South America meets the American South
A Dining Match Made in Heaven
IF DEPORRES HAD SCHOOL COLORS, THEY WOULD BE: PURPLE & GOLD
Pablo Osorio and Danielle Bell loved cooking before they fell in love with each other. You can sense both types of affection (for food and people) when you come to dePorres, their dinner series. Fun fact: it’s named for a Peruvian saint, but the cuisine is downright sinful.
OUR EXPERIENCE AT
Nestled into a narrow, hilly road off Sunset, the house to which our Lyft driver pulled up appeared silent and unassuming. We arrived at the same time as several other guests, all of us rechecking the address on our phones. Since none of us got any reception, this was a little like looking at your wrist for the time when you’re not wearing a watch. We had assembled in this unfamiliar locale for a dinner party billed as “Lima-to-Louisville” and none of us wanted to accidentally barge into the home of an unsuspecting neighbor.
“Hello! Yes! You’re in the right place,” a welcoming voice suddenly rang out. And then we were all being ushered inside by the homeowners, Dave and Shelly. Warm and charismatic, the couple are longtime supporters of dePorres, a dinner series started by Danielle Bell (the Louisville half) and Pablo Osorio (who brings the Lima). We meandered around to the back patio, where we collectively went silent for a moment, stunned by the uniquely golden light of Los Angeles spilling over the panoramic canyon views. Griffith Observatory glittered in the distance; I nearly burst into a chorus of “City of Stars”, but I resisted. The chicly set tables, ready for 20 guests, reminded me to stick to behavior suitable for mixed company.
At first blush, I believed the supper club to be an offshoot of the couple’s catering business. But during cocktail hour, during which Pablo manned the grill and Danielle circulated with frothy and refreshing pisco sours, I learned otherwise.
The pair got their start putting together informal dinners for groups of friends while living in Brooklyn in 2012. Their love of food and hospitality earned them raves, and it was easy to understand why as I savored Pablo’s traditional Peruvian anticuchos (tender skewered beef hearts marinated in a pungent pepper, garlic and aji spice blend) in the glow of a sunset. Eventually they found themselves serving as many strangers as friends, and the catering business was born.
The conversation moved to the dinner table as we took our seats. A glimpse at the menu revealed there were influences from further afield than the Americas. The solterito salad, for example, featured a schmear of saffron-kissed Iranian yogurt on the plate. The salad’s name loosely translates to “little bachelor”, perhaps in reference to the simpler version often found in Peru that incorporates Andean corn, fava beans and chili pepper. Pablo’s had quite a bit more going on: artichoke and watercress mingled with the fava and fried quinoa gave the dish some tooth. If the little bachelor in question happens to be a chef, you reap the rewards.
The stinging nettle and crab ravioli that followed was divine, pillowy with just the right amount of richness from the accompanying aji amarillo butter. It was my favorite dish of the evening, though the main course, lamb ribs braised in beer and herbs, was a star in its own right. They practically melted off the bone, and shared the plate with some patently New World sides (yucca and salsa criolla) and an Old World guest star (English peas).
Speaking of Old and New World, Danielle had selected some excellent wine pairings, and was not stingy with pouring them. Her other contribution to the menu showcased her Southern roots (to say nothing of her baking skills): a strawberry cobbler topped with homemade black walnut bourbon ice cream. Plates were licked clean in the blink of an eye.
Their 2015 move to LA has won Pablo and Danielle a new following. Our gracious hosts, for example, told us it was their sixth time having a de Porres event at their place. (There’s also a cooking class, where presumably you can grill your own cow hearts.). A guest to my left had attended the dinner series just as frequently and was so familiar with the hosts that he brought his own wines to supplement Danielle’s pairings. And after they’d collaborated on an event in February, the organizers of Disco Dining Club, another LA pop-up series, were attending this dinner as guests.
It struck me that what makes dePorres so special is that despite the artfully created tablescape and beautifully executed meal, the dinner felt intimate and understated. Casual in that “how do they do that” way that French women are casual. “I feel like we’re friends with those people now. Am I crazy?” my dinner guest said on the ride home. When a Michelin-worthy chef and a sommelier/baker make you feel as comfortable as old friends over the course of one dinner, it’s a sure bet you’ll be back.
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