by Scott Mason
If you have a fixation with coursed menus and a hankering to meet new people in cool locations then sign up for a Stag Dining Group event. About once a month they host a one of a kind underground dining experience that combines the best offerings in the culinary arts with libations, art and entertainment.
Despite all the incredible restaurants San Francisco boasts, my most impressive dining experiences time and time again have revolved around the Stags. I’ve decided to recap some of my most memorable moments from the past year and a half;
1. Party at the Moon Tower at the historic Westerfeld House (aka The Russian Embassy) on Alamo Square. The theme was one of my favorites – Anti-Bastille Day Celebration featuring Freedom Frog & Emancipation Snail Corndogs w/ Herb-Garlic Mustard! After the dinner party the house manager, Jesse, led us on a house tour where each room had a different theme. My favorite was the Summer of Love room – decked out with floor to ceiling tie-dyes, beaded curtains and 60’s memorabilia. Going up into the infamous watch tower, Jesse pointed out scratch marks on the door where an eccentric tenant once tried his hand at tiger training.
2. Halloween Haunted House Party was just as scary, hosted in a vacant mansion next to the Painted Ladies on the other side of Alamo park! Stags collaborated with artist Rene Garcia, Jr. who wove a web of creepy installations for this event. After sticking a candle in the last course for my birthday – a homemade “Drumstick” with Dark and Stormy Brownie and Rum Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone – the event kicked over into a late night DJ dance party (insert Thriller reference here).
3. Cabin in the Woods could have also been a horror or perhaps a dark comedy since the challenge was to impressed my girlfriend’s mother who came all the way from Norway to visit her. If the cozy atmosphere of the Trocadero Clubhouse deep in the gully of Stern Grove park didn’t do the trick, then the libations from Cocktail Lab and wine pairings from Ram’s Gate Winery certainly hit the mark.
4. Guns, Game, & Rosé at the Pacific Rod & Gun Club was another recent bulls eye event “pulled” off by the Stags. The event started off with a . . . wait for it . . . BANG. Skeet shooting along side a “Pro-Shoot-Oh” station of cured meets and artisan cheeses was only the first round. Forget about clay pigeons – we dined on Spiced Grilled Quail, Whole Roasted Rainbow Trout and BBQ Suckling Pig. Heaven is for the birds.
5. Burning in the Mission with the Brewmaster where we enjoyed our first Stag dining experience in one of the founders of Burning Man’s converted loft space. A small indie radio station, Radio Valencia, was spinning tunes in a soundproof booth in the foyer as we entered a cavernous dining room strung with lights and oversized black and white prints by photographer, Angela Lanyon. Courses of Marinated Mussels, Braised Beef Cheek & Grilled Tongue were paired with specialty and English-style beers from Magnolia Brewery. Brewmaster, Dave McLean, was there to describe the beer styles in depth. For the last course we sipped down Sticky Toffee Pudding with Magnolia Thunderpussy Barley Wine that would have burnt the hair off my chest if consumed to quickly. The menu cards were even pressed from spent grain from the beer!
6. Tom Cruise’s Wing Man during Fleet Week?! floating aboard the SS Jeremiah O’Brien. Well, (Not) Tom Cruise, but Reggie Watts was real . . . real hilarious. Top that with “Battle Stations” of cuisine served up by Stag in collaboration with other Top Gun SF Chefs, music by Bayonicsplus specialty cocktails provided by 15 Romolo and we had ourselves a mutiny on deck. They were even offering buzz cuts and sailor tattoos for those that wanted to get the full experience. The SS Jeremiah O’Brien, originally built during WWII, is one of the only fully operational Liberty ships still on the water. The SF Brewers Guild also takes advantage of this unique SF location every autumn when they host Brewers on the Bay.
7. Celebration of Soul with Aloe Blacc was perhaps one of the coolest events Stag has ever thrown. Never mind the front door, we entered “Goodfellas” style through one of the most decked out hotel kitchens in SF. We were then offered cocktails to sip on within an insanely beautiful dining room while viewing the incredibly detailed paintings exhibited by painter, Alex Reisfar. In addition to Octopus Carpaccio and Grilled Gulf Prawns, we had Aloe Blacc performing 10 feet in front of us playing “I Need a Dollar” while Shift.com was filming the whole event. I neeeed another Stag event!
I’ll end my list here even though Stag Dining Group has put on many other dinners and events, some private catering and some by guest list invitation. One of their reoccurring events is in conjunction with The Bold Italic as they co-host Microhood Dinners to celebrate the unique diversity of neighborhoods within neighborhoods all around town. Check these guys out if you haven’t already and make sure you add one of their upcoming underground dinners to your SF bucket list!