Supper Clubs

(above) Photo by Our Ampersand Photography

SC.1Case in point: Erik and Amanda Niel’s brainchild, the Scenic City Supper Club. This dining series, which features chefs from Chattanooga and the surrounding areas, works to bring food and beverage professionals together in a non-competitive culinary atmosphere. “The idea behind it was to foster a sense of camaraderie and community amongst all the people who work in different restaurants in Chattanooga,” Erik says.The Scenic City Supper Club features one event for each of the year’s four seasons, and each serves up hors d’oeuvres, a four-course meal, and dessert in some of Chattanooga’s dreamiest venues, including Urban Lawn and the Tennessee Stillhouse. Erik attributes the resurgence of supper clubs’ popularity to the entertainment aspect of dining out.

“I think it mirrors the popularity of restaurants as a whole,” he says. “People come to restaurants to be entertained. I think as people have gravitated toward this idea and the desire to have something similar in their home, there’s certainly been a resurgence.”

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Sharing Meals & Memories

A version of this supper club has been in effect for more than 16 years, making it one of the most tried and true gatherings in the area.

“I moved to Chattanooga 26 years ago, and this particular supper club grew out of people who had lived in Chattanooga for a long time and are from Indian descent,” says Sheila Boyington.

Boyington explains that each person’s connection to their Indian heritage and culture drew them together and helped them become fast friends.

The group of more than 30 meets once a month at a different
person’s home each time, and the host provides each aspect of the meal. Meals typically tie-in foods with Indian influence, making the gatherings a special way to stay in touch with their culture. “One thing that’s nice about Indian food is that we’re all from different regions,” Boyington says. “So it’s fun getting to try the different foods of India.”

With nearly two decades of monthly meals to look back on, the group most enjoys reminiscing on fond memories and laughing about the best times they’ve shared together. As far as advice for a successful, long-running supper club like theirs, Boyington suggests setting a few ground rules up front, including no gifts and no specific holiday celebrations, so that the group can focus on enjoying a relaxing dinner party. “Indians are very social people. I think this is just a release from the week,” says Boyington.

Photos by Michael Hampton
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Sunday School to Supper Club

This group met during Sunday school at First Centenary United Methodist Church, and their friendship soon led them to look for creative ways to spend more time together.

 “We all had children and similar interests, and we really enjoyed cooking, so that pulled us together for a supper club,” Laura Hartman says.

August marked the one-year anniversary of their monthly gatherings. With four couples each living in different parts of town, the location rotates according to whose turn it is to host. From Signal and Lookout mountains to Fort Wood and North Chattanooga, the couples come together each month with special treats from their respective parts of town.

On this night, the group feasted on the Kinkel’s brisket and cider from Signal Mountain Orchard and grilled okra from the Hartman’s Lookout Mountain garden (plus a bouquet of flowers they grew, too!). The Gateses added a caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes from the North Chattanooga Farmer’s Market along with Milk and Honey gelato from their side of town. The Martins, who live in Fort Wood, brought bread from Niedlov’s. In addition, an antipasto platter with meat from Main Street Meats, a sesame soy appetizer (see recipe at right), and a homemade pecan chocolate chip pie completed the meal.

Photos by Med Dement
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Suppers on Signal

Clocking in at 17 years of meet-ups, this Signal Mountain supper club has had quite a long run.

SC.Signal4And it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. “We were inspired to spend time together with people we don’t usually see,” explains Patti Cole, one of the first couples to join the group.

With everyone living on Signal except one couple who recently moved, the pairs meet at rotating houses and cook a large meal for friends. “We’re pretty unique in that whoever does the hosting does everything,” says Patti. From appetizers like brie, smoked salmon, and grapes, to a main course like grilled beef tenderloin and individual mashed potatoes in ramekins, it’s all taken care of by the host—watermelon margaritas included!

So how does one supper club stay going for nearly two decades? According to Patti, it’s all about choosing a group leader.

“You need to have people who are dedicated to keeping it going and who want to have a great time. Choose a leader who will take charge of planning the next event.”

Photos by Med Dement
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Sips & Small Plates

It all started with a few friends gathering to play Bunco together.

Soon though, these ladies realized the real fun was to be had by sipping wine, noshing on light dishes, and catching up on each other’s lives. “There’s a core three, and one of us always hosts, and we invite different people every time,” Amy Kennedy explains, noting that they usually keep it between six to 10 women. “We like to be able to talk and mingle, so we don’t want the crowd to get too big.”

The three close friends, who live in Apison neighborhoods next to each other, describe their supper club gatherings as easygoing and relaxed. And you won’t find any heavy dinner dishes here! “We call it ‘wedding food.’ When you go to weddings, they always have mini quiches or finger foods. It’s not something you would typically have when your family’s gathered around the table, so it’s a treat for the girls to get together to taste wine and eat light,” says Amy.

The group typically adheres to the season, going for white wine in the spring and summer, and red wine with heavy apps in the cooler months. In addition, holidays play a role in their gatherings as well. A gift exchange brings Christmas cheer, while an autumnal-themed dinner is always planned around Halloween and elaborately decorated by Stefanie Melendez, the group’s resident party planner.

Photos by Michael Hampton
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