This week marked the Facebook-official launch of pop.up.fox.cities., a three tiered pop-up restaurant pioneered by chef Tracy Darling, who also owns Heirloom Kitchen Company which specializes in private dining and event catering.
Darling says now is the right time to launch pop.up.fox.cities, a concept she has been working on over the past decade.
“This project allows us to add a voice to the emerging beautiful song of artistry, caring and collaboration that defines the Fox Cities,” she says.
Darling explains the project’s three parts:
Pop-up: innovative dining that delivers pleasure and expands the food experience
Pop-over: (as in pop-over and pick up dinner.) This is a “real food” once-weekly meal (meaning unprocessed, whole foods, skillfully cooked, lots of vegetables) available through a monthly dinner subscription service. Available starting in November in Appleton for pick up at a designated location with menus and location announced on Mondays. It’s for people who are busy, don’t like to shop, can’t cook efficiently so don’t do it, who are young, middle or old-aged but want to eat more vegetables, eat more healthily but with amazing, good flavors. Is that everyone? I think so. Subscriptions will be available in early October through a soon-to-launch online store.
Pop-u-late: Focuses on community food events, spontaneous gatherings, getting food to people who need it. There is so much one sees daily that can cause feelings of helplessness and injustice. I look at the heinous behaviors that are hurting people all over the world and say “what can I do, just one person?” My answer is to get food to people here who need it by opening new avenues and supporting those who already do it, to create experiences through food that stay in the heart and to help provide “real food” options for nutrition and pleasure. It’s also important to eat with a side of humor and playfulness. So we are working on community events that do this. Never forgetting momentous observations like National French Toast day or the All Hot Dish Potluck Lunch and Accordion Concert. So many ideas!
FCM: Why choose a pop-up concept over a static restaurant?
TD: The Fox Cities offer a unique collaborative culture and the opportunity to create dining experiences within that is enticing. To do so demands a unique structure and a pop-up is it. Experiencing food and dining outside of the usual avenues can be life-changing. I have been fortunate to develop many kinds of meals in many environments. Some are deeply meaningful and harken to ritual such as a series of meals I created with a woman fighting cancer as a way to speak to her family and celebrate her life. I’ve done meals in parking garages, apple orchards, clinics, atop mountains. All with a goal of changing perceptions. Here, collaboration allows for a depth and vitality as people of different disciplines combine their passions. It creates magic amid what is usually a very common and practical endeavor: cooking and eating. We are working on those kinds of pairings with galleries, craftspeople, artists, farmers – people who feel strongly about what they are creating.
Heirloom Kitchen Company does versions of this each week for our catering clients. For us, the work of creating a space and all the hauling that it entails is in the realm of the routine. Cooking off-site, turning on a dime, check, check. We are different in some ways than caterers and restaurants. The amount of local purchasing we do for produce and grains is unique and we have a deep menu catalog where almost all of our menus are custom. We cook in many languages so can offer unique ethnic meals or use those influences to innovate traditional dishes.
FCM: How many pop-ups will you host each month?
TD: I think the best way to answer that is to say “stay tuned” as the schedule is evolving. Some of the pop-ups we do are private, for corporations, families, organizations. Others are public. Some have a menu with choices, others have a set menu with multiple courses. On October 22, we have one at Dalla Terra Pasta that is a combination of the two with a multi-course menu with choices. A “big night” kind of dinner.
We are working on a New Nordic Pop-Up dinner featuring modern Scandinavian cuisine which is among the most revered dining experiences in the world right now. It will have live hardanger fiddle music, which is a soulful instrument that has a transporting sound. This is an example of a style of dining found only in large urban areas or overseas. Disclaimer: I am Norwegian. But there will be no lutefisk, I promise. It’s not that kind of meal.
Another pop-up in development is a Comforts Pop-Up with a menu of skillfully executed comfort foods, chair massage and live storytelling. Sort of a pajama party for adults with amazing food. Also in the pop-up lab: 6 course all chocolate meal on Valentine’s Day, a vegan feast, a French bistro with the classics and much more.
FCM: How do the Wednesday dinner club events work?
TD: We are starting with an October 5 and a November 9 program at Dalla Terra Pasta. They make unique pasta infused with local ingredients. Shining a light on that increasingly rare process is a big part of the meals. Pasta will be made and cooked for you during the meal. Where else can you get that? Right now, I am talking with hosts and collaborators about what comes next. Also encouraging people who have an art that can be shared or a location that would like to have 50 or more guests as a happily captive audience to contact us. It’s a great way to share your art and commerce with people who want to be in your space and are primed by a great food experience.
Darling says each component of her new endeavor benefits the area in its own way.
“Pop-up expands the dining experience here in a way that brings cuisines and styles of service that would only be found in larger areas. Pop-over and pop-u-late provide nutrition through whole foods and a willing partner to help get food to people who need it,” she says. “My goal is to make meaningful food that provides pleasure, delight, sustenance and support.”