Claire Phelan was working a job in fashion, but she knew all along that she was more Julia Child than Coco Chanel. So eight months ago, she started giving in-home cooking lessons.
Soon, Claire was hosting pop-up dinner after dinner, and she also began catering events. The response was overwhelming, and Phelan recently hosted two events in one week.
“I guess people like it because it’s a community, but it’s very exclusive,” Claire said.
Claire has an apartment that suits the pop-up dinners well, with a long living room and an adjacent side room. Her apartment is warm, colorful and brightly-decorated, with framed prints and a cozy loveseat.
As guests began filing in to her most recent event, a French Winter Pop-Up Dinner, it was clear that this was a congenial, friendly and curious group. From an astronomer to a motorcyclist, the crowd was interesting and diverse in its interests.
For an appetizer, Claire served warm goat cheese fried in breadcrumbs and olive oil. The fresh, tangy goat cheese, crunchy breadcrumbs and lightly-dressed greens were a perfect opening combination.
Claire’s main course was a hearty, warming red wine-braised boeuf bourguignon with pearl onions, bouquet garni, garlic and porcini mushrooms served on a bed of egg noodles. She said she had slow-roasted the beef on low for several hours, and it was tender and flavorful.
For the dessert, Claire torched a lovely lavender creme brulee that was floral and fragrant.
Claire also served an alternate dessert of pomegranate, cara cara orange and blood orange in vanilla, sugar, rose water, orange, and pomegranate molasses.
As conversation ranged from women’s motorcycling clubs to cooking methods, the night flowed easily. Guests drank wine, shared recipes and photos of pets, and chatted with Claire about her cooking methods.
Claire will be catering a wedding in May with rustic American food, including pork loins brined in cider and broccoli buttermilk slaw. That’s a wedding we’d love to crash.
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