The Supper Club Experience
The cliché about living in Sacramento is “the best thing about Sacramento is that you’re an hour from Tahoe and an hour to the City.” For me, the best thing about living in Sacramento is that we have the Supper Club! On a recent Saturday evening, my husband Johnnie and our good friends, former SacFoodie Amy Jackson and her husband David, made the quick dash to Del Paso Boulevard for one of the most delightful evenings we’ve had in a very long time.
Yvette and Matt Woolston
For the unfamiliar, the Supper Club serves pre-fixe meals on Fridays and Saturdays, with or without specially selected wines that are served with each course. Matt and Yvette Woolston are the chef and hostess respectively, and both fulfill their roles to perfection. The evening begins at 6:30 and we usually roll (literally) out at about 10:30. Yet the evening is perfectly paced and by the time it’s over one wonders how it could have gone by so fast.
The evening always begins with passed-around appetizers and wine or a special cocktail for the evening. On this night a pomegranate martini was a refreshing starter and the appetizers were amazing. A house-made lamb sausage in a perfect red potato skin with olive-tapenade and feta cheese, a perfect scallop on a crispy baked wonton and a risotto mushroom cake were clear hits. It took some restraint not to fill up on these items.
At about 7 p.m. the guests are seated. Chef Matt then comes out and talks with the diners, explaining what he’s serving, how he made it, and why he selected the wines he has paired with each dish. His speech is always entertaining, especially when he nonchalantly explains how he threw together some ridiculously difficult-sounding item such as the pickled watermelon rind salad that went with the spinach and seaweed-infused rice cake for the tuna course.
There is always a “surprise course” not listed on the menu. On this night it opened the proceedings. Matt presented a mixed baby beet salad with fresh goat cheese that was exquisite in its simplicity yet with perfect flavors. This was followed by the soup course, which was a pureed Guatemalan blue squash with cinnamon crème fraiche and smoked pepita oil. This was soup perfection. I don’t know how he comes up with these ideas but I have to simply bow to his soup-making skills. His wine selection skills are stellar as well; a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was outstanding here.
We next enjoyed the afore-mentioned Ahi Tuna which was topped with wasabi whipped cream and the amazing rice cake and watermelon rind salad. The words “rice cake” don’t really do justice to this fantastic dish. It was tuna nirvana. A somewhat surprising wine choice, an Edna Valley Pinot Noir, was a perfect accompaniment.
As we approached 8:30, then 9:00, the anticipation began to grow for the main events of the evening, the meat courses. I could go on all day about Matt’s appetizers, soups and salads but I’d need a week to describe his presentations of meat. (I must mention here that the Supper Club also has now added a vegetarian menu served in a similar fashion. I imagine that it must be very good, but I’ll never know.)
Past menus have included rabbit, wild boar, and buffalo, but also usually include some combination of chicken, pork, lamb or beef. This evening featured duck and beef. That simple sentence does not begin to describe the extravaganza of flavor that was to follow.
When the Supper Club serves duck it is usually prepared as a confit of duck legs and thighs, slow-simmered all day in its own fat. There is simply no better duck dish that I have ever tasted and the Jacksons, who were moderate duck fans, whole-heartedly agreed. The Muscovy duck confit was served with braised kale and marionberry jus, a winning combination, and was served with a Paso Robles Sangiovese, big and lush, that brought the whole dish together magnificently. I’ve been to the Supper Club quite a few times but I’m always astonished at how good the food can be.
And they give you seconds! Another element of the Supper Club experience is that they pass around seconds of the meat courses. It’s usually impossible to resist and this night was no exception.
After this course had settled for a bit, the main entrée of the evening was served. Matt prepared a peppercorn-crusted filet mignon of Uruguayan beef, on a bed of house-made papparadelle, with a sauce of tomatoes and Stilton cheese, all topped with fried leek rings. It was an extraordinary dish, made even more sublime with the addition of a Chilean Meritage-style blend that was rich and luscious yet with earthy tones to match with the beef.
Matt doesn’t usually serve pasta (too filling) but when he does it’s a real treat. He prepares just the right amount and the taste and texture are absolutely perfect. The Stilton cheese worked beautifully with the tomato sauce and the beef was amazingly tender and flavorful. Matt threw a curve on the seconds with this dish, bringing out quarter-sized hamburger patties ground from the filet, topped with some of the Stilton. Oh my.
At this point, it was about 9:30 and we wondered if it was possible to continue. Yet the menu says that there is still dessert. Be prepared that the desserts at the Supper Club keep up the level of artistry and quality and that you will simply not be able to avoid eating every bit and wishing that they passed seconds on that as well.
There is always a cheese plate and a dessert available, both paired with dessert wines. If you’re a couple and smart you’ll order one of each. The cheese plates are always excellent, usually three types of cheese varying in flavor and texture. Tonight there was Piave from , Red Hawk from Cow Girl Creamery and Point Reyes Blue served with a port-poached pear and, as usual, some micro-salad greens, spiced rosemary walnuts (recipe follows), and baguette from the Old Soul bakery. Cheese heaven.
As for the dessert on this evening, I can simply say that it’s hard to imagine anything more delicious. In essence, it was an apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and pecan brittle but every element, homemade of course, was perfection. The strudel pastry was unbelievable, the apples, glazed in Calvados, were spectacular, the pecan ginger tuile was remarkable and the vanilla gelato was, well, I’ve run out of superlatives. Matt even offered seconds on the ice cream, but here sanity had to prevail. And of course, the dessert wines and Old Soul coffee were delicious.
The Jacksons said it was the best meal they’d ever had. We couldn’t quite agree, only because the best meal we’d ever had was on another visit to the Supper Club. If you love good food, great atmosphere, outstanding service and charming people, make sure to get to this great treasure as soon as you can. Reservations are required; visit the Supper Club’s Web site to review the current menu, recipes and get more information on wine tasting and special events. The price of the evening is $85 without wine and $120 with wine (poured generously). For one of the very best meals, and very best evenings you are ever likely to have, it’s a bargain. Go.
Hearts of Romaine with Roquefort, Fennel, Pear and Rosemary Walnuts in Red Wine Vinaigrette
6 Hearts of Romaine, hand torn, no tough stems, washed in cold water, drained and spun no more than 6 hours before serving
2 fennel bulbs, core cut out and julienne. Marinate in a zip lock bag with ½ cup dressing
2 cups Rosemary walnuts
4 Red Pears cored and cut into slices. Put in mixture or 2 T. lemon juice per cup of cold
water for up to 1 hour if cutting in advance, otherwise cut just before using.
6-9 oz. Roquefort or blue Cheese, high quality, crumbled or frozen to shave later
2/3 cup red wine vinegar, high quality
2/3 cup virgin olive oil, high quality
2/3 cup canola oil
Salt, pepper & sugar to taste
Stir all ingredients until mixed well and chill until needed. Can make up to 1 week in advance.
4 cups walnut halves
2 T. butter
3 tsp. chopped dried rosemary
½ tsp. cayenne
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 325º. Melt the butter and toss with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and spread onto baking sheet. Bake at 325º stirring every 3 – 4 minutes until crisp (12 – 15 minutes). Let cool and leave at room temperature covered tight. Can make up to 1 week in advance.
Toss the greens gently with Dressing to taste and plate. Layer the rest of the ingredients on top.
Notes: Rosemary Walnuts go great with port. This recipe works well also at the end of a meal instead of dessert.
The Supper Club
1616 Del Paso Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815