JP Beer Garden, if only for the night (for now)
Where to JP Beer Garden, a pop-up dinner that took place Sept. 15 at Vee Vee restaurant in Jamaica Plain.
What for Chefs Owen Royce-Nagel and Daren Palacios and beverage maestro Lizzie Szczepaniak hope to open their own restaurant showcasing the cuisine of Alsace and beyond. The three met working at Row 34 and among them have experience at the likes of Craigie on Main, jm Curley, Straight Wharf on Nantucket, and the Publican in Chicago. Come to eat choucroute, drink beer, and get a preview of their future restaurant. Another pop-up takes place at Vee Vee Sept. 29; at press time, a few tickets were still available. Information about future events will appear on the JP Beer Garden website.
The scene A communal table and several smaller seating areas are set up, places marked with name tags. As patrons arrive, they are handed mugs of Jack’s Abby Copper Legend Octoberfest. The men are ready for fall, wearing plaid flannel, hoodies, and fleece. The women linger in summer, in polka-dot frocks and white lace minidresses. Elvis Costello, Little Richard, the Cure, and Paul Simon play in the background. The chefs plate course after course; there’s a little spiel between each. A friend of the chefs takes photos. Beer swag is raffled off. Strangers get chattier as more beverages are poured. By the end of the night, there is fondling and eyelash removal and the exchange of humiliating details pertaining to recently conducted TSA screenings.
What you’re eating A rich six-course menu: an oyster with riesling sabayon and roe; fluke crudo with speck, caraway, beets, and pepitas; a salad that balances lettuce with head cheese; duck breast that’s been aged for 20 days; choucroute with boudin blanc, pork belly, pork loin, and sauerkraut; cheese similar to Alsatian muenster; and tarte Tatin.
Care for a drink? Each course is paired with beer or wine, from Notch Brewing Company’s Hootenanny Berliner Weisse to Flanders red ale Duchesse de Bourgogne to Alsatian pinot blanc.
Overheard Talk about pop-ups, pot, “The Sound of Music,” intuition, travel to Thailand and Barcelona, and love. “We met working at Craigie Street Bistrot but fell in love living in Alsace,” says Royce-Nagel, looking over at Szczepaniak. The two are now married. Then he talks about the duck breasts: “I gave them love. They were my babies. They were in my walk-in for 20 days and rubbed with bourbon every day.” A skeptical diner eyes the amuse-bouche: “I’m an oyster virgin. I find them terrifying but will knuckle down,” she says. Her neighbor approves: “Is it tacky to lick the inside of the shell?” “So you know each other?” someone asks his new acquaintances. “Ish,” one replies. “I’m enjoying the mustaches of our gentleman servers,” one woman says. Another course arrives, and everyone is getting full. “I feel like I’ve been training my whole life for this,” someone says. “This smell is going to haunt my dreams tonight,” a man says, eyeing the fragrant cheese. “I’m going to be like, is there a dead body?” Royce-Nagel reassures his guests this is all truly Alsatian: “I know it looks like a lot of food. It’s always a lot of food!”