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Pop-Up LA: A Seasonal Culinary Adventure

One day, a few months ago, I was perusing the internet and came across the loveliest photo of a tiny pumpkin filled with, what looked like a delectable pumpkin soup. As with most things I find online, I HAD to try it.

This is a picture of my actual 1st course.

Luckily for me, this was not a recipe, because we all know what I do to recipes; nothing good.

This incredible soup, was to be the first course of a special, one night only, pop-up dinner, created by Chef Leonel Castillo, of Pop Up LA; a seasonal pop-up restaurant that focuses on highlighting the produce available during a particular season in Southern California.

If you have never heard of a pop-up restaurant or supper club, it's a once in a lifetime experience. As in, this restaurant is open for a very short period of time, usually just one or two nights, and never opens again with the same menu. Supper clubs or pop-up restaurants usually take over another space, and leave without a trace when they are all done.

Hubby and I, we are adventurous eaters. We love to try anything new and different. We love to try anything, really. Pop-up restaurants are something we have come to enjoy immensely. As luck would have it, the Pop Up LA dinner was happening a few days after hubby's Birthday. So, we decided to gather a few of our friends to celebrate his Birthday the way we like, with something different and unexpected.

The folks at Pop Up LA took over Meat District Company in Pasadena, CA, the night of November 16th. The space was bright, open and very inviting. Pop Up LA sat us immediately, even though all of our guests had not yet arrived due to terrible traffic all over the Los Angeles freeways.

We placed our drink orders while we waited for the rest of our party, and enjoyed each others company as we sipped our inky red Malbec, that would later pair perfectly with our four course dinner.

Once all of our guests arrived, our waiter walked us through the evening's menu.

Chef Leonel Castillo graced us with his presence for each and every mouthwatering course. As he described each one of his masterpieces and how to best enjoy it, we truly got the sense of how much of himself he had lovingly poured into every dish on the menu. Chef Castillo hand picked pomegranates off of his his father's tree, he visited Farmer's Markets all over the Los Angeles area to find the best produce for our meals, and carefully selected the pumpkins at a local farm. Every step of the way, Chef Castillo took time and careful consideration for every ingredient in every delectable dish.

We were so impressed by him and his love for the meals with which he was going to nourish us.

The first course was the rich and silky roasted butternut squash soup that I had been dreaming of tasting from the moment I laid my eyes on that picture weeks ago. It was well worth the wait and was easily my favorite course of the night. The delicate balance of flavors was highlighted by a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds from his father's tree. Meaning behind a dish makes it that much more enjoyable. We felt truly connected to the Chef and what he intended for us to experience.

The next course was a refreshing citrus and endive salad. When I say it was mouthwatering, I am being completely literal. It was juicy, tangy, yet sweet. The bitterness of the endive somehow took the salad to the next lever. This salad, this is a window to whom Leonel Castillo is as a Chef. Bravisimo!

The third course was an exquisite short rib trio. Chef Castillo mentioned that he has a tendency to make things in threes, another interesting tidbit about the Chef. I really enjoyed getting so much background information about the chef and each dish.

The fourth course was dessert! Pana Cotta!!! I love dessert!

This extravagant, silky smooth dessert was created by Chef Caroline Juwano, Chocolatier and brilliant Dessert Chef. It had pomegranates, a Mexican spiced streusel, and a spiked white chocolate sauce. Cocoa nibs, and chocolate ribbons topped this chocolate overload. This was the perfect end to a beautiful four course journey.

Remember I mentioned that Chef Caroline Juwano is a Chocolatier? Well, that worked out in our favor! Everyone at our table went home with a special, handmade surprise, complements of the Chef. Our tasty evening did not end with our time at Meat District Co. It ended with me devouring these delicate chocolate confections in the comfort of my own bed.

This was a fun and delicious experience for us all. Our group had a great time celebrating hubby's Birthday, and we would do this again in a heartbeat.

Part of our Birthday crew.

If you love good food and special experiences, you simply cannot miss out on the next Pop Up LA event. Keep an eye out for details on their winter event in Santa Monica, CA. I most certainly will NOT miss it! So, see you there!

Follow Pop Up LA in Instagram, for details on all future events:



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