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Chef Laura: An urban legend revealed

Laura Cook Newman //June 19, 2014//

Chef Laura: An urban legend revealed

Laura Cook Newman //June 19, 2014//

A group of 25 people loiters around the magazine section of LoDo’s Tattered Cover. They secretly eye each other assessing the overall vibe and outfit choices – some men looking quite dapper in vests and fedoras, some women wearing bold necklaces and shabby chic get-ups.

With quiet fanfare – the group is gathered in a bookstore after all – a man arrives in a grey top hat carrying a large silver-painted wooden spork.  Checking in with his attractive assistant, the motley crew is led – silver spork in hand like a marching band’s baton – to an undisclosed destination a few blocks away.

I was about to experience my first underground supper club.

Silver Spork Social is the brainchild of Paul Laurie.  He’s a 30-something Denverite who has traveled the world and now hangs his top hat in a loft near Union Station.  All his travels have made him impossibly worldly and, dare I say…hip.

His day job as Director of Walking Tree Travel, takes globetrotting students on an adventure of their life.  But for just $90, Paul will take you on a culinary adventure for one night. 

Each month he hosts the clandestine Silver Spork Social in his industrial, yet warm condo.  Reservations book out at least a month in advance and you certainly have to “be in the know” to get on the list. strategically does not have a link to Open Table.

An herb and gin cocktail prepared by The Populist bartender Chelsea Mahoney serves as a welcoming ice breaker, as live music accompanies the choreography in the kitchen. Diners find their seats at a long butcher-papered farm table in Paul’s living room.

Sitting on a hodgepodge of chairs and benches in cozy quarters amidst a hubbub of sautéing and cocktail-shaking activity, it’s easy to make friends with fellow diners.  I’m seated between an electrician and a kindergarten teacher.  But you get the feeling they’re a bit cooler than their job titles suggest.  It’s all our first time at a secret supper club.  The gin, the date (Friday the 13th), the full moon, and anticipation of things to come makes us a bit giddy.

As Paul chimes an antique bell to kick off the evening, the setting Colorado sun casts a comforting glow on the aqua Bell jars that serve as our water glasses.  Although his personality is probably bigger than his now-removed top hat, Paul doesn’t steal the spotlight.  Being a gracious host, he has a soothing manner telling us just what we need to know to feel at ease.  As not to give all the secrets of S³ away, he divulges that blindfolds are in tonight’s pipeline.

An amuse bouche of feta custard, compressed watermelon and pink peppercorn plated on a pedestalled silver dish puts the “art” in culinary arts.  The smooth and white creamy feta is a sharp contrast to the crisp, red slice of melon – both in color, taste and texture; just the way Chef Kat Gillette intended it. Like tonight’s mixologist, Kat also works at The Populist and is a graduate of my alma mater, Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. 

I strategically secure one of the four coveted bar stools by the kitchen to watch her in action; urgently but calmly sautéing dandelion greens, searing Diver scallops, and stirring smoked carrot puree for our other four courses yet to come.

The four-piece band simply known as “Elle Taylor & Friends” keep the Hepcat scene conspicuous throughout the night.  They sip on cans of Modelo (step aside PBR), never taking a break, creating one continuous jazzy soundtrack.

Despite the layer of secrecy and the “cool kids only” vibe, the entire night was thankfully unpretentious.  Three and a half hours later, I leave the loft feeling pleasantly full. Denver’s moonlit streets are eerily silent and vast, but somehow the city seems smaller—more connected.  Thank you, Silver Spork Social.

Photo credit: Jackie Paslay, jacquelyn lee photography