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Chef Dave Santos (formerly of Hotel Griffou) private dinners

A number of you guys probably remember Chef Dave Santos who used to cook phenomenal food at Hotel Griffou (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796580). Just thought that I'd share the news that he'll be cooking and hosting 4 private dinner events in November. I don't think I'll be able to go (need to save up for Per Se!), but I figure that some people here might be interested and I'd love to see any reports on the dinners.

The dinner series is called "Um Segredo" and will take place on Nov 4, 5, 10, and 11. Grubstreet has the details posted here: http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2011/10...

Main points:

7-course Portuguese-influenced menu
$75 cash donation

Reservation: email umsegredo12@gmail.com


Coriander cured snapper
textures of papaya, chili oil

Sweet potato and duck tongue salad
Rocket, pepitas, cranberry

Seared scallops
Pickled fennel puree, Red wine figs

Portuguese pot pie
Cod brandad, Roasted garlic

Morcilla(blood sausage) stuffed tripe
Piquillos sauce, spanish almonds

Tasting of pheasant
Spatzle, celery root

"Pumpkin Pie"

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  1. I'm going the first night and will report back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      That's great! Look forward to your report! :)

    2. The first of these four dinners was a rollicking success. The food was at least as good as the tasting menus I tried at Hotel Griffou, but with the added feature of having the dinner as an intimate, private event with Santos toiling literally a few feet away in a residential kitchen. I have no idea how he did it all, but with the assistance of two friends/servers, everything went more smoothly than at the restaurant, with an informality and joy that made the event even more fun. There are some beautiful photos of the dinner here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/j0annie/...

      The menu was basically what was on the list. The major change was the most felicitous. Santos used coriander-cured branzino instead of snapper, and swapped the papaya for the essence of banana. I probably wouldn't have been able to identify the ingredient as banana, but it was unmistakeable once prompted. Combined with just enough chili oil, this might have been my favorite course.

      The "Tasting of Pheasant" was undersold -- it was delicious, roasted pheasant (breast?) over spaetzle with celery root and homemade pheasant sausage. Absolutely delicious.

      The "pumpkin pie" was fantastic, too, a deconstructed pie using crunchy bits of savory, salty starches (I've forgotten all, but definitely pretzel and pumpkin seeds), over a delectable pumpkin puree and topped by a delicious yogurt ice cream. Imagine a Ssam Bar compost cookie that (thankfully) isn't nearly as sweet, paired with a pumpkin puree and tart ice cream, and you'll have an idea of how delicious this was.

      Those three dishes were my favorite, but I couldn't complain about perfectly seared scallops or the morcilla stuffed tripe, or the tasty bits of duck tongue on the sweet potato salad.

      My only disappointment was with the Portuguese pot pie. As you can see from the photos, the pie, like the dessert was deconstructed, with the crust on the side (a buttery pastry-ish take on Portuguese Bread). Mixed in with this thin stew was a stunning paprika cream, that gave the soup a richness and body that would have otherwise been missed. But I couldn't really taste the cod much, and I missed a fishier base. Most of the other diners disagreed with me. David Santos said I might have preferred it with salt cod, and I think he was right.

      Anyway, this was a blast and I hope to do it again. You know those annoying TV shows where you see celebrity chefs eating great food at a private party that we'll never be able to share? That's what it was like for us.

      I'm assuming that the email address above is the way to contact David for more information about these events. I think he may be sold out for the rest of these four dinners, but I hope there will be more.

      Hotel Griffou
      21 W 9th St, New York, NY 10011

      10 Replies
      1. re: Dave Feldman

        Thanks for the detailed report, Dave. I had no doubt the dinner would be a smash. The fact that he pulled it off in a residential kitchen shows how truly talented he is. I gather he will be doing more dinners after the two next week (afaik, they are sold out), so I'm hoping to attend one in the future.


        1. re: RGR

          David was talking about doing more dinners in November, but maybe he was high from the enthusiastic reception he got! And I confirm that he was working with a regular apartment four-burner stove and oven, and as you can see much of the meal was cooked a point with a frying pan on the stove.

          1. re: Dave Feldman

            From the photos, the food looked more refined in style than what David was cooking at Griffou. Reminded me of the food he cooked as chef de cuisine at Restaurant Nicholas, in NJ.

            I did take special notice of the stove as it looks like the G.E. we have in our apartment. It actually does a really good job for things done both on the cooktop and in the oven.

            I don't think his talking about doing more dinners was just talk. In his posts elsewhere, he's sounded pretty definite about continuing them, especially since he got a huge response from the Grub Street article. He's even mentioned the possibility of a truffle dinner if there was any interest. I'd love to attend that!


            1. re: RGR

              Keep your eyes open on wednesday for more dates. I was in now way kidding about that! LOl Im glad you enjoyed it. I dont want to cross the lines as far as the chow rules so i wont interact to much with the thread. Just to say thank you all.

              1. re: chopjwu12

                how do you try to rsvp for these dinners. i am extremely interested (I realize the current ones are probably sold out but would love to get a spot if there are more upcoming), but can't find any information about this online. thanks so much.

                    1. re: cubicles

                      You can get a reservation by emailing umsegredo12@gmail.com. He has a couple spots left for the November dates and the truffle dinners on December 1, 2, 3

            2. re: Dave Feldman

              The dinner looked wonderful! Thanks a lot for the great report, Dave.

            3. The next dinners have just been announced, for Nov. 17, 19, 21, 22 and 23. Here's the menu:

              Pheasant Terrine
              port mustard

              Celery root Tasting
              Truffle vinaigrette

              Escabeche of Branzino

              Seared Scallops
              Fall bean ragu

              Stuffed Quail
              Chard, barley, morcilla, cranberries

              Aged Ribeye
              Mushroom puree, fingerling's, cipollinis

              "Pumpkin pie"
              Pretzel crunch, yogurt gelato

              1. I went the first night to Um Segredo and it was the best experience I have ever had!
                I was a little nervous trucking out to Roosevelt Island, but the second we walked into Dave's house we were immediately set at ease.
                The long table set with candles was cozy and intimate with everyone sitting around it.
                My favorite course was the scallops. They were cooked perfectly and the red wine fig was one of the best things I have ever eaten.
                Everything was amazing, Dave used so many flavors to enhance the food. At the end of the night, we were saying how it was the best meal we've eaten. If you can secure a spot, I highly recommend going!

                Thanks Dave, we will be back!

                2 Replies
                1. re: sabla

                  I'm pasting a comment below which I had posted elsewhere recently but I wasn't thinking to check here first for a discussion in progress and now that I see this Chowhound thread is more current and popular, I felt I should create an account to add my voice:

                  Chef David Santos is so talented - we were there for his 11.11.11. dinner, he was so personable and the guests were as well! Maybe I should call it the WOW dinner because everything worked; the fabulous flavors, excellent pacing, seamless service... I don't know that there's anything I can write to effectively convey how beautifully balanced his creations were and how each course's elements fit with the progressive order of the menu Santos created, but if whomever is reading this can compare composing a Portuguese themed meal to the enticement of a Portuguese musical composition, perhaps you will understand my praise for the work of Chef Santos if you will search YouTube for the following: CANÇAO DO MAR EUGENIO GRAÇA E EVA BROWN

                  re: Dave Feldman, funny, but the "deconstructed pot pie" was my favorite course!

                  BTW your photos are terrific :)

                  1. re: MyCity2dine4

                    You know why "my" photos were terrific? Because I didn't take them. They are the work of David's friend, Annie.

                    As I said, I was in a minority on the pot pie. Glad you liked it. It was hard for me to find something to quibble about re: the great meal I had.

                2. This is an interesting one.

                  Apparently, Dave will be doing truffle tasting dinners featuring black AND white truffles on Dec 1, 2, and 3. Starts at 8pm and $125 per person. Each date will max out at 11 people.


                  Chestnut Veloute
                  Crispy sweet breads, Black trumpets puree, Black truffles

                  Red Wine Poached Egg
                  Creamy polenta, Parmesan foam, White truffles

                  Atlantic Halibut
                  Celery root puree, Seared romaine, Black truffle vinaigrette

                  Roasted Iowa Farms Pork Loin & Belly
                  Heirloom fingerling's, Pearl onions, Foie gras emulsion, Shaved white truffles

                  "Apple Pie"
                  Cheddar crisps, Spice ice cream

                  6 Replies
                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                      I went to the truffle dinner on the Thursday night. What a great experience. Chef Santos is a magician. How he managed to prepare a 5 course meal for 12 guests in a residential kitchen is beyond impressive. Unlisted on the above menu was a scallop, grapefruit, uni and truffle vinaigrette that was absolutely tremendous. His apartment was clean, comfortable and felt like home. Roosevelt Island was a breeze to get to, and the other guests were interesting and affable. I will ABSOLUTELY be back.

                      I whole-heartedly recommend Um Segredo for anyone who is serious about food.

                      1. re: Rich D.

                        We were at the truffle dinner on Saturday. Very much enjoyed meeting uwsister and her husband as well as all the other participants. It was an extremely congenial group, and Dave and his brother Carlos were warm and welcoming hosts.

                        Mr. R. and I have had Dave's food before at Griffou and prior to that during his years at Restaurant Nicholas, in NJ. So, no surprise to us that the food at this dinner was restaurant quality cuisine: beautifully plated and seriously delicious.

                        The uni dish was an amuse. While I'm usually hesitant about uni because it can be too fishy-tasting to me, this uni was fairly mild, and the citrus helped cut any fishiness. My favorite dish was the Chestnut Velouté with Sweetbreads and Black Truffles. The sweetbreads were crispy, and the incredibly smooth, deeply-flavored velouté was poured tableside. An ambrosial combination of flavors and textures. Everyone oohed and aahed over the Red Wine Poached Egg with Creamy Polenta, Parmesan Foam and White Truffles. Dave came around and shaved the very aromatic truffles onto each plate. For the fish dish, there was a last minute-substitution: instead of halibut, local wild striped bass. Lovely. Portions were so generous that by the time we got to the pork dish, I was feeling a bit full, so I ate some and took the rest home. Made for a very tasty lunch the next day. The meal-ending "Apple Pie" with Cheddar Crisp and Spice Ice Cream was light and delightful.

                        Photos of this dinner can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


                        1. re: RGR

                          RGR - my party, three of us, were actually too full for the pork course as well. While I powered through it, my dining partners took theirs home. I did manage to squeeze in the "Apple Pie" with ease somehow. I'm glad I did. It was a refreshing ending.

                          My favorite dishes were the uni amuse and the chestnut veloute' with sweetbreads. The latter was one of the first preparations of sweetbreads I've had, and I'm afraid I won't be able to top it.

                          I plan on attending the "Christmas Story"-themed dinner on the 22nd.

                          1. re: Rich D.

                            Rich D., While my husband has always loved sweetbreads, I only began eating them the past few years. These were some of the best I've had.

                            We're considering going to one of the game dinners.


                          2. re: RGR

                            It was very nice to meet you and M as well, RGR :)

                            I have to say the first three courses of the truffle dinner were some of the best dishes I've tasted all year - and the competition is rather fierce. I still dream about them. My husband is not a fan of sweetbreads or polenta (he didn't even care for sweetbreads at Jean Georges and polenta at Scarpetta!) but he really loved both dishes, which says a lot about David's masterful cooking.

                            We are very much looking forward to return at our next opportunity and would highly, highly recommend the experience to other 'hounds.

                      2. The latest seating of Um Segredo was last evening and was a success equal to or exceeding the enthusiastic posts, above.

                        The right combination of good food, good wine and good company.

                        Chef made some changes to menu, all for the best. He also agreed to serve additional fish preparations for the pescatarians at the table. Most agreed that his monkfish preparation was about the best around.

                        Santos' personality only adds to the enjoyment of the event. He had a young man serving and pouring wine (don't forget to tip him, if you go), who was personable and attentive.

                        A great culinary experience.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: famdoc

                          Thanks for the review. I have a res for one of the truffle dinners, and I can't wait!

                        2. Finally, what I was hoping for -- an all-Portuguese dinner, much of which will be served family style. December 8, 9, and 10 at 8:00.


                          First course

                          Escabeche of spanish mackerel
                          Pickled vegetables and toasted bread

                          Saute pigs ear salad
                          Roasted garlic and winter kale

                          Second course

                          Pork & Clams
                          Braised pork butt, potatoes, cockles

                          Cod brandade
                          Roasted garlic, yukon gold potatoes

                          Third Course

                          Roasted Leg of Goat
                          Roasted root vegetables


                          Orange flan with toasted almonds

                          Menu is subject to change but guests will be notified

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                            No one has eaten the Portuguese dinner yet? I'm going tonight, and will report back.

                            1. re: Dave Feldman

                              Someone over on Mouthfulsfood was there last night and said it was -- no surprise! -- delish. She said the pig tails dish was a standout.

                              Any chance you'll be taking photos? I'd love to see what the various dishes look like. In any case, looking forward to your report.


                              1. re: RGR

                                I've got an iPhone and that's it. With luck, someone in our party of seven will.

                                1. re: Dave Feldman

                                  Someone has put a few photos up at Mouthfulsfood. The goat looks phenomenal. As I type this, you'll be eating it very soon.

                                  I haven't taken any photos with my iPhone, but my husband has done so with his. When the lighting is very good, the photos are excellent.


                                  1. re: RGR

                                    I apologize for not posting a report yet. I'm having photo trouble. But the Portuguese dinner was another triumph. My two favorite courses were the mackeral escabeche, eaten over the superb whole wheat sourdough bread, and the pork and clams. The roast vegetables, cooked with a little of the goat drippings, were an unexpected highlight, too. I hope I can get a link to photos up soon.

                                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                                      Glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Dave. Not that I thought you wouldn't. :)


                                      1. re: RGR

                                        I hope this link will work. Here are photos of the Portuguese meals with brief descriptions in the comment section. Once again, I did not take the photos -- my friend, Vivian did, thank goodness: http://tinyurl.com/cfnvde4

                          2. I should post the rest of the December dinner details here. As usual, email umsegredo12@gmail.ccom for reservations / more info.

                            Foods Inspired by our youth $75
                            Foods we loved as children transformed to inspire foods we love as adults
                            December 15th and 16th

                            A christmas story $95
                            This menu is inspired by one of the best holidays movies of all time!!!
                            December 21,22, and 23rd

                            Wild Game dinner (MP)
                            A celebration of everything wild
                            A very special dinner for those who love wild game
                            December 28,29, and 30th

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                              We went to the wild game dinner on 12/28. Dave truly outdid himself! Perfection personified!

                              Um Segredo Wild Game Dinner photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...


                            2. January 2012's dinner dates and menus: http://t.co/ykrZWuyZ

                              Um Segredo also has a website now: http://www.umsegredony.com/

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                Unfortunately I will be in out of town for both dinners, but I would have been there in a heartbeat (especially Ocean's Bounty - I love mackarels and I never, ever see 'em on the menu around here!) had I been in town. Just wanted to say I cannot say enough good things about my experience at the truffle dinner and highly recommend it to anybody contemplating - and I know I am only one of the many 'hounds with the same opinion!

                                1. re: uwsister

                                  If you're back in town in early February, David is going to do a similar dinner for a private group. If anyone cancels, there may be a space or two for you and a companion.

                                  1. re: uwsister

                                    And just to make you feel worse, the mackerel escabeche is my single favorite dish I've had so far at the two Um Segredo dinners I've attended. I'm going to the Ocean's Bounty dinner on the 21st.

                                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                                      For Manhattanites, or those too lazy to trek to Roosevelt Island, here's some exciting news. David Santos is bringing Um Segredo to downtown. He is doing four dinners at City Grit on March 1, 8, 9, and 10. All four are different. The first one is a "March Madness" dinner. This is from the email he sent out:
                                      Starting on March 1st, we are doing a March Madness menu. No, it's not going to be basketball related, but that was the inspiration! The menu is going to be influenced by foods once thought to make you crazy! Hopefully, we prepare everything right and nobody actually does!


                                      Elderflower cured Tasmanian sea trout
                                      Rye crisp, absinthe jelly

                                      Mushroom and pork belly salad
                                      Portuguese "butter" vinaigrette, baby mizuna

                                      Sea Bream
                                      Roasted eggplant, baby bok choy, thai curry broth

                                      Stilton tortelloni
                                      Lemon poppy pistou, apple crisp

                                      "Shepperd's Pie"
                                      Coffee braised venison, roasted vegetables, potato foam

                                      Almond bread pudding
                                      Nutmeg caramel, vanilla gelato

                                      The email was too long to quote in full, but the other dinners sound great, including an oyster dinner and a Japanese-Portuguese dinner. For more info, I'd contact David at david santos <umsegredo12@gmail.com>

                                      The City Grub website has information about how to buy tickets and its policies but doesn't have the complete menus up yet.

                                2. I have a dinner booked here tonight by UE never sent the email with the address, it just says Roosevelt Island on the confirmation email, would you mind emailing me privately with the address office@insolentgourmet.com, thanks! Starting to get nervous, this starts in just over 2 hours and still no address, been emailing UE all day...

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                    Doesn't the email tell you exactly how to reach the place? Read carefully, the instructions are pretty self-explanatory.

                                    1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                      Geez, the email from them did include instructions. Unfortunately, I just saw your email. I hope it worked out -- Friday's Cinco de Mayo meal was terrific.

                                      1. re: Dave Feldman

                                        As was last night's. They had somehow omitted me from the final emailing with the location but David got it to me just in time.

                                    2. Anyone else going this Thursday?