The spread at Nato Gallery's grand opening. Photo: Alex Springer
The concept of a “pop-up dinner” has provided both chefs and diners with a unique opportunity to socialize, network and enjoy food that varies wildly from one event to the next. Typically, these dinners and their destinations change based on venue availability and seasonal cuisine. They are not overly publicized; usually gaining buzz based on word of mouth. An evening spent at one of these dinners is completely distinctive, and repeat diners rarely enjoy the same meal twice. Since April, Salt Lake City has been host to several of these pop-up dinners, thanks to an organization called SLC POP, which has been under the dutiful watch of chefs Katie Weinner and Mike Burtis. After hosting pop-up dinners all over Utah, they have finally found a place to settle down. They’ve refocused their gastronomical talents on Nata Gallery, a venue dedicated to celebrating the visual and culinary arts. With the opening of Nata Gallery, the two chefs still have the opportunity to craft unique meals without having to do as much of the legwork as serving pop-up dinners requires. The chefs are hoping to use Nata Gallery as a place to continue hosting exclusive and intimate dinner parties while promoting the work of local visual artists.
Currently, the gallery features paintings by Andy Joy Chase, a local artist who specializes in surreal interpretations of Western Americana. Her work was an appropriate complement to Weinner’s and Burtis’s own culinary style, which is a creative attempt to replicate nature with their food. For example, their eggless red wine meringues and hard cider gummes were skewered by toothpicks that jutted up from small wooden logs, evoking the image of tiny mushrooms sprouting through the tree bark. Accompanying these homemade sweets were plates of crudite and charcuterie, complete with some delicious smoked cheese and sinus-clearing homemade mustard. There were also trays of phyllo cups filled with triple cream brie, caramelized onions and currant jam along with fluted glasses of mulled apple cider. While guests grazed at the buffet table, Weinner and her staff circulated with shot glasses full of Sri Lankan curried potatoes and tender elk rendang over jasmine rice—each of which provided a nice, spicy contrast to the chilled small bites. One of the highlights of the evening was the creamy zabaglione over pineapple confit topped with honeycomb—it was like a velvety cloud, with the sweet crunchiness of the honeycomb to provide a tasty foil to its smoothness.
In order to celebrate having a place to call their own, Weinner and Burtis will be hosting small dinners that will accommodate around twelve hungry Utahans each weekend this month. Future events can be monitored by keeping in touch with either SLC POP or Nata Gallery via Facebook, signing up for their mailing list or by shooting them an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. One quick disclaimer to diners that are faint of heart: Weinner has been known to track down exotic proteins like alligator and kangaroo from Nicholas and Co. to enhance their already eclectic menu. If this is something that excites your inner foodie, or if you’re simply in the mood for something new, check out Nata Gallery and be prepared to expect the unexpected.