At La Slowteria, chef Hugo Orozco Carrillo’s slow-food-minded Carroll Gardens restaurant, Mexican lotería cards are a big theme. So it’s not surprising that Orozco left a few things to chance when he hosted a dinner with Argentine chef Diego Felix.
The two chefs had met once before—at Casa Felix, the underground supper club Felix and his wife, Sanra Ritten, run in their home in the Chacarita neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
“He opens the door of his house to you, so it’s a chance to do the same,” says Orozco.
Gaining converts among Argentines and tourists who find them only by word of mouth, Casa Felix offers culinary adventurers a fresh perspective in a landscape of heavy grilled meats and Argentine asados. Though technically a puerta cerrada (closed door) restaurant, it’s hard to imagine a more welcoming experience than enjoying a five-course pescatarian menu, thoughtfully prepared by Felix with whatever looked good at the market that day and ingredients he’s discovered on his travels throughout South America.
“I’m of this continent,” explains Felix, “and my duty as a chef and cultural promoter is to develop local flavors.”
Eager to share the experience beyond their borders, the couple shuts down Casa Felix during their winter—our summer—and takes their recipes on the road. Their Brooklyn-based tour manager, Flor Azpiroz, blasts the broad mailing list to see who might be interested in hosting a dinner in the cities they’ll be visiting.
Over six consecutive seasons, they’ve cooked in New York, Austin, Chicago, Miami and throughout California, to name only a few destinations, holding dinners in private homes and restaurants, farmhouses and wineries. Hosts provide a well-equipped kitchen and a minimum of 12 guests, who each pay $125 for their place at the table. Then Colectivo Felix (the Felix Collective), as they’ve become known, takes over. Putting up a culinary bat signal in every city they visit, they gather friends and past collaborators to create a multi-course feast.
Felix arrived in Brooklyn and hit the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket to seek out ingredients and inspiration.
“Other chefs don’t understand that I don’t have a menu—at least not in the morning. It makes our food very alive,” says Felix.
But in the ensuing hours, late-season tomatoes lent themselves to llagua, an Andean gazpacho, finished with a fresh herb suico chimichurri taken from Orozco’s garden. Vermont cheese was added to a cassava-based Argentinian chipa bread. Chicha, a corn-based cocktail, was spiked with Brooklyn Brewery ale and spiced rum. The main course, brook trout a la sal, was cooked under a rock-hard salt crust and stuffed with a tarragon tzatziki sweetened with upstate honey, to be served with jewel-toned root vegetables cooked three ways. None of which may have ever been seen before in Buenos Aires or Brooklyn.
“They rediscover traditional recipes, modernize them and then reintroduce them,” says Azpiroz. “That’s the chef’s creation.”
Between courses, Felix goes from table to table, presenting each dish while greeting friends acquired over years spent in constant motion.
“That’s the luck of being able to travel and collaborate with other chefs, because you keep learning rather than staying in your own restaurant,” says Felix. “This is my life, a fun life, so I can’t complain.”
The La Slowteria event was one of seven planned for Felix’s 11-day stay in New York, including several private dinners and a collaboration with one of our own “closed door” restaurants, the Whisk & Ladle supper club, held on a Williamsburg rooftop.
“I’m a chef, but my idea has never been and never will be to have a restaurant,” says Felix. “There are other possibilities.”
Photo credit: Emily Dryden