Special Projects Social is full of surprises
Imagine making dinner reservations at an unknown location. The address is revealed the day before. You arrive at a home of someone you've never met and walk in with people you don't know.
This is the Special Projects Social, a pop-up dinner series in the downtown area that held its first event during Contemporary Art Month in April and hosted the seventh dinner earlier this month at artist and co-founder Peter Zubiate's home with his partner Katie Pell, who is also an artist.
“It makes me appreciate other people hosting,” he said as guests began filling the kitchen and living space.
In other cities, pop-up restaurants are known for making use of vacant spaces or taking over another restaurant for a limited time, such as one night or weekend.
Zubiate says he didn't have any expectations when he and caterer Tim McDiarmid started the Special Projects Social. On the contrary, they had no idea what to expect.
“It's exciting in that way, too,” he says.
His furniture, made from wood and reclaimed objects, is moved and used at each event, and he enjoys the opportunity to manipulate new spaces.
That's the whole idea — each event evolves as a traveling dinner party or supper club of new faces that is curated around a featured artist and a local DJ or musician sets the tone.
Dinners have ranged in themes and format, including a tea party at noon, multi-course dinners and a dessert- and drinks-only option for one event. McDiarmid, who owns Tim the Girl catering, prepares the menu and food that features local, healthful ingredients. The food is plentiful and served family style, and one guest remarked that she is pleased that she always enjoys the food but never feels stuffed.
The series is open to including guest chefs, as was the case at the fourth event that featured Luca Della Casa, formerly from Le Rêve and Il Sogno. Ideally, the dinners can be held anywhere, although there are a few specifications for kitchen space and refrigeration so the menu can be prepared accordingly. Usually, the next host emerges at each event.
“Our hope is for the host inviting us into their space, that they invite their friends and merge with people who follow us and new people, that we integrate different scenes,” McDiarmid says. “A new crowd comes about based on where it's hosted. Each time it picks up momentum. People go places they would not have gone.”
Events are open to anyone and usually max out at 50 guests. They have ranged in cost from $25 to $100, with dinners on the upper end, and the location is revealed the day before. One event featured an afterparty dinner and dessert option for $25. At some point, McDiarmid and Zubiate would like to host a cocktail and snack event that's more approachable and would cost around $20.
The next dinner is scheduled for Dec. 17 and will feature a holiday theme and 10 artists instead of one, including the guest artists from previous dinners. Artists will wrap their selected piece of art — with a minimum value of $200 — that will be placed under a contemporary tree. Profiles of each artist will be posted on the Special Projects Social website. A silent auction will take place that night, and there is a possibility there will be an online bidding option.
Instead of a specific musician, there will be only one rule — no Christmas carols.
Dinner will feature traditional holiday dishes and costs $100; the location will be revealed the day before.