Creative and local eating as a trend has solidified into a way of life for many, and the trend has not missed Door County. This season saw a number of collaborations between Northern Door businesses that embraced new culinary experiences. Door County Underground is one such project. It’s a pop-up “restaurant,” or a pair of chefs who take their menu on the road with regularly-occurring catered meals by reservation only.
Who are Door County Underground?
I talked with Matt Chambas on an early fall morning as he was headed to work. Matt is a chef, but he and his girlfriend Jamie Mead, the minds behind Door County Underground, also farm and forage. Today he’ll work at Hidden Acres, an organic farm which provides nearly all of the produce for Door County Underground, a culinary partnership that curates unique meals from purely local ingredients. Matt, formerly the executive chef for Ellison Bay’s Wickman House, and Jamie, who grew up learning from her parents at Gills Rock’s The Shoreline Restaurant, have had a successful first season with their Northern Door venture. Through collaborations with local businesses, they’ve been able to stage weekly pop-up dinners in different locations throughout the summer.
One reason Matt chose to strike out on his own was a desire to spend more time in nature. He’s excited to get out in the woods later today to forage for ingredients. Mushrooms and other fall flora have inspired and feature in the fall repasts he and Jamie have planned. Matt’s aim is to present food that is “as fresh as possible and as local as possible, without taking any shortcuts.”
How can I eat their food?
Matt and Jamie have partnered with Hidden Acres, north of Sister Bay, to serve a special coursed meal the first Saturday of each month on site at the farm. The farm dinner is served in the organic farm’s beautiful kitchen with a massive wood-burning fireplace, complete with a cooktop. The dinners are by reservation only, and with only 28 seats, the feel of the meal is cozy and intimate. Matt and Jamie’s menu is sure to make mouths water. Familiar ingredients get a new spin, like smoked whitefish croquettes, chèvre gnudi, baked peach salad, and a flight of wild mushrooms. Upcoming dinners in October and November will spotlight the fall harvest, and December’s will be a kind of “preservation dinner,” including homemade jams, conserved mushrooms and winter vegetables.
The exciting palate doesn’t end with the food—far from it. Door County Underground has yet another partnership with Ryan Castelez of Discourse: a Liquid Workshop. For each of the courses at Hidden Acres, Ryan offers a nonalcoholic drink pairing. Matt says Ryan takes the flavors “to a whole new level” with “wild, extravagant ideas, big flavors… things you’ve never heard of…he always nails it.” Matt, Jamie and Ryan are all on hand during the dinners to describe their culinary creations.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 16 minutes (10.6 miles)
Pre-registration required: Yes
Cost: Contact Door County Underground for reservations and cost
In October Matt and Jamie are busy preparing Friday night meals at Roots Inn and Kitchen in Sister Bay. These weekly by-reservation-only dinners include three courses and dessert, all with uniquely Door County fare. They’ll continue serving at Roots on Monday evenings beginning in November, when they’ll change the protocol to accommodate walk-ins.
Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 12 minutes (8.8 miles)
Pre-registration required: Check Door County Underground’s website for specifics
After a busy first season, Door County Underground is just getting started. Matt says they hope to cater more private events next year, and they will continue to offer unique and innovative dining experiences.
After a delicious meal, curl up in front of a roaring fire. To reserve your hearth, check the Blacksmith Inn’s availability.