pay homage to the Castilian’s homeland.

For starters, Agua de Sevilla, a refreshing medley of pineapple juice, cava, whiskey and cointreau that calls to mind a creamsicle for adults, was served to awaken the palate for the ensuing gastronomical experience.

Designed to encourage conversation with diners mingling about, a parade of delectable tapas and pinxtos were tray passed. There were the rich, smooth ribbons of Jamón Serrano that were aged to perfection. Then came the classic combo of sweet quince and nutty manchego cheese. Glistening slivers of anchovy filets, that were neither overly salty or fishy smelling, followed. After that were the beef and lamb meatballs with romesco sauce (almond, garlic and roasted pepper-scented puree). Lastly, dainty mounds of Ensaladilla Rusa, creamy potato salad mixed with a hint of savory tuna, arrived on porcelain spoons capped with a green olive.

All these delights as everyone — who by now, had already made a few new friends — gathered around the torch-glowing swimming pool as flamenco dancers provided the surprise entertainment in between the evening’s courses.

The first dish to arrive at the table was a hearty, spicy Cocido de Garbazon y Chorizo that was so authentic that it brought back personal memories of supping at my former in-laws’ Spanish family gatherings. The stew starts with a thick sofrito sauce made with sautéed onions and tomatoes. Once you get the garbanzos, chorizo and spinach into the pot, there’s not much to do besides enjoy the aroma wafting as it slowly cooks. It was so satisfying that people were inquiring about purchasing any leftovers, which of course there was none.

The main entrée of the evening was Arroz Negre with prawns, made with cuttlefish (or squid) and rice (somewhat similar to seafood paella) that imbued the deep and complex flavors of the Mediterranean. Looking around the table, not everyone was familiar with the black ink rice preparation. Plus, despite Chef Anahita’s efforts to demonstrate the ceremony of sipping at the flavorful prawn’s head, there were still a few faint-hearted souls that could not bring themselves to attempt it. Nonetheless, the squeamishness of the less adventurous made for entertaining banter peppered with innuendo.

The thoroughly memorable evening ended on a sweet note with an orange scented Crema Catalana (a version of the French dessert crème brulée, with many regions in Spain laying claim to the origin of the dessert). This is touted as being easily made on the stovetop as opposed to the more familiar and persnickety bainmarie method in the oven. Either way, both are sprinkled lightly with sugar and torched. The caramelized glassine topping gave way to a light and luscious dessert that had everyone ooh-ing and ahh-ing and searching for extras on the table.

When it was time to bid goodnight: emails, phone numbers and party invitations were exchanged amongst the Hidden Diners. With a kinship for good food and wine, it was a gratifying epicurean night for all and sealed the fate of more Hidden Dinners in the future.

Hidden Dinner: ¡Un Grande Revelación!

¡VAMOS A ESPAÑA! | October 23, 2011
$48 (inclusive of tax and tip)
Hosted by Jessica and Rhadhika Dholakia in Fullerton
Flamenco by Justine Grover and Anahi Vazquez

Due to the overwhelming success of Chef Anahita’s roaming events, it was only time before the natural progression of establishing a brick and mortar restaurant came to fruition. She, along with partners Betty Lang and Aida Mouradian, have embarked on a Kickstarter project and invite you to help fund their upcoming endeavor, aptly named The Eatery!

The Eatery is a cafe/bakery taking life at Community, a grassroots retail space in Anaheim, CA, and is the brainchild of partners Anahita Naderi, Betty Lang, and Aida Mouradian. The menu will reflect an array of soulful dishes that have been created based on our travels, cultural backgrounds, and extensive training.


Visit the Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1079408944/the-eatery

www.hiddendinner.com
www.chefanahita.com – Chef Anahita Naderi
www.vandaevents.com – Betty Lang
www.mrjustin.net – Justin Veiga


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