Last Friday we went to a pop-up dinner in the city, planned and executed by a friend-of-a-friend (that was a delightfully San Francisco sentence to write). Inspired by the wacky and absurd creativity of Willy Wonka (with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory playing on a projector in the clean loft space), Pure Imagination was a romp through Nic Winzey’s culinary dreamscape. It was a hugely successful event, all the more so because it was Nic’s first. The inspiration provided by friends and family (people you actually know) is often the most powerful, and Nic has it in buckets. She took a rough job market and transformed it into an opportunity to showcase her impressive cooking and entertaining abilities. The rest of us, supportive loved ones and hangers-on alike, showed up to reap the benefits (namely a succession of tempting bites, a glass or two of wine, and some new friends).
The traditional tripartite menu featured a number of amuse-bouches, followed by a main, and capped with desserts galore. First we were treated to a fava bean soup shooter alive with peppery heat. This was followed by polenta squares topped with avocado and shrimp, a refreshing counterpoint to the soup. The final appetizer, moist chicken skewers with artichoke heart and roasted apricot, was flavorful and appropriately rich without being too heavy. We chatted and sipped wine, waiting for the main course with anticipation as dusk painted the street below purple.
The inventive appetizers and the trio of desserts, each more delicate and delightful than the last, would have been enough to sell me, but the “inside-out” fried chicken sandwich cemented my satisfaction. The sandwiches, crispy and warm, were delivered to our table wrapped in parchment paper. Accompanied by fried zucchini and a vinegar-y hot sauce, the sandwiches were incredible. Unlike the children touring Willy Wonka’s factory, we tucked into the meal without reservation – crunching away happily, licking fingers, drizzling every bite in hot sauce. The vegetarian option, a charming, jaunty tartare, was also quickly poached from the plate on the table. A simple taste transformed into a flurry of spoons diving in for another bite of cool peach, creamy avocado, parmesan and earthy quinoa, and dressed arugula. Everyone satisfied, we took a step back to contemplate the fine meal we had just shared.
As you would imagine, the nod to Willy Wonka seemed most evident in the dessert course. Beginning with a miniature cake round topped by whipped mascarpone and a plump glazed strawberry, Nic seduced us with her sweet creations. Trays of chocolate pots de crème came next, topped with fresh cream and a sprinkle of Nerds. Finally, mini Key Lime cupcakes ended the night on a blissful note. We leaned against the windows thrown open to the cool night air and savored the last bite, asking ourselves when it would be Winzday again.
If you have a chance to pick up a ticket to the next event before they sell out, we recommend getting on this train before it leaves the station. For more information, stay tuned!