As promised, surprise and delight were in abundance at Peachtree Catering’s latest Sunday Supper, where chef Ben Hamrah revealed the contents of each course after guests had finished clearing their plates. Barbacoa de lingua torta, a tender presentation of beef and pork tongue sandwiched between two soft slices of bread, was one of the wildest revelations.

But it wasn’t until guests received their take home gift, a Mexican dark chocolate concha, a traditional Mexican breakfast of an enriched roll coated in a layer of Mexican chocolate, that the final verity was revealed. “Attached to the bag is the last secret of what it is that you all consumed,” Hamrah said with a sly smile. “On the bag there’s a button and it says, ‘I ate a bug’. So all of you that loved the elote so much, all the black stuff – was ants.” A response of laughter and cheers resounded as Hamrah followed up the news with a reassuring tidbit. “We didn’t just go out back and find these ants; they come from a very reliable source.”

Sunday Supper is a new venture for Peachtree Catering, which has been in business in Columbia for more than 20 years. Peachtree chef Amanda Elliott spearheaded the evolution of these spontaneous gatherings, which focus on carefully crafted and inspired dishes for a small group of guests. “Sunday Supper is Amanda’s brainchild,” Hamrah says. “She comes from a family where every Sunday they’d have a meal together, and they’d enjoy each other’s company. When she moved to [New York] City, she found comfort in new friends and family by doing the same thing, and so this is a continuation of her Sunday suppers.”

Peachtree Catering Sunday Supper

Whole chickens, pineapples and lamb were cooked over live fire.

Past Sunday Suppers have included dinner in a greenhouse and a Mardi Gras-themed event at Sorenson Estate. Little is revealed to guests who sign up for the dinners, which, of course, always occur on a Sunday evening. Hamrah says the mystery is part of the charm. “The process is an email to announce, the first 20 get the seats, and that’s it,” Hamrah says. “The week of, we send out another confirmation and tell them the spot and the time, the theme-ish, and dress. They don’t know anything else until the day of.” This Sunday Supper was even more surreptitious than past events. In an email containing a rough outline of the night’s events, tacos, tequila and the venue’s strict “no shoes” policy were the only clues guests were given.

Bit by bit, surprises were revealed, piecing together an evening that would have been magical even without the food. Margaritas in hand, guests were whisked away by bus down country roads to a covert location, where they unloaded and began the short stroll down a tree-lined gravel lane that led to the venue, a stylish pond-side cottage. Latin music echoed off the trees surrounding the pond, and gentle smoke rose from the live fire where whole chickens, pineapples and a surprise dish of lamb hung, slowly cooking. A brief cocktail hour on the dock with heavy pours of tequila ended just before the spring rain rolled in, and guests found their seats inside a glass-walled sunroom that provided a clear view of the spectacle of lightning that accompanied dinner. At tables of two and three, friendships blossomed between strangers over savory and sweet dishes that were shared family-style.

For chefs Hamrah and Elliott, witnessing these interactions is a close second to creating and revealing the dishes for chefs. “Part of our job from time to time is to push the envelope and push people forward and out of their comfort zone,” Hamrah said to his guests. “That’s the cool thing about this opportunity – none of you knew what you were coming in to eat. None of you knew you were going to eat tongue, but if you did you’d probably have preconceived notions about it.” It was obvious that any preconceived notions were tossed aside, as the group gave a rousing round of applause to Elliott, Hamrah, and the rest of the Peachtree team.

Beyond creating a jubilant evening for guests, Elliott says it’s a welcome opportunity to help the community learn more about food, especially about fare they’ve never tried before. “That’s one of the things that’s cool for us, the education process of exposing people to new things that they maybe wouldn’t have done in any other environment,” she says. “It allows us to experiment as well.” Dishes that graced the menu included charred poblano-stuffed squash blossom, rajas on blue corn, live fire taco al pastor and sweet corn meringue with corn husk cream, plated atop of a blackberry and hibiscus sauce.

The next Sunday Supper will be hosted this summer, and will be a larger scale event than those in the past. Sign up for notifications on the Peachtree Catering site so you, too, can become part of the Sunday Supper family.

Peachtree Catering, Columbia, Missouri,

Editor's Note: Beginning in June, Amanda Elliott is writing the monthly Healthy Appetite column in Feast Magazine.

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Jessica is a freelance writer based in Columbia, Missouri. She lives by the words of M.F.K. Fisher: "First we eat, then we do everything else."

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