Outerlands, a restaurant in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood, is known for its menu of seasonal food, rustic dishes and the strong sense of community created by the space. There, meals are a way for people to gather together, relax, and enjoy a shared experience. Recently Williams-Sonoma Taste featured one of Outerland’s collective meals in which staff, family and friends cook together, making quick work of what otherwise might be a chore, all the while having time to talk and hang out. It is the opposite of “in-control entertaining” where everything is pretty much taken care of when the guests arrive. Says the restaurant’s co-owner, Lana Porcello:
At home, we try to involve everybody in the process and have it be something we share together, not just a serving experience. Maybe a friend was at the market and brings a bunch of ingredients over, and we try to make a meal around it, all hands on deck. We want it to feel very casual, with everyone pooling their energy and feeling comfortable — eating with their hands and feeling like there’s an interface with the food that’s very personal and intimate rather than structured and separated.”
This swell little video of Outerland’s collective meal reminded me of many meals prepared with friends, as well as those prepared in restaurant kitchens for and with the staff. It shows the satisfying flux and flow of “participitory entertaining”. (Video link HERE.)
Sharing the work (preferably with a glass of wine) is the BEST way to deal with foods that take time to clean, like the delicate herbs and greens of a true mesclun salad that requires each leaf be picked from their stems, washed and dried (at top)… OR the divine fava beans which are just coming into season now, and which must be peeled twice: first to shuck the beans out of their pods, then to peel off the thin membrane that surrounds them. These simple hands-on projects can be a way for guests who don’t know each other to be made comfortable and at ease as they find themselves part of an instant clan.
Once these perfect, seasonal but labor-intensive foods are prepped, they need little more than good extra virgin olive oil and sea salt to make them complete.
Suzanne Shaker and I once peeled a mountain of fava’s together as we talked about EVERYTHING.
I treasure the memory of the time spent with Suzanne, and of the lovely meal we shared with Maria Robledo in her studio, of the favas with extra virgin olive oil and young pecorino cheese.
You’ll find the recipe for Fresh Fava Beans (or Soy Beans or Peas) with Pecorino or Parmigiano here.
Click here for images and recipes of Outerlands Collective meal.