Happy Girl co-founder Jordan Champagne with
Post Ranch Inn’s Matt Millea, aka
Happy Girl’s Pop-up Dinner Sous Chef Emeritus.
Hot on the heels of the lively and delicious pop-up dinners it held during last week’s EcoFarm Conference, Happy Girl Kitchen Co. plans to start hosting a regular series of monthly pop-ups at its Pacific Grove Café beginning in March.
“We’re looking forward to the next evening affair as much as anyone!” writes Todd Champagne, co-founder and owner with his wife, Jordan, of the eco-minded artisan preserves outfit, in an e-mail message after the event. “Matt Millea of Post Ranch has requested to be our sous chef emeritus . . . and we do so wish he can continue here, owing to his skills and gentle manners.”
If the experience the Champagnes staged on Friday, Feb. 3 is a sign of things to come, tickets for future dinners should be snapped up a soon as they’re available.
Friday’s event began with cocktails, Happy Girl style—a beer tasting put on by Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery and a technicolor crudo bar featuring Happy Girl’s own vibrant, organic, pickled produce. Musicians played live bluegrass in the background.
When it came time to sit down with the 40 assembled foodies and farmers (many were one and the same), Millea and Jacob Pilarski—whose day job is sous chef at Manresa, the Michelin two-starred restaurant run by David Kinch—provided a whole new take on vegetarian cuisine. Heller Estate Organic Vineyards provided the wine.
The highlight of the meal was a tangy-sweet braise of chanterelles with apples, leeks, greens and walnuts. But even after seven courses had all been served, the pleasant memory of a succulent and surprising salad of beets, celeriac, runny chevre and local seaweed that began the meal was just as sharp as when my empty plate was taken away.
Goat’s eye beans with Happy Girl preserved dry-farmed tomatoes also have refused to be forgotten, as has Sweetwater Farm’s reinvention of a Spanish manchego: honey-rubbed and lavender-wrapped by proprietor/chef Charlie Cascio. And who but Happy Girl would dream up a not-too-sweet-but-impossible-not-to-finish Jamalade Tarte? Another dish that left a lasting imprint.
All of the deeply flavorful, fresh, organic produce—foraged or farmed—was provided by Jamie Collins’ Serendipity Farms. (The ingredients for another pop-up at Happy Girl, held the night before, were provided by Live Earth Farm.)
Still, even for an inveterate food lover, the best part of the evening was the blissful energy that comes from making new, wonderful friends that pop-ups tend to generate—and the warmth and joy of Todd and Jordan Champagne.
The Champagnes clearly could not be happier than to have an excuse to fill their café—which is normally closed at night—with people and food they love, as well as their infectious desire to nurture their local food community and create, as Todd put it that night, a “food sanctuary” in Pacific Grove.
Feeling contented and inspired, we new friends dispersed into the night.
Happy Girl Kitchen Co.
173 Central Ave., Pacific Grove