Nowadays, pop-ups are everywhere and are a great way to get your name out there.
Pop-ups are far more accessible now so it’s exciting to be able to try a chef’s creation when they’re just starting out. After all, Lazy Bear started off as a pop-up a few years ago and now has an awesome brick and mortar location and has received two Michelin stars as of last year!
However since pop-ups are experimenting businesses, my last few experiences haven’t been the most successful (Ăn and Charin). My former coworker, Matt, of Lazy Bear has ventured out on his own and created Automat where he does weekly pop-ups at bars offering a casual menu. His style is taking childhood nostalgic foods and recreating them with a funky twist using local seasonal ingredients. I’ve been to his casual pop-ups a few times and loved the fried chicken sandwich, green garlic grilled Pimento cheese sandwich, bulgogi big mac, and the buckwheat chocolate cookies. So bomb. Every few months, he rents out a space and does a sit down dinner with a tasting menu. I was excited to go especially since he was partnering with another previous Lazy Bear cook, Jeremy. They were each responsible for a snack, appetizer, main course, and dessert (about 8 courses total with a few extra dishes) and took turns explaining their dish.
The dinner was held at Huxley, a tiny quaint restaurant in the Tenderloin.
The first little snack was perfectly fried kale chips that had delicious seasoning. While it was simple, it was super tasty and I loved the presentation of the herb box.
You had me at hushpuppies. They were beautifully browned and the combination of summer sweet corn and slightly spicy Pepper Jack cheese was divine.
One messy af bite but so worth it! The potato pringle was stuffed with a creamy luscious “sour cream and onion” flavored filling that exploded in your mouth. Delish.
The cutest mini red cup I’ve ever seen and the slurpee was pretty awesome too. A refreshing icy blueberry and eucalyptus slurpee with whole blueberries on the bottom, a really fun palate cleanser.
Homemade Stracciatella cheese (think the inside of Burrata cheese, fuck yes) that’s melty, creamy, and gooey in all the right ways. It was seasoned with various basils, pepperoni spices that added a nice touch of heat, and black garlic oil which added funky earthiness.
You know my two favorite foods in the entire world are bread and cheese so obviously I loved this course. The focaccia was moist with a nice crust and was inspired by an everything bagel with the various seeds and spices. Together with the Stracciatella cheese it was on point.
This might be my favorite dish of the night (you know I love carbs). Jeremy explained that growing up he loved Rice a Roni, a boxed rice and pasta blend seasoned with spices. This was a combination of orzo pasta and Carolina gold rice that really hit the spot with tender squid, plump mussels, creamy herbaceous sea lettuce aioli, and juicy sweet sun gold tomatoes. Eating a bowl of this was honestly like a warm hug, so comforting.
While I liked all the flavors of the dish, I wasn’t thrilled that the chicken was a chilled dish. He explained that since all the other dishes were slightly on the heavier side, he wanted to make a cold chicken dish. While the chicken was nicely poached, still moist, I would have loved the dish more if it was hot. I especially liked the granola with sunflower seeds and chicken skin and the freshness from the squash pieces and arugula sauce.
Matt loves bologna and made a fun take on an American classic. I honestly never ate bologna growing up but I’ve come to appreciate homemade bologna and spam. It had a rich meaty flavor and paired nicely with the sea bean mushroom casserole. The tuile on top was almost like a concentrated onion power with ash which was super cool but slightly overpowering. If the tuile was smaller or less intense in flavor, it would have been more successful.
This cheesecake was gluten and dairy free and I loved it! The crust was made from toasted pecans and dates and the filling was made from fermented cashews and beautiful summer cherries. It was the right balance between sweet and tart.
Within the frozen yogurt were pieces of roasted beets, earthy and sweet, and crunchy cocoa nibs. The gooey chamomile pine honey on the bottom just added a nice sweetness to offset the tanginess of the yogurt.
By no means are pop-ups an easy task and overall I think they did a great job. Dishes were fun and tasty and it’s amazing to be able to support former coworkers. I would definitely recommend checking out Automat’s weekly pop-ups at bars throughout San Francisco (kinda the best food when you’re out drinking)!