On Sunday night, Kris Yenbamroong held a wine dinner with Lou Amdur (of the much-missed LOU wine bar) at Night + Market, and it was at a level of food and wine geekdom that is both rare and thrilling to those of us who like a little cerebral stimulation while we stuff ourselves and drink too much.
The theme of the dinner was "Lost," and it focused on pieces of food and drink culture that are disappearing, for one reason or another. And so, there were dishes like koa kan chin, a steamed banana leaf pouch that holds jasmine rice fortified with pig blood and served with raw onion, cucumber, dried chile, cilantro and lime. The dish is something Yenbamroong's mother grew up eating in Northern Thailand, but it has since almost disappeared. Yenbamroong explained that the one vendor who sells it has turned to selling iced lattes instead.
The dish, which is pure comfort food -- warming, crunchy, spicy, nourishing -- was served with a lightly sweet sparkling Domaine Renardat-Fâche Cerdon du Bugey Rosé, a deep rosé made from poulsard grapes, which Amdur explained is almost extinct because it's more profitable to grow gamay in and around the region of France where this wine is produced (in the foothills of the French Alps between Lyons and Geneva).
The dinner progressed like this -- the lost theme sometimes showed itself in wines that were, like the Cerdon du Bugey, obscure or becoming lost because other wines dominated their regions, and sometimes simply an example of a lost style, such as a light, fruity L'Enfant Terrible zinfandel from Dashe Cellars in Medocino. Along with these wines Yenbamroong's food shone, funky, bold and spicy to the extreme.
Nam kao tod, a crispy rice salad with spicy sour pork, was served with an obscure Austrian white. Amdur said early in the evening that they had thrown out the idea that wines should "stand up" to the spiciness of the food, and although I wished I could have tasted a couple of the wines before and after having my palate set ablaze, all of the pairings worked beautifully.
Yenbamroong says that while no other dinners have set dates yet, he will continue doing dinners like the one on Sunday. Some may be wine themed and hosted with Amdur, and others will be different. "Sunday's dinner was actually very close to how Night + Market began," he said. " I took over the space to keep someone else from taking it and basically ended up with an empty gallery that I wasn't sure how I could use. I was doing some work with the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija at the time and hosted a few dinners with him--private affairs for friends and other artists. I cooked a bunch of Thai hick food for these dinners and we drank lots of wine and I ended up thinking I should just do this for the public. And so it began, four nights a week initially and then full-time.
"Over the past two years that we've been open, I've found myself becoming increasingly interested in the more ethnographic aspects of my job. I sort of have two goals with Night + Market that are somewhat divergent. The first and foremost is for it to just be a solid neighborhood cafe. The second is for it to be a way to explore things I'm interested in and a platform for me to get the word out about these things." Yenbamroong said that he and Amdur have been discussing a dinner centered around the theme of "embracing disgust," but that no dates have been set for that yet.
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