Polly’s Paladar: Private supper club takes dining experience to another level
August 20, 2013
Each month, Megan McCollam transforms her living room into a dining venue where musicians perform, candles glow and people who love to eat gather together for a meal they won't find anywhere else.
McCollam is the brainchild behind Polly's Paladar, a private supper club she operates out of her Nevada City home.
A single mom of an 11- year-old, McCollam moved into the revamped miner's cabin several years ago where she dreamed of starting a supper club. She queried the folks at Bay Area-based dinner club Stag Dining Group for beginner's advice and took a business ignitor course at Sierra Commons.
She worked in the food industry for years, and though she's never been to a formal culinary school, McCollam can follow a recipe perfectly. More importantly, perhaps, is her knack for details, gathering and composing the scene, the mood — every element required for a memorable occasion.
"I like the moment; I like the moment of all the senses. It's really magical to me, especially when the music starts," McCollam said.
She launched a soft opening in January 2012 with local cook Jessica Flanigan. The idea of an intimate dinner party with 40 to 50 or so friends gathered in a casual home setting has quickly caught on, and today, with little marketing but word of mouth, Polly's Paladar has become the place to eat among local foodies.
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Outside Magazine gave the quiet, unassuming Polly's Paladar a mention when they named Nevada City as one of the best river towns in America.
"It's got a whole life of its own now … I have 414 members. People are really excited about the idea of being able to experience chefs that aren't exactly showcased locally," McCollam said.
McCollam coined the name "Polly's Paladar" in honor of her grandmother and the Cuban tradition of home kitchen businesses. Paladar is a Spanish term, and the direct translation is "palate" or "roof of the mouth."
In Cuba, family-run restaurants, known as "Paladares," have become popular among tourists seeking a vivid interaction with Cubans and looking for homemade food authentic to the region.
Somewhat underground in nature, supper clubs are gaining attention around the globe among adventurous patrons looking for a unique culinary experience in a creative setting more communal than a typical restaurant.
Each month, a different theme and menu is featured, and local farms provide the freshest ingredients. It costs just $1 to become a member.
McCollam is a licensed caterer, but atypical of most, she hires other certified chefs to showcase. She doesn't seem to have any trouble finding them. Often they seek her out. Even the local restaurant community supports what she is doing, despite the fact that she borrows their chefs.
"She's a buzz for sure. (McCollam) is really, really good at throwing parties," said personal chef Jes Taber, whose event Like Water for Chocolate sold out in three days.
Her feast of "sensual and mouth-watering delicious authentic Mexican treats" with a name borrowed by author Laura Esquivel takes place Saturday, marking the 17th event at Polly's Paladar.
"You get to realize your own dream. She gives you complete, total freedom over the menu," Taber said, who will be serving wild caught ceviche, corn sopes with green mole chicken, carnitas and roasted vegetable tacos with handmade corn tortillas, roasted tomato and peach blackberry salsa and tamales "that will melt your heart into liquid gold."
Other sensual events such as the Grand Opening Valentine's Erotique by Chef Ariana Goldschneider and Seven Deadly Sins by Chef Evan Coben were also sellouts.
Besides local favorites, the Paladar has attracted Chefs Leif Hedendal and celebrated "Ridge Darling" Sylvan Mishima Brackett of Bay Area-based Japanese Catering Company, Peko Peko. Even musician Jonathan Richman has performed in the house. The supper club's calendar is filled through November with the much-anticipated arrival of Mexican Chef Dany Lamote for the Nov. 1 Dia de Los Muertos event.
"I think what Megan has created is the true culinary experience, complete with art, music and a venue for people to experience food in a whole new way," said Shanan Manuel, owner of the catering business Sierra Farm to Table, known for her work with the recent community open air Farm to Table dinner held on Commercial Street in downtown Nevada City.
Last December, Manuel held Dining in the Dark, where a full house wore blindfolds throughout an entire meal.
Going beyond local farms, Alicia Funk of Living Wild prepared a four-course fine dining experience with wild locally foraged foods such as Cattail Heart Soup, Roasted California Quail, Pine Nut Fritters and Chocolate Oak Nut Marzipan. The fundraiser for Yuba Watershed Institute was accompanied by Maidu Indian music and art made of native materials by eight local artists.
"Polly's Paladar offers the freedom for chefs to present experiential meals that appeal to all of the senses," Funk said.
Next month, local chef and nutritionist Victoria LaFont will cook up some Southern Soul Food using nutrient-dense ingredients. Like all the events hosted at the Paladar, it will require a month of careful planning for just one night. It's work that McCollam finds deeply gratifying.
"I just love bringing people together," she said.
To learn more visit: http://www.pollyspaladar.com/
Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at 530-401-4877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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