The stage is a refinished 30-foot copper-topped bar; the servers are the characters from a very small western town. The food is a little bit Italian, but mostly “inspired by the western front,” says Erin Brindley the show's chef de cuisine and food stylist for the latest production by dinner theater group Cafe Nordo. “Think like what you would eat on an open fire on the range.” If the cowboys cooking on that open fire experimented with modernist techniques and had a pressure cooker.
Cafe Nordo started out in 2009 in the back warehouse of Theo Chocolate. The group did its first three shows there, “which was crazy, we were making giant king salmon in their chocolate kitchen,” says Brindley. When Theo needed the space back to make chocolate, the Nordo group moved on to venues like West of Lenin and Theater Off Jackson. Each show has a theme with a corresponding coursed food and drink pairing.
The latest, Smoked, is a cocktail show with four seasonal courses and five craft cocktails. Inspired by Sergio Leone's old spaghetti westerns, the story speaks to the controversy surrounding food politics. It's set in a small town “that’s under the thumb of a Monsantoesque agribusiness and the farmers are struggling," says Brindley. "We’ve cast the lawyers and lobbyists as gun-toting sociopathic thugs, and a stranger comes into town to help."
The coursed dinner will have an oxtail chili dish, a sunflower seed risotto, and, of course, a version of spaghetti but with spring vegetable “noodles” with sun-dried tomato and roasted red pepper dressing and dried olive-coated smoked mozzarella balls. All the produce is from Full Circle farm and the meat comes from Painted Hills. With sponsorship from scotches Black Grouse and Highland Park, the drink menu, designed by Maximillian Davis local actor and bartender, will be, fittingly, heavy on the brown liquor. Brindley says, “the cocktail list is still in flux, but we’ll definitely be using fernet and we’re doing a bomb whisky sour.”
Smoked will be the most intimate show the group has done with a 54 seats a night for the 22 show run May 2 thru June 16 at the new event space, Kitchen by Delicatus. As usual, the elusive executive chef Nordo might make an appearance at some point in the evening, but like many celebrity chefs he leaves all the work and cleanup for his staff. Find out more at cafenordo.com and get your tickets here.
May 2–June 16, Kitchen by Delicatus, $60 ($70 with cocktail flight) Sunday and Thursday, $70 ($80 with cocktail flight) Friday and Saturday