(This article was originally published in GEV Magazine’s Issue #4 July 2012)
The evening begins with a flute of Deligeroy Cremant de Loire Brut Rosé, served on a silver platter by a magnificent masked brunette in a racy black and white French maid outfit. It’s just a little after 7:00pm on a Saturday night and we are in a private two-story home on a quiet street somewhere South of Market. Votives line the steps leading to the front door and candles provide the only illumination throughout the space. It’s our first experience with Our Gourmet Life, an underground invitation-only dinner that has piqued the interest of epicures and hedonists alike. It was a writing assignment I was all too happy to take on.
“Welcome. Right this way,” beckons our masked hostess, as she escorts us further into the home. In the hallway, Kal Holczler, one of the organizers of the event, greets us with a playful warning, “Some of the guests have decided to go all out.” We proceed to the parlor, where a few guests have already gathered. One couple is outfitted purely in white – he, dressed in a white ship captain suit while she, sporting a Marilyn Monroe-inspired cocktail dress, both of which are fashioned out of silk-like latex.
On the sofa is a couple dressed in black and gold fetish finery, and against the wall is a 5’11” blonde bombshell in a tight-fitting purple and black full length latex gown, with a halter neckline and a flared skirt. I compliment her gown and lament, “I wish I would have known. I would have gotten more dolled up!” To which she replies, “As the Baroness says, any occasion to dress is an occasion to overdress!” The Baroness being New York’s premiere designer and creator of custom latex fashions, with a client list that includes Nadia Ali and Lady Gaga.
Soon, more skimpily dressed masked maids enter the room, three of them passing out delicious nibbles of Grilled Strawberries with Balsamic syrup, savory Sole and Clam Mousseline with Sauce Nantua stuffed in tiny Filo cups, and a bite-size serving of Salad Caprice arranged on a silver spoon, while a fourth is refilling our flutes with more Rosé.
On the threshold of the adjoining room stands a woman in a red lace-up corset and black floor-length tulle ball skirt wearing a Venetian mask festooned with black feathers. She is offering yet another type of hors d’oeuvre, with a twist: guests must kneel before her and “confess a sin.” The treat is then created directly on the tongue – a delicate layering of cucumber, slices of smoked salmon, and a dollop of creme fraiche. Curious, I decide to try it out. It does not disappoint.
As the parlor fills up with more guests, Chef Chris Hubbard joins the party to officially welcome everyone and signal the start of dinner – a 9-course meal celebrating the union of traditional French and Modernist cuisine. He explains that these dinners have three levels, getting more elaborate, indulgent and bacchanalian with each step. He continues, “At level one, I may come up to you and say ‘May I?’ At level two, ‘I will.’ And at level three, well…” as the room breaks into giggles. There are two rules: No photography and no touching, unless instructed by the hosts or servers.
He directs our attention to two masked maids seated at table, their heads bowed, each presenting a lace collar, the Venetian masked woman right behind them. Chef Chris informs they are in training, and that from here on out, there will both be referred to as “Servia.” They are our servants for the evening. I am simultaneously fascinated, perplexed and intimidated by BDSM culture, and I can’t imagine ever relinquishing control. But for those that take on submissive roles, surrender seemingly provides a therapeutic escape and Chef Chris re-assures us that the girls have given full consent.
There are twenty of us this evening, ten couples from different parts of the country. About a dozen of them know each other… they are here to celebrate the blonde’s birthday. This is a Level One dinner.
We are all seated around a long table, my husband and I positioned at one end with full view of the festivities. A harem of masked maids in short skirts slink through the room, some gingerly set napkins on our laps, the Servias gently fan the guests, and another kneads the blonde bombshell’s neck and kisses her arms. Their faces all blur together, but I think I counted at least 10 servers, more than enough to offer each guest personal pampering and attention.
First up, the salad course, with Pear, Arugula, Duck Leg Confit with Sherry Vinaigrette paired with a floral 2010 Vietti Roero Arneis. A masked trio regales the guests with a slow sensual dance, a vague simulacrum of sex, while another team serves an Amuse-Bouche of frozen Roasted Beet Root Lollipop. The third course, a light and delicious Potage aux Huîtres à la Crème (Oyster Soup) was paired with a glass of richly acidic 2010 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet. The servers seem to float among the guests, deepening the seduction with each course – a light touch here, a fleeting caress there.
Kal, whose birthday also happens to be today, weaves through the room to check on us and ensure that everyone is feeling pampered. We assure him that we have never received so much attention during a meal. He summons the girls and the fourth course is presented — steamed vegetables in parchment paper (Vegetables en Papillote), followed by another Amuse-Bouche – Coconut Fondant and Carrot Curry sauce with candied ginger — this time hand fed to the guests by the masked maids, whose white button-down tops have given way to black lace bras.
For the main course, a succulent Sous-Vide Hanger Steak with Haricort Verts is served with a deep-ruby 2003 Coufran, Haut-Médoc with earthy/tobacco tones. No silverware is provided – we are instructed to eat with our hands, carefully picking up slices of steak and hand-feeding our dates. The servers are exposing even more flesh, and the libertine blonde bombshell helps herself to some. This is her third time at these events, and I’m getting a sense of what a Level Two dinner might look like. The cheese course is next, a pungent Tomme Crayeuse with intense creamy flavors served on a savory waffle with candied walnuts and roasted Bing cherries.
Dessert is passed around by now barely-clothed servers – a decadent Chocolate Souffle with Chocolate sauce paired with a sweet 2011 Cascina Ca Rossa “Birbet” Brachetto, and the meal is capped with an assortment of confiserie, from Petite Madeleines to Pâte de Fruit, and Apricot and Cherry Beurre Noisette Shortbread. My head is swirling with the scenery, my senses intoxicated. It is reminiscent of Eyes Wide Shut’s (in)famous ballroom room scene, but with taste and smell as central to the experience as the other senses. Supperclub antics pale in comparison.
Chef Chris emerges from the kitchen, along with the rest of the staff. It is now 12:30am. He thanks the guests and ceremonially removes the lace collars from the Servias, freeing them for the night. To say that Our Gourmet Life is risqué and erotically-charged is an understatement. It’s not for the faint of heart. But for those that dare to experiment with the intersection of food, fetish and fun, it’s worth the price of admission.