Photos: The Secret Pop-Up Dinners Held In A Stranger's Beautiful Home
There's an air of mystery that surrounds PlaceInvaders' secret pop-up dinners. After all, the concept of the suppers is that you show up to a stranger's gorgeous home, get served a five-course meal with unlimited drinks, and sit down for the intimate dinner with people you've never met before.
PlaceInvaders, which is the brainchild of couple Katie Smith-Adair and Hagan Blount, has been hosting dinners in New York City for the past year. This month, they invaded Los Angeles and served dinners in a Koreatown home, and another—the one LAist was invited to attend—in an Arts District loft. They keep things interesting by picking out different homes with impeccable taste in interior design, and use either homes belonging to their friends or whomever is willing to lend out their pad for a night. The person who owns the home often isn't even there when the meals are being served—especially not on the night we attended. Since this writer in particular lives in a basic one-bedroom apartment, getting the opportunity to spend an evening in a home fit to be in a Dwell magazine spread seemed very appealing.
We were only given the address of the home a day before the dinner, and found ourselves on a Friday night in an alley facing the entrance of a red-brick warehouse that was converted into lofts. As we go up an industrial-sized elevator, we let ourselves into a warm and inviting loft with candles lighting up the place. The first thing we notice is a long table covered in white tablecloth with candles, floral arrangements, plate settings, and menus with the PlaceInvaders' logo—a Space Invader wearing a chef's hat. It's a casual vibe, but certainly a fancy dinner party at the same time.
Eclectic tracks from the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Kanye West and Future Islands is playing in the background. Bookshelves that line the walls are filled with pottery, stacks of books, a large bundle of dried sage, and found objects like logs and rocks. Potted leafy-green plants and cactus decorate the floor of the space. The canopy bed and couch in the back are adorned with small fur rugs, and the window near the couch opens up to a view of historic First Street Viaduct. It's not a particularly big space, but large enough to host a party of 16 people comfortably.
Blount is in the tiny kitchen cooking meals as guests are coming in. Smith-Adair is off to the side by a small table serving guests drinks: wine or her own take on a Mexican 75 with tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, sparkling wine and an added spicy kick.
Smith-Adair, along with an assistant, hand out Sriracha-broiled oysters that are juicy and flavorful, while guests get to know each other, hanging out in different sections of the loft. We all go for seconds. Smith-Adair comes along and refills our glasses whenever they go empty. We feel like we really are in a friend's home.
Then we all sit at the dinner table as they bring in course after course as we make conversations from folks with different professions, from ad execs to reality TV producers and young district attorneys. Each course is perfectly paired with a different wine from Los Olivos' Carhartt Winery & Vineyard. We start off with a tasty appetizer of prosciutto, ricotta, dates and pistachio dust atop a crispy ciabatta toast, a welcoming departure from your average bruschetta. Their next course, a refreshing arugula and strawberry salad is covered with a creamy hemp-seed dressing.
Then we move onto some of the meatier dishes. There's a honey-glazed salmon topped with crispy chicharron, giving some fun texture to the dish. The star of the menu is the creamy wild mushroom risotto with the well-seared ribeye steak and crispy onions.
Blount ends the night with his vegan avocado chocolate mousse with coconut whipped cream dessert. It's a little spicy for our taste, but we're still pretty amazed that without any professional training, Blount has whipped up a delicious gourmet five-course meal for us. He talks to the guests as they ask him questions about the meal, and he tells us about how he tries to cook with sustainable and local ingredients.
In their former lives, Blount was an infographic designer and food blogger and Smith-Adair used to work in marketing and business development for tech startups. But now they travel across country in a van setting up these pop-up dinners in different cities.
"We were inspired by the idea that we could potentially travel the world, staying in unique residences, exploring the food culture of each city, and throwing awesome parties for interesting, adventurous guests," Smith-Adair tells LAist. "We agreed that sounded like a pretty great life to live. So far it's proven to be an awesome adventure—a lot of work and a lot of fun."
They're planning on hitting up Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco next, but say they'll be back in Los Angeles in due time, hopefully within the next three to six months. To find out about the next dinner party, all you have to do is sign up on their website here, and they'll send you an email about the next event that takes place in Los Angeles. Dinners run from $110 - $200, and brunch from $75 - $90, depending on the city.