This weekend, we stage our first-ever pop-up dinner, an ephemeral event that has taken more time to prepare than its two-night tenure.
Lemons & Parsley began with a seed of inspiration sowed at the table of our friend, Jackson-based architect Nona Yehia. We’ve attended her bountiful dinner parties with appetites and adoration for her Lebanese cuisine. So when we commissioned her to design our café, our conversations would often stray to the events we would stage in the space we were envisioning together.
Flash forward almost two years and we are finally featuring Nona as a guest chef in the kitchen she created, a full circle affair that feels so right for both us: not only have we established our day-to-day business, allowing us to branch out into more experimental event, but Nona is embracing an “event-free” summer (sort of), which finds her more open than her otherwise packed social calendar would ordinarily allow. Still, finding a weekend available to us all proved challenging – for us that meant no weddings and for Nona, that meant no visiting guests. But once we set the date – June 25 and 26 – all of our fantastical talk became a buzzy reality.
Brainstorming meetings happened over glasses of rose on restaurant decks – ours and our neighbor Café Genevieve’s. Enlisting the wordsmithing skills of writer Katy Niner, we three hashed out every detail, from the computer program we would use to manage the menu (iNumbers) to the size of bowls we would serve the meza in (stoneware count: 32 medium, 18 small). We even settled on a name in a matter of seconds, although choosing to make “lemon” plural or singular proved a sticky matter for days. Accomplishing so much together, we then disbanded to take care of our respective arenas.
Nona recruited acclaimed chef Jason Mitchell to help prep. Beyond his mastery in the kitchen, Jason helped Nona translate her dinner-party shopping list into restaurant-ready quantities. Our Sysco friends saved the sourcing day, tracking down unusual-for-Jackson ingredients like whole red snapper and crushed sumac. Nona combed her cookbooks, dogearing pages with pita recipes for us to emulate (our preliminary batches have been super tasty, if we do say so ourselves). And Persephone head chef Miguel “Fluffy” Gonzalez is helping out both nights, showing Nona the ropes in our kitchen.
To complement Nona’s cuisine, we enlisted our wine adviser Nathan Adams, charging him to create a special pairing menu. Ever inventive, he’s come up with eclectic matches of French varietals, prefaced by his own cocktail invention inspired by the Lemons & Parsley palate.
Back at the café, we worked on the behind-the-scenes checklist, from scheduling extra staff to designing the graphic identity (loyal Persephone Journal readers will recognize the stuffed fish image from our July 10thpost). With an ever-growing mood board of inspirational elements – filigree lanterns, mosaic tilework, exuberant colors – we began to picture the magic that would be Lemons & Parsley. Having already invested so much in the concept, we released presale seats online, and within a matter of hours, we sold out both nights (and even added bench seats to accommodate the growing waitlist).
Now, with Lemons & Parsley only days away, we feel happily delirious with details: scurrying to Stitch n’ Time for more napkin fabric; collecting brass candlesticks from friends; signing off on delivery after delivery. While we wish we could have accommodated everyone who wanted to come, we promise to thoroughly document Lemons & Parsley for next week’s Journal post and beyond). We also promise to scheme another such event soon. Stay tuned…