Summer may be over, but there’s always something to celebrate in Paris. The end of September marked the long-awaited return of chef Harry Cummins and sommelier Laura Vidal, the well-known duo behind The Paris Popup. An initiative imagined while the pair were working together at Frenchie Restaurant, Paris Popup brings together the best of Harry’s inventive cooking and Laura’s dead-on wine pairings.
The popup group debuted last year with a number of successful one-day events hosted in notable Parisian venues like Verjus, Le Mary Celeste, and Bones. For their events the team worked closely with local suppliers and invited other notable chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, musicians, and artists to participate. After last year’s memorable Food Fest popup, hosted at the novel rooftop bar Le Perchoir, Paris Popup packed its suitcases and skipped town for a prolonged trip around the world. Dropping into the diverse culinary scenes of New York City, Oakland, Montreal, Québec City, and Kyoto, the group made friends and fans as they cooked their way across the globe.
HiP Paris Blog talked with Laura and Harry before the opening night of Sept Soirées Ensemble, their debut event upon returning to Paris. We were especially curious to know the process for organizing a popup event. Laura explained, “First we need to find the venue – we usually ask friends or put the word out that we are going to a certain location (as in Quebec City, where we knew no one) and people just suggest or offer up their space. It’s become quite an organic process. We then have to set up the concept of food, wine, beer, etc. We look for people who want to work with us and Harry sources local products, so a lot of time is spent in each location visiting markets, meeting producers and farmers, and creating the food from scratch with the products as the source of inspiration. I look for interesting local wines/beverages but we also like to incorporate wines from all over that we love.”
Some of the perks of doing popups around the globe are getting to meet new people and learn about different cultures and cuisines. Laura shared, “We get to meet so many passionate people that work in the restaurant industry. Usually, the chefs of the restaurant that host us will take us around to their favorite markets, restaurants, bars, etc. so we get a 100% insider view into their city, and that’s priceless! In Kyoto, we visited incredible tea shops, markets, knife shops, and I even had a one-on-one unofficial lesson about the matcha tea ceremony with a tea master. It was absolutely incredible.”
So what’s in the future for Paris Popup? The team responded, “We love Paris so much but traveling has brought us so much excitement, inspiration, and fun that we do still want to move around. While working at Celler de Can Roca in Girona, we fell in love with Barcelona, where we’d spend our weekends, so we’re thinking of settling there as our pied-à-terre. We have gotten many propositions to do events in various parts of the world and would be thrilled to keep the pop-ups alive. We have already planned a 10-day event in London at the Carousel and two and a half months in Fez, Morocco. It’s fun to be able to travel, discovering cities and countries through the underworld of cooks and restaurants. In the long-term, a restaurant is in the cards but we are happy to think about short-term future for now…” The future looks bright for the Paris Popup group!
Hosted at Le Pop-up du Label in the 12th arrondissement, their Sept Soirées Ensemble event was the group’s longest-running pop-up to date. The week-long fête centered around tapas-style small plates; rotating cocktails from partners at Le Mary Celeste, Death by Burrito, and Experimental Cocktail Club; as well as appearances from local DJs and London-based Ramshackle Union Band. The small rooms were packed with eager diners during the seven-day party, and a few long-time fans even booked multiple evenings.
We got to join in on opening night, which was a lighthearted evening celebrating good food and drinks, the venue ringing with the sounds of clinking cocktail glasses and enthusiastic praise of the beautiful plates as they emerged from the kitchen. Laura weaved between the packed tables, filling glasses, chatting up old friends, and of course, making wine recommendations.
Surprising and flavorful dishes made up the menu. We sampled a delicious vegetarian plate of carrots, house-made ricotta and dried olives, seasoned with coriander and garnished with fresh dill. Another favorite was the tender cut of lamb with smoked eggplant, onion petals, and anchovies. We asked Laura to choose our wine for the evening and were thrilled with her natural white and red pairings.
The original dessert offerings were fresh and not overbearingly sweet. We liked the creamy pana cotta with verbena liquor, sweet corn, and a delicious little fruit called ground cherry. The winning dish was a beautiful presentation of fresh figs, fig leaf ice cream, toasted almonds, and brightly colored tagette flower petals.
After a thrilling weeklong-run, the Sept Soirées Ensemble finished with an All-Day Taco Extravaganza to celebrate the opening of Luz Verde, a new Mexican spot opening soon in South Pigalle. The atmosphere on this final evening was a touch more relaxed than opening night, and Laura and Harry mingled among friends and fans. Tacos, ceviche, and plenty of tequila-based cocktails rounded off the evening. Just what Paris has come to expect from this fun-loving group.
Written by Emma Stencil for the HiP Paris Blog. Images by Emma Stencil. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.