David Lanster and Kelly Moran are partners in love, food, and molecules. They were seniors in Ransom Everglades High School, in 2014, when they created “Delicious Donations” fundraising dinners that raised oodles of dough for Common Threads. This effort morphed into DK Culinary Ventures, which has since held a number of fundraising dinner series at cool venues. What makes these pop-ups so eye-popping are the 16 to 19 courses of highly conceptualized, meticulously realized, delightfully eclectic cuisine.
A description of DK’s mission, taken from their website: “With a focus in experiential dining, they believe food can transcend simple nutrition to have far greater impacts. With that in mind, art, science, and social trends have all come to influence their style in a truly unique way.”
The group’s 2016 summer tour, “Axis: Art + Science” is over now. Dinners were held at places like LAB Miami in Wynwood, Merrick House in Coral Gables and Soho Beach House in Miami Beach. This past June, I attended an Axis dinner at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens.
Thank God this isn’t a review, so I needn’t recall the details of all the courses. Overall, it was a splendid affair. The dishes contained surprising combinations of ingredients that worked out ingeniously – and deliciously. The Miami Herald’s heralded Evan Benn placed one of DK’s plates in his “10 Best Miami Restaurant Dishes of 2015”: “a stunning ‘risotto’ made with pine nuts and garnished with Thai basil, apple and pecorino.”
The recommended dress code for these affairs is “festive,” which fits in with the vibe. There’s something about being served 16 courses that makes those sitting at a communal table feel compelled to make comments and comparisons between courses. A comradeship develops, aided by the pairing of various wines with the foods (the chatter increased noticeably around the seventh or eighth course).
Some dishes are very light, such as the very first course: a mojito-candied mint leaf dusted with kaffir lime leaf powder. It did exactly what any first course should do, whether succeeded by two courses or 15: Stimulated the palate.
DK Culinary Ventures is a team effort that starts with David (Chef de Cuisine) and Kelly (Executive Sous Chef/Pastry Chef), but also includes important contributions from Spencer Miller (an excellent Mâitre d’Hôtel); sous chefs (Dylan Denman, Camille Dulin, Chloe Dulin); event staffers, equipment managers, a Technology Supporter and even a Director of Scientific Development (Jorge Camacho). The co-founders parents play an active role too.
Kelly Moran was kind enough to provide me with not just ingredient info on some of the dishes, but a bit of backstory and/or description of the process. Forgive my not-so-hot photos, but the lighting wasn’t great. I loved the “Pork Cubism,” which according to Kelly was “Inspired by the juxtaposition of David’s summer baseball recruitment trips to Fort Meyers and other Florida cities (best part was always the search for the best Pulled Pork Sandwich) and New York City trips full of museum and gallery going."
The components of this clever construct: Pulled Pork Cube, Cole Slaw Cube (Carrots, Cabbage, Cole Slaw Liquid), Barbecue Gel Cube (Gelled with agar agar), and Texas Toast Cube (Homemade Pullman Loaf). Put ‘em together and yup, a deliciously different pulled pork sandwich.
Greek Marinated Duck Breast with cherry reduction sauce, juniper berry, marigold, pickled ginger “pebble”, and hearts on fire:
Winter in a Jar was “Inspired by the preservation of winter.” Kelly, who spent this year at school in Boston, “captured the winter weather into a jar, and brought it back home to our hot summer in Miami.” Components: gingersnap crumb, vanilla mousse, eggnog creme, and spearmint meringue.”
Gazpacho Sphere- “Classic gazpacho rotary evaporated to capture the essence (smell) of gazpacho. Then sphered with sodium alginate and calcium lactate gluconate. Finished with tobacco infused olive oil and sea salt.”
David is now attending University of Miami, and Kelly is studying at Tufts. There are no dates yet set for their next venture, but holiday season and summer are the likeliest targets. lee2go will let you know when the dates and venues are determined. You'll want to catch it while you can.