Showing posts with label black bean fritter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black bean fritter. Show all posts

Urban Acorn Catering's Virtual Supper Club (Toronto)

Since the pandemic began, I’ve been curious about virtual supper clubs – how do they work, is it awkward eating in front of a computer with a bunch of strangers, do they drag on and on given you’re relying on people to make their own meals?

In January, an amazing opportunity presented itself, while trying to plan a safe way to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Given she had dietary restrictions and we all lived in different areas of the city, finding a restaurant to all order from would be impossible. That’s when I heard about Urban Acorn Catering’s vegan supper club ($50 per meal; $10 per order for delivery), and as luck would have it, there was going to be a session on my friend’s birthday!

The night would be in celebration of Haiti’s independence, to mark the occasion when the country fought against the French to win their freedom in 1984. At this point, my knowledge of Haiti and its cuisine was limited, which made the meal even more exciting – I love to try new things.

It was a simple ordering process with the meals getting delivered the morning/afternoon of the dinner with detailed preparation instructions. It was simple: each dish either re-heated in the oven, in a pot, or eaten straight out of the container. The only thing you need is a timer to make sure things don’t burn.

And it all began with the black bean and malanga accra – a fluffy fritter made vegan by using black beans instead of the typical white fish. On its own, the accra would be rather plain, but once it was garnished with the red pepper ti malice sauce and topped with the oh so yummy pikliz (imagine a really refreshing non-creamy coleslaw) the starter shone. The dish even arrived with these ultra thin double fried plantain chips, the best I’ve ever had. Urban Acorn needs to sell these by the bag for snacking!

I loved hearing the story about the soup joumou, the dish that’s almost always served as part of the celebration. What does a hearty squash and vegetable soup filled with creamy pinto beans and tons of pasta have to do with Haitian independence? Marie explains that joumou was something slaves had to made for their owners and could never eat. So, when they won their freedom, they were finally able to eat the dish they used to slave away making. It made every clove incensed spoon taste even better.

Maybe Marie was onto something when the email noted the soup could be frozen for later. After having the first two courses, I was getting full. Nonetheless, I soldiered on with the Haitian griot, traditionally a deep-fried pork shoulder, but Urban Acorn recreating its essence as fried beet “pillows”. They were airy and delicate, the beet and rice flour pocket a little chewy with a slightly crispy skin.

These sat on diri ak pwa, a rice and beans medley mixed with herbs and bits of crispy vegetables, which were a great contrast against the softer griot. I only wish the rice were even “wetter” and had more seasoning. Perhaps it was kept neutral to not overpower the delicate beet flavours?

Thankfully, the slice of pain patate wasn’t overly large, the sweet potato rum cake rather refreshing since there was plenty of pineapple incorporated into the batter. The dessert could have used more rum but was nevertheless delicious – like a tropical pumpkin pie topped with coconut cream.

My first virtual supper club was a success. It felt a little awkward at first, but after the first course and a bit of wine, people seemed to loosen up and talk more. Somehow between the eating and having dishes explained to us, the conversation flowed without interruption and it seemed almost normal.

Guests were sometimes a little bit early or behind with each course, but it didn’t matter, you couldn’t really tell what everyone was eating anyways. And since people were serving themselves, it allowed the meal to proceed in a well-timed manner so something that normally could have lasted three hours was thankfully shortened for the Sunday evening affair.

The virtual setting also allowed us to customize the experience: we joined the group until our mains were done then left and started our own Zoom meeting to get a chance to celebrate and catch up over dessert. Under normal conditions, it would be rude to all get up from the table and move into a corner.

Still, we all agreed that we’d love to experience the supper club in-person one day. Even though we learned a fair amount about Haiti cuisine and the day of celebration, it would have been nice to be able to have a private conversation with other guests to get to know them better – this is where Zoom breakout groups could work well. Until then, I look forward to trying another virtual supper club. It’s a great experience to make the most of our time in lock down. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Delivery: store delivery

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!