What happens when food is used to drive critical conversations? When "cooking seasonally" also means taking into account the current political climate? When a room full of strangers come together to eat breakfast for dinner and it's all paired with dry-hopped cold brew coffee?
All these questions and more are considered and addressed by Oakland artist, chef and sometimes L.A. resident Amanda Yee, who founded her monthly supper club Five and Dime as a way to re-define the in-home dinner experience and run a little social experimentation in the process. Over the last few years, Yee has taken over Bay Area home kitchens for a variety of avant-garde pop-ups, from donation-based eating experiences featuring crispy-duck bao buns to creating menus inspired by a local artist's work to preparing an entire Ferguson-themed dinner playing off the idea of a sacrificial lamb.
"I got my idea for the tobacco creme-filled donut with whiskey icing during [the Ferguson] dinner. It's supposed to represent not only the two worlds of petty theft and the justice system colliding, but also how these types of collisions affect us all," she says.
Now, Yee is bringing Five and Dime's experiential philosophy and creative culinary thinking to L.A. with The Breakfast Club, a one-off pop-up dinner to be held this Friday at Bellflower's increasingly popular brunch spot, The Nest. In addition to bringing back her tobacco creme-filled donut with whiskey icing along with a decadent morning menu of lamb hash and Cocoa Puff cereal bars ("[My pop-ups are] 'whatever is inspiring me in the moment' themed"), Yee has teamed up with the brand new 2nd Craft Cold Brewing Company, which as its name might imply, calls the craft beer world its muse.
An anomaly in its own right, 2nd Craft specializes in beer-inspired (though non-alcoholic) cold brew coffee creations, from roasty liquids infused with citrusy hops like a good IPA to cups of cold joe made from bourbon barrel-aged dark-roasted beans. Still in development, the brand is making its public debut alongside Yee's breakfast dishes at the Breakfast Club.
"Some of my most influential memories are of me hanging out with my friends at some greasy spoon at 3 a.m.," Yee says of what sparked her upcoming event. "My friends and I had the best talks and bonding moments while eating waffles or hash browns. I want to help recreate those moments for others. Breakfast is not pretentious, people don't have to worry about which dinner fork they should be eating their salad with, or how to pronounce 'foie gras' — they can simply enjoy."
Instead of focusing on trends and food fads, Yee approaches her cooking as an artist would approach a blank canvas, instead considering what emotions she wants to evoke within her eaters, what topics or issues she wants them to think about as they eat, and what they'll feel like before during and after the meal itself. Combining critical thoughts with her unending knowledge of food science, Yee's dinners ask you to do more than just sit there and chew.
And though she has no intentions of opening her own restaurant (a masters in food anthropology may be in the future), Five and Dime lives on in Oakland and, hopefully, more consistently in L.A.
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"The food scene is very different here, but if your goal is to feed people, you're in luck because everyone eats," Yee says. "So, it doesn't really matter where I am, I'll fit in because somewhere somebody is hungry and looking for the same experience that they had when they sat around their grandmother's table."