A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to a buzzy supper club at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn. Invitations to these elusive soirees are often hard to come by—that’s unless you can somehow bypass the long waiting list or buy your way in, so naturally, I accepted.
Though the invitation provided little information as far as menu or guests, a follow-up email on the day of the dinner provided an address—and urged me to arrive promptly at 7 pm.
At approximately 7:03 pm on a residential street in Williamsburg, I walked straight by the location of my anticipated dinner. In my defense, the address was hidden by a boarded-up scaffolding—the building, as it turns out, was still in construction. After backtracking a few steps, a man with a clipboard ushered me past the construction door entrance and up an unfinished candlelit flight of stairs.
When I finally entered the event space, a meticulously designed open-plan model apartment, it was sleek, modern, and lively with chatter—a far cry from the construction site outside.
Brian Mommsen, a hedge fund manager and the founder of Resident—the culinary incubator behind the dinner—greeted me with a Catalan natural sparkling wine and an Irish Point Oyster amuse-bouche topped with Aji Amarillo, yuzu, and shiso. We were off to a good start.
What is a hedge funder doing serving natural sparkling wine and yuzu-doused oysters in the model apartment of a Williamsburg residential development, you ask? Great question: It all started in a Columbia University in 2015, where then-student Jonah Reider hosted a DIY supper club called Pith from his dorm room, ultimately gaining the attention of the New York Post, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.
“[Jonah] was looking for a space to relaunch Pith after he graduated, and I wanted to support his ability to grow,” says Mommsen, who invited Reider to live with him (and host his supper club dinners) in his townhouse near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “By welcoming him into my home, my house became Jonah’s laboratory to hone his craft and develop his creative vision, and in doing so, he brought people together over communal meals.”
Over the next 18 months, Mommsen would get to know many of the sous chefs that helped Reider execute these highly coveted dinners—and saw an opportunity to provide up-and-coming chefs with support to curate small dinner parties. This is how Resident was born—and how Mommsen came to host weekly curated dinner parties for 10 to 20 people in private residences across the city.
Resident has all the markups of a potential viral sensation: exclusivity, mystery, culinary pedigree, and a wildly appealing branding of muted pastels and squiggly lines, courtesy of Charleston-based SDCO Partners.
“There is a theatrical motif that permeates several of the design elements,” says Mommsen of Resident’s screenplay-inspired typeface and of the artist sketches that permeate throughout the brand’s identity. “Often, I refer to our Resident chefs as artists. They are artists.”
The menu, prepared courtesy of chef Matt Cruz—formerly of San Francisco’s Michelin-starred In Situ—is worthy of a seven-act play. Course after course, my tablemates are served with scrumptious smoked trout roe tarts, hearty chicken broth with charred onion and country ham, perfectly seared Wagyu beef with sunchoke and black truffle—topped off with brown butter ice cream topped with huckleberry, maple, and hazelnut.
At the table, dinner party guests come from all walks of life. A young couple works in the kitchen of buzzy NYC restaurants and is friends with the chef. A trio of young hedge funders heard of the dinner through the founder’s sister. Two chatty women, who made their career on Broadway, reminisce about their past successes, while another young woman, still in college, is interning in the city.
The wine pairings (six in total) foster lively conversation as the evening rolls on. Private supper clubs can often have an elitist air, but this one feels different; more informal and democratic.
And that’s just what Mommsen wants: a communal dining space where people from all walks of life can mingle freely, all the while supporting the burgeoning career of young prodigious chefs. After such a memorable evening, we just had to ask the Resident founder to share his failproof tips for a successful dinner party.
How do you manage different personalities at dinner parties? How do you ensure everyone will get along?
“The short answer is we don’t. Sharing a meal has always been a powerful way to bring people together across different cultures and traditions, and our goal is to create an experience that will help build new connections between people through this shared love and appreciation for food.”
What are your top three tips for creating an unforgettable dinner party experience?
“We have it easy because so many of our guests come wanting to meet new people and engage each other in conversation. I would say if you are planning your own dinner party, it’s all about the ambiance, creating great conversation, and adding something unexpected into the mix. An unforeseen surprise (however small) can go a long way to creating a great vibe for the evening. It can also leave a lasting impression on the guests.”
In your opinion, what is the most important quality in a dinner party host?
“The ability to create an environment that encourages relaxed interaction. The host needs to set the stage for the evening by warmly welcoming guests and establishing an intimate, personal tone. We want to disarm our guests as quickly as possible and make them feel comfortable approaching each other and striking up a conversation from the moment the evening begins.”
What was the best thing you ever ate at a Resident dinner?
“This is an impossible question, mostly because of my love of food. Behzad [Jamshidi]’s pistachio soup comes to mind, as does Matt Cruz’s brown butter ice cream dessert (I am a huge sucker for ice cream). Part of what makes those dishes a favorite for me is hearing the stories behind each of them—the personal meaning behind what was creatively concocted and how it translates to each flavor note in the dish.”
What are your favorite wines to serve right now?
“This question would best be answered by the chefs, but I would say since I do not have very discerning taste buds (a roundabout way of saying I have never met a bottle of wine I didn’t like), the wines that stick out the most are the ones that surprised me the most. For example, dessert wine is something I don’t often order when dining out. We recently tasted a bottle of Domaine Tinou Jurançon Cuvée Tradition 2014 paired with chef Behzad Jamshidi’s dessert comprising apricot sorbet, lavender honeycomb, elderflower, and preserved quince.”
In 2017, Pith had gained widespread attention (and a months’ long waiting list!). Only time will tell when Resident will achieve the same level of acclaim, but something tells me it won’t take long. In the coming months, the communal supper club is opening additional locations in Fort Greene and Manhattan—and expanding its culinary incubator to include additional chefs.
That said, if you can’t spare the trip to NYC (or the $150 ticket per person), grab yourself a few bottles of natural wine, summon your most talented friend to whip up a meal, and invite a handful of perfect strangers around your dinner table.
Plan your next dinner party with these easy recipes:
Big-Batch Dinner Ideas That Can Double as Meal Prep for the Week
These 5 Vibrant Spring Salads Are a Feast for the Senses
19 Easy Ways to Make Dessert in a Cast-Iron Skillet