BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A neighborhood grocery store is serving up some West African flair in Bed-Stuy with a new monthly dinner party.
The owners of Bed-Stuy Fresh and Local, a corner market at 210 Patchen Ave., put their fresh ingredients to use last weekend by hosting its first “supper club.”
Sheila Akbar and Dylan Ricards partnered with neighborhood chef Mitch Bloom for a variety of family-style Togolese-inspired cuisine.
“People are looking for an out-of-restaurant, cool, dining experience,” said Bloom, owner of Woézõ, a catering business and food stand. “We hit that nail right on the head.”
Pushing aside the store’s rolling carts of apples, avocados and oranges, the trio made space for a large farmhouse table and wooden benches crafted by Ricards for Friday's event.
As a DJ spun tunes from a corner usually reserved for the grocery’s juice bar, 14 diners ate from plates atop an African print cloth.
“We want people to have a good time and share a community-based experience where they can meet new people and eat new food,” Ricards said.
Bloom, a former Peace Corps volunteer, sought to share his culinary experience and background in public health after returning from Togo in 2010. “Woézõ” means “welcome” in Ewé, a West African language with origins in Togo, Ghana and Benin, he said.
Last week’s meal included three courses with an hibiscus cocktail, avocado salad with sriracha and roasted sweet corn, and polenta served with okra and onions. Most ingredients came from Bed-Stuy Fresh and Local's shelves.
During the dinner, Bloom explains each dish to the guests, detailing experiences from his trip and descriptions of Togolese culture.
“Coming from a village in West Africa where you can't walk five feet without saying hello to someone to coming back to Manhattan where you’re just drowning in people and feeling alone, Bed-Stuy was a huge breath of fresh air to me when I moved out here,” Bloom said.
“There’s a really tangible sense of community.
“What I’m hoping people get out of this is an unforgettable experience of what Bed-Stuy has to offer. There’s this explosion of the burgeoning restaurant scene but still this feeling of community-based organizations and neighbors.”
The supper clubs are hosted with the help of online platform Feastly, which connects diners with chefs for the unique experience. Foodies from the Upper West Side, Williamsburg, and Bed-Stuy attended this past weekend, Ricards said.
Ricards and Akbar, who are celebrating the store’s one-year anniversary this month, have already planned another pop-up dinner for Feb. 13 with the same menu. While future events are still undetermined, Ricards said they are open to collaborating with other chefs in the space.