by Bridget Isaia

Monique introducing me to the crowd
Monique introducing me to the crowd.

In the same way that Monique Deschaine is known for her ease at combining random ingredients from her refrigerator to create delicious sauces for Al Dente Pasta, she has the same knack at bringing together an interesting array of people and talents. A true genius at mixing things up in unusual ways, anyone lucky enough to sit at her table or attend one of her parties is guaranteed to feel completely satisfied and energized. That is certainly how I felt last Saturday night, after experiencing my first underground supper club, which Monique co-produced with Efrain Cuevas, founder of Clandestino,  and Jerry Delgiudice, founder of Blind Pig Records.

Monique and Efrain, enjoying time with the guests
Monique and Efrain, enjoying a few minutes with the guests

Because the brave and adventurous who sign up for a Clandestino dinner do so without prior knowledge of the location or the menu until 24 hours in advance, we were not previously at liberty to disclose many of the details. Now that the dinner has happened, and now that we’ve officially recovered from our pork comas, we want to remove the suspense and lay it down for ya!

Yes, this is where the incredible dinner took place!
Home of Blind Pig Records, where the incredible dinner took place!

Our Whole Hog celebration took place in the basement of Blind Pig Records in Chicago – quite literally underground dining. Chef Efrain prepared a jaw-dropping (the preferred mouth position for consuming mass quantities of pork) menu from a whole hog, cheekily referencing Blind Pig Records’ Whole Hog, Inc. It goes without saying that the food was phenomenal; the Grilled Oyster with Scrapple Chorizo, Poached Quail Egg, French Breakfast Radish and Guajillo Agave Reduction was about the most perfect combination of flavors to ever be served in a shell. And the featured Trotter Noodle Soup featuring Al Dente Pasta with BBQ Pork Loin, Pickled Ramps and Rhubarb was Spring on a spoon. I’m pretty sure I still have broth in my hair.

The Trotter Soup with Al Dente Pasta Noodles-Yum!
The Trotter Soup with Al Dente Pasta Noodles-Yum!

But I’m here to expound on the theme of the evening. Before there was a Blind Pig Records, there was Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig – European-style café by day, sweltering blues club by night.  The Blind Pig was a rare animal that bridged Detroit and Chicago whose legend we re-visited last Saturday night among old friends and new.

I was nary a twinkle in my parents’ eyes when the club first opened. In fact, my mom and dad met at the Blind Pig. My dad, Tom Isaia, co-founded the bar with Jerry Delgiudice, the very man who opened the doors to his records warehouse for our dining pleasure (look out for that full circle coming at you). So in keeping with our theme, it seemed more than fitting for me to take part in this pig-storical gathering (more full circles!).

I’m personally more familiar with the Blind Pig of the nineties and beyond, a Pig in name only; blaring punk rock and pool tables have since replaced Ann Arbor’s first cappuccinos and the tiny basement stage that hosted the biggest names in blues. The other Pig exists in my projected memory, in indescribable photo albums and half-remembered Ann Arbor lore… the Blind Pig that I wish I knew.

Which is why I’m so glad Monique invited me to dinner. Any time I get a glimpse of Blind Pig roots I feel at home. In fact, having Jerry and Terry Delgiudice in my life has made my relocation to Chicago that much easier, as I consider them family. Sitting amongst the people I grew up around (including 2nd generation “piglet” Jean-Luc Deschaine), pausing after the salad course to listen to a live performance by rising star Guy King, checking out pastel drawings by Al Brandtner whose art graces a familiar Blind Pig Records album cover, and stuffing my face with pork at every turn, felt like a trip down memory lane, even if some of those memories aren’t necessarily mine. But that was the whole evening – everyone who reserved a spot at this dinner without a clue as to its whereabouts or its offerings got a little taste of Ann Arbor along with their Chicharrones with Tomatillo Dipping Sauce.  And they thought Tastes only came from Chicago.

Guy King
Guy King can sing the blues!
Al Brandtner
Al Brandtner and his original pastel of Muddy Waters

Just as some of the diners learned about the Blind Pig from our stories, you’ve learned about Clandestino from this blog, so I hope next time you come to Chicago, you get a chance to sign up for an underground dinner.  As for the Whole Hog edition, I’m glad you could at least partake as a reader, your arteries none the wiser.

A toast to Al Dente Pasta, Blind Pig Records, and Clandestino


A Basket Full Greatness:Pastas and Sauce from Al Dente, T.Shirt and CD from Blind Pig Records, Apron and Jar of Efrain’s Pickled Ramps and Rhubarb from Clandestino, Fresh Roasted Coffee from Coffee Express, CD from Guy King


Comment on this post. This evening, at the Zingerman’s Pasta Tasting, we will draw from the list of names. We will announce the winner on June 17th on facebook and contact you if you win. Good luck.

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