There are things the stereotypical Minnesotan does not like: having deep conversations with strangers, eating unfamiliar foods (at least those that do not involve lutefisk), and, of course, taking the last piece of anything.
And there are things that such a Minnesotan does like: church suppers replete with hot dishes that make the table groan under their weight, friendly neighbors, and good strong alcoholic drinks.
Could a private supper club, that rarified domain of the elite, ever be homey enough, welcoming enough, to suit this kind of Minnesotan? Indeed.
Megan Sheridan and Matt Kappra have found a way. Their venture, 320 Northeast, provides the alchemy that can only come from sharing good food and drink with good people -- a common thread everyone can agree on.
320 Northeast is a private supper club Sheridan and Kappra run out of their home. So yes, it's private, but it's not exclusive. It's open to anyone, provided you're willing to take the leap -- you sign up online, choose a date and prepay for your meal, and then you'll receive directions to their house. It's that simple. Do that and you've unlocked your way into a private dinner party with nine other people.
Kappra has worked as a chef at Barrio, Butcher & the Boar, and Lucia's, among others. Sheridan worked long hours as an advertising account manager. After a while, they realized that the business world really wasn't their passion. "We knew our dream was always going to be about food," they say.
So now they do this. And boy, should Minneapolis be glad that they do.
We attended the May 11 dinner, which we booked in early April. Generally speaking, they're running about six weeks out with reservations.
We couldn't have picked a better time, as the farmers markets are just opening and new veggies are everywhere. A huge part of Matt and Megan's culinary philosophy is to serve only what's local and seasonal. They don't publish the menu ahead of time -- you get what you get when you show up, and what you get comes from local farmers, foragers, and purveyors.
This commitment is serious. When asked if they would ever incorporate product from local breweries on their menus, Megan hesitated, saying she couldn't be sure if everything, including the hops and grains, came from around here. When they say local, they mean it. In our case, Matt had just brought home and butchered a whole lamb. (As one does.) Our charmingly handwritten menus were packed with everything springy: morels, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and rhubarb.
Once the courses started arriving, each with cocktail or cider pairings, the alcohol worked its magic in helping strangers become friends.
The starter course, lamb rillettes on toast with homemade pickles and chipotle aioli, had a rich and buttery flavor, broken up by occasional jolts from the aioli and a scattering of mint leaves.
We knew from 320's Instagram during the day that we were in for a treat in the form of homemade pasta. This course proved to be a favorite -- handmade fettuccine with morels, asparagus, egg yolk, and a generous cloud of Parmesan. It was warm, simple, and comforting, yet still fresh and light.
The roasted lamb loin entrée, served with turnips, fiddleheads, and greens, was the true crowd-pleaser. Conversation ebbed to silence as everyone cleaned their plates down to the last savory drop of lamb jus, like good Minnesotans do. As Megan cleared the plates, two people separately asked if they could start that course all over again.
Dessert was as unassuming as you can get -- gently cooked diced rhubarb topped with a big dollop of fresh whipped cream and a shower of oats and hazelnuts. It was a bit bracing, not too sweet, and entirely lacking in pretension, much like the entire meal.
We peeked into the kitchen several times while Matt prepped, marveling at all he was creating on a four-burner electric stove. Megan cleared plates, loaded the dishwasher, and fussed with the portable speaker she had hooked to her laptop to play dinner music. Even the family dog, Luna, was in on the action, sidling under the table in the hopes of getting some head pats and maybe a few crumbs.
While we were certainly eating restaurant-quality food, there was undeniably something special about the fact that we were in someone's home to do it.
Nora Purmort, a friend of Megan's and one of the first guests at 320, put it this way: "You're sitting at this big table and it's really one of the rare times since childhood that someone is making you this food because they love making this food. It doesn't feel transactional. Even though you've paid to be there, you feel like you're with family."
Megan and Matt credit Purmort and a few others with helping to spread the word. They started out serving friends and friends of friends; after a handful of social media posts and articles went up, word started to spread, and the dinners got busier and busier. In fact, Monday night's dinner had their first-ever repeat guests.
Now, 320 is taking its next steps forward. Megan and Matt announced Tuesday that they will be adding Saturday dinners, and they are also planning to move into a new space nearby. (As with the current location, the address will be kept secret until you have paid and confirmed your attendance.)
"As it turns out, living, working, and being married all in the same space is somewhat less romantic than we had, you know, romanticized," they wrote in an email to their mailing list. But they promise the new space will retain the same intimate feel.
After all, that's what inspired them to do what they do. As they tell everyone who signs up: "We just needed to do more of what brings us joy in the deepest part of ourselves -- the kind of happy that permeates everything but appears nowhere distinct. For us, that is at home. Making and sharing meals with the people we love most."
To book an upcoming dinner, visit www.320northeast.com. Monday night dinners are $75 for five courses, including alcohol pairings; Saturday night dinners are $125 for 8 to 10 courses plus pairings.
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