The first rule of NY Bite Club is that you don’t talk about NY Bite Club.
So much for the first rule.
Husband and wife team Daniel and Alicia (last names withheld, as per the second rule), have been operating underground, members-only dinner parties out of their private, Brooklyn brownstone (undisclosed location — third rule), and various under-the-radar Manhattan residences for the past six years.
“We maintain day jobs and always will — if Bite Club was a full-time venture with employees and leases and obligations, it would kill our enjoyment of it,” Daniel said. “This project was born out of our love for cooking, meeting new people, and creating a relaxed, homey environment. It’s hardly a money-making venture.”
Not that it couldn’t be — the clandestine nature of the covert supper club plays perfectly into current foodie trends of speakeasies, subterranean cocktail lounges, and unmarked restaurants, not to mention plucky, do-it-yourself ventures that gleefully cut out the middle man (or in this case, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which disallows such establishments under the health code).
More than 1,000 members currently clamor for the 30 or so seats available at each Bite Club event, which are announced via newsletter and — before PayPal expedited the process — reserved through a surreptitious money drop at one of three secured locations throughout the city.
The fuss is worth it — $100 buys eight superbly prepared, high-end courses, which include dishes like swordfish with parsnip and guanciale hash, caramelized foie gras with caramel and vanilla bean poached pear, and — during a recent press party commissioned by BBC America to promote an upcoming cooking competition — huitlacoche quesadillas and six-hour roasted baby goat in handmade masa tortillas.
Just make sure to BYOB: NY Bite Club nixed wine service years ago to avoid further legal complications.
The cash also procures a spot in a rather unique social experiment, which Daniel and Alicia orchestrate through use of communal tables and carefully crafted seating charts that mix and match members from all walks of life.
“When we first started out, everyone was either an artist or investment banker, but once we started to get press, our membership profile got very broad,” Daniel said. “One week, there’d be a group of French tourists, then, older Indian couples in their 60s. They told us their spiritual advisor said it would help their marriage if they came.”
So diners willing to skirt city laws for a gourmet meal should show up hungry and be ready for anything (that’s the fourth rule of NY Bite Club).
“We’ve had everyone from models to chefs, to guys that run the NASDAQ, but it’s not at all pretentious,” he added. “It’s about giving yourself over to the food and experience, no matter who you are.”