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Food

Sharpened, With S.O.L.E: Chicks With Knives Supper Club

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Gentlemen--and ladies--if there's one thing I learned from the evenings I spent with the Chicks With Knives, it's that they want you to know there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Yes, they wield sharp cutting tools...but they only use them for good, not evil. And when I say good, I mean good tasting. That's because Chicks With Knives is actually a duo of chefs, Rachael Narins and Suzanne Griswold, and the name of their monthly supper club that focuses on S.O.L.E. food.

Preparing sustainable, organic, locally-sourced, and ethical food, the pair pop-up every few weeks at a private home of a club member to serve a four-course meal starring the freshest in produce, a spotlight protein entree, and a healthy portion of whimsical innovation. Both trained chefs who work in the local food business, Narins and Griswold strive to delight and surprise their guests--usually a mix of repeat attendees and new faces--with their creations, during a leisurely evening of dining, entertainment, and getting to know people. (Incidentally, single guys, if you're tired of seeking out quality women at sub-par nightspots, you might find a CWK dinner party a refreshing change of pace.)

Attending a CWK dinner gives diners the chance to break from the routine of "going out to dinner" and becomes a lot about the experience on top of the eating. The address of the dinner is disclosed to ticket-holders just days before, and when you arrive--typically with a dining companion, a bottle or two of wine, and a cup for your after-meal coffee--you can expect to meet and mingle with a variety of engaging and interesting people. If you're stumbling for something to say to the new face in front of you at the dinner table, you can always reach for one of the quirky game cards the Chicks set up on the table, otherwise you know you'll be talking about the food, and getting a warm greeting from Narins and Griswold when they step away from the kitchen and work the room.

If you get the chance to catch the Chicks in action in the kitchen, you'll have an even deeper appreciation of what winds up on your plate. Beautiful fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, harvested from the community garden Narins runs or picked up at a farmers' market, showcase the best of the season and bring sumptuous colors and textures to the thoughtful dishes. At their March supper, flowers were a central theme, celebrating the arrival of spring; vibrant red-orange nasturtium perched on a glistening wedge of braised leeks, imploring diners with its beckoning petals to bravely sample the edible bloom.

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There is surprise and creativity in the food of the Chicks, from the sweet-savory richness of a candied black olive slice adorning a bite-size morsel of duck fat brioche topped with whipped Soledad goat cheese to the much-anticipated whorl of cotton candy made a la minute and sprinkled with smoked chile. That duck fat brioche, by the way, is made fresh by Griswold, whose pastry experience includes Spago, and whose quest to make the baked bits and dessert anything but ordinary is made tangible in each morsel you savor. Narins and Griswold can tell you where each item came from, and the attention to detail is evident from the menu to the plate, and in their concerted efforts to ensure the clean-up includes segmenting what's left into the recyclable, reusable, and compost-able.

What's missing, thankfully, is the smug self-congratulatory vibe that sometimes accompanies events such as these; the chefs and their team of volunteer helpers are gracious and warm, and are more likely to chirp in appreciation to get to know you than to be sharp with their moniker's blades. In fact, they offer you the chance to get to know them and what they do further via the classes they offer, such as how to pickle food that will turn out as tasty as the saucer of Weiser Family Farms Sunchokes at your table, or, better yet, how to use your knives like a pro.

But the only way to get in the know is to get on the list and join in. And that's sharp thinking.