Avocado helado with shrimp and tilapia ceviche is paired with a Violette-spiked mezcal margarita, a fruit and beet salad with cream sorbet is served with a pomegranate gin fizz, and a collard green and kale duck sausage pizza gets a l'orange Old Fashioned.
That's the type of food you can expect when you pair a private chef with a talented bartender and ask them to host a dinner party. Specifically, it's what happens when you put Boca Raton-based chef Jake Hébert and Delray Beach hospitality guru Justin Himmelbaum in the same kitchen together, the duo behind an upcoming pop-up dining series known as Mucho Gusto Delray.
In South Florida, those in search of truly inspired dining are often hard-pressed to find anything more than mediocre north of Miami-Dade. Which is why Hébert and Himmelbaum decided to team up and create Mucho Gusto Delray.
"Originally, the idea was to host a small dinner party for a group of friends," said Himmelbaum, who asked Hébert to help plan and cook a beer pairing menu. "When we were done, everyone was so excited about what we'd done, we decided we should find a way to keep doing it."
Today, Mucho Gusto Delray is being organized as a full-fledged pop-up and networking event — a way for people to share their passion for good food and drink in a relaxed, informal setting. Already several local foodies have taken part in a trial dinner, including Anika Needle (Miles + Mimosas) and Blair Novy (Miso Hungry Miso Full).
The impromptu series has plans to set up shop at a catering kitchen, local businesses, and private homes; the idea is to present each pop-up at a different location, says Himmelbaum, who has already targeted a variety of spaces for future pop-ups across Palm Beach County.
For now, Hébert and Himmelbaum want to keep things simple. A two-man operation, everything will be casual: Hébert cooks, Himmelbaum mixes drinks and acts as host, and Hébert's wife — Camilla — helps to serve and clear dishes. The idea is to grow slowly and hire staff as they increase the number of pop-up dates. Although Mucho Gusto Delray has already garnered a small, local following of eager, would-be patrons, the duo plan to keep each pop-up at 12 to 18 people per seating.
"This is a great way for people to come together and meet new people, and we're very open to collaboration" said Hébert. "It's a good time where people can enjoy some amazing food and drinks, with great company."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
After a small trial dinner several months ago, Mucho Gusto Delray hosted a preliminary pop-up for a small group of friends in March, a five-course beer pairing dinner that included a popcorn appetizer, drinks, and a dessert course. The menu was organized a week in advance, says Hébert, made with locally grown and locally sourced ingredients presented with a decided Latin- and Asian-inspired flair.
A second friends and family pop-up took place on Sunday, April 12, following a format the duo hope to create moving forward: a 12:30 p.m. brunch and 5 p.m. dinner seating. Two four-course pairing menus were presented for each 18-person group, and dishes were paired with a complimentary handcrafted cocktail featuring gin, bourbon, and mescal. Courses included a beet and citrus salad; avocado, shrimp, and tilapia ceviche; duck sausage pizza with sun dried tomato pesto and a poached egg; and a pancake stuffed waffle topped with banana cream purée.
Moving forward, Mucho Gusto Delray plans to host regular pop-ups twice a month, offering a Sunday brunch and dinner. Prices will range from $55 to $75 per person and will include a multicourse pairing menu featuring a selection of beer, wine, or cocktails. They will also be available for private events.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.