Before completely closing the book on San Diego Comic-Con until next year, there was one event I was invited to that wasn’t widely advertised: the Dos Equis Most Interesting Academy Dinner. Renowned chef Craig Thornton traveled south from Los Angeles to San Diego to serve four dinners over two nights to comic-con artists, nerdlebrities and movers and shakers. And then there was me.
Craig Thornton heralds Wolvesden, an underground supper club that started in 2010. From what I understand, the dinner’s location is not known until the day of the event, and with the exception of a few emails, there is almost no contact. The only thing I knew was the location a few days in advance and it was to be held a Little Italy penthouse.
So I descended upon Little Italy, with friends Deanna and Ram, and Paul in tow. We were all a little weary and exhausted from the first full day of comic-con, but prepared for whatever the evening would bring us. And the host, Dos Equis, brought it to us in spades.
Women in masks greeted us at the top floor and instructed us to mingle until dinner was ready. From the onset, it was different from any other dinner party I’ve attended. A woman playing a sitar was situated near the entrance, art collages were displayed throughout and wait — is that Chris Hardwick, host of the Nerdist, talking amongst a small group by the corner??
Once dinner was ready, we settled into our seats and found ourselves between Hardwick, Dhani Jones (former NFL player and host of Travel Channel’s Dhani Tackles the Globe) and Charlie Adlard (artist of The Walking Dead). Shortly after sitting down, we also found out several cast members of Community has dined before us. Was I possibly sitting where Danny Pudi sat only an hour before? Cool cool cool! This was becoming a most interesting dinner indeed.
But the real start of the evening was the food: six courses of Chef Thornton’s own creation. Each one thoughtfully put together and each with a unique flavor profile.
The first course was a fork-tender, medium rare, seared ribeye cap accompanied by a cheese fritter and pimento cheese made with apples. It was rich, decadent and Paul declared this one of the best things he has ever eaten. It was an impressive start.
A luxurious buttermilk corn chowder followed. It was slightly nutty and peppered with a hint of spiciness. Piles of crab meat surrounded the bowl which I happily lapped up with my spoon. Despite the intensity of the ingredients (and the haphazard “plating”), the freshness of the sweet corn still shined through.
A fish course was next. While halibut might be the star of this course, it was really the Roman-style gnocchi which stole the spotlight. The fish and gnocchi was paired with a deep-fried zucchini flower, pesto ricotta and a single cherry tomato.
And it wasn’t all meat. The next course — my favorite — was an assembly of greens. Before even thinking of taking a photo, I dived into my plate (hence the photo of Ram’s half-eaten portion). Green beans, peaches, coffee “soil” and horseradish cream may be a weird combination, but together were harmonic. It was earthy, tangy, crisp and luscious all in one plate.
The final savory course was pork belly with a corn fritter ball, avocado sliver, sliced radishes and a grilled pineapple with some fruit juice on the plate. The pork belly was moist and well-seasoned, and everything else on the plate took on a delicious deconstructed version of a taco.
Before dessert was served, I checked out the kitchen to view the prep.
Lines of shallow bowls were being filled with tres leches, dehydrated strawberries, whipped cream and the special addition of pastry rocks — the same ingredient used for Pop Rocks but unflavored. Despite the filling courses beforehand, no dessert was left untouched.
Bring a group of comic artists together — even for dinner — and eventually someone brings out a sketchbook. In the case of this evening, it was Dhani Jones, who is a huge fan of The Walking Dead. Dhani asked Charlie Adlard for a sketch between courses, followed by other artists in attendance (including Paul). It was fascinating to watch people sketch out something between meals and moments after the last course was served.
The whole purpose behind this extraordinary night was to introduce people whose paths wouldn’t normally cross (and throw in some good food and a few beers to help with the socializing). But it was also to help promote and spread the word about their Dos Equis Most Interesting Academy Stay Thirsty Grant.
Dos Equis will award up to $25K for someone to pursue their dreams. Whether it’s traveling the globe to discover new foods, create a comic publishing company — or event throw a dinner with your favorite artists in attendance — Dos Equis will fund it. People wishing to make their dreams a reality will have until August to apply. Please visit Dos Equis for more information.
To participate in a Wolvesden dinner, sign up for the mailing list here.
Thank you to Dos Equis for a memorable dinner!