By Diane Richards and Jocelyn Park
I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this “pop-up” movement that’s happening around Lancaster. Pop-up-what?? The idea is this: small businesses can be transformed into versatile spaces, accommodating anything from yoga classes, to art workshops, to dinners; there is real magic in the symbiotic relationship between the venue host and the pop-up visionary as they work together to breathe new life and energy into the everyday, ie: whiskey distillery-by-day, fine-dining ambiance and a four course meal by night (AND, you are in on the spontaneity of the event only if you happen upon an invite… Good ‘ol grassroots marketing makes a comeback.)
Last Thursday it was my pleasure to host “Fine Food & Fare,”a pop-up whiskey dinner at Andrew Martin’s Thistle Finch Distillery, alongside chef Nick Furrow, and with the camaraderie of guest servers, John Spidaliere and Aaron Schifflet. A winter’s feast, a whiskey drink, and bottle o’ rye for the road—does is get any better that? From the impetus of this event, I knew it would be delicious and zehr chic, as the germans say, given the hearty winter menu and the gorgeous restored industrial setting of Andrew’s distillery, also the home of Square One Coffee Roasters.
Arriving at the distillery the day of the dinner, John and I moved furniture and papered tables, folded cloth napkins and placed eclectic table settings. As I arranged Nick’s collection of brass candlesticks and vases filled with dried roses dipped in scarlet-red paint, it occurred to me that my favorite thing about bringing people together is the calm before the storm—the creation of a beautifully designed space to encourage good flow of energy and incite good conversation between friends and even better, among strangers. While Nick took to establishing his pop-up kitchen in the back of the factory, I headed home to let my hair down and put my face on, to return ready to welcome guests out of the frigid evening and into the warm whiskey night.
I made my way down the dark alley, bracing myself from the wind. The location of said pop-up dinner was not exactly known, it had been pointed out to me once by a friend. As I approached the unmarked door, I noticed “Thistle Finch Tasting Room” scribbled upon a piece of cardboard. I followed the signs and found myself in a restored, intimate warehouse. People were perched at the bar, seated at a few tables, some at whiskey barrels. I took in the warm, rustic wood cladding, the piles of coffee bean bags, the speak easy like atmosphere.
A fan of whiskey many years gone by, I tried a whiskey sour to taste the local specialty. From there I made my way to a Martin Mule, to which I have stopped upon at each return. I found myself at a table with familiar faces, cleverly seated there by my hosts.
And then came the plates.
Pickles of all shapes and sizes, a cheesy soup, and the most magnificent beef stew (for lack of a better description) I have ever had. Nick has a way with beef and stews, it warms my belly and makes me smile. I gobbled with care, eager for the next course. I was witness to the preparation for the whiskey cakes the evening prior, watching Diane artfully crisscross and rotate six cakes to cook evenly. Needless to say, they were amazing, moist and topped with a berry sauce.
Finished and with goodbyes said, we placed on our coats and made our way into the dark, cold night for the whiskey and the stew to keep us warm.