A hidden treasure of Harrisonburg that many residents have yet to discover is the Sub Rosa Supper Club.
A private, invitation only club, it meets regularly in Harrisonburg and the surrounding area at uniquely appointed homes, local businesses, and recently, the woods!Each dinner has a different theme with a menu to match. While the dinners are invitation only, anyone can register for the club and request an invitation at http://www.subrosasupperclub.com/.
Sub rosa is a Latin idiom meaning “in secret”, whose literal translation is “under the rose”. According to the Sub Rosa website, roses were symbolic of secrecy in ancient Rome, and elegant houses featured paintings of roses to suggest that whatever transpired under the influence of wine at a dinner party was to remain secret. Most of the details of each event are not revealed, maintaining their air of secrecy. Invitees learn first the time and date, and later the address of the event.
Each dinner is a carefully crafted experience centered on a unique theme, incorporating the location, the decor, and the menu. The multi-course dinners are small enough to be intimate, but large enough for lively conversation. The table is typically set for 30 attendees, and each attendee may only obtain two tickets, to ensure that a broad cross section of guests will encounter new people. While “casually elegant attire” is suggested, guests are encouraged to come as they are and express their individual identities.
A recent article on the Virginia Living website shed some light on Sub Rosa. It is the creation of Kirsten Moore and Jennifer Sodikoff, who started the club three years ago, inspired by the idea of bringing people together to explore new foods and new locations in their hometown. Moore is in charge of the food while Sodikoff creates the ambiance for the event. The inspiration behind each event is different and can come from finding a great location or a particular chef. The club meets semi-regularly, once a month or every other month.
Dinners are planned to balance opportunities for trying new foods with a sense of comfort that’s accessible to all palates. Food allergies and dietary preferences are gladly accommodated upon request. While the food is central to the event, the deeper purpose is community building. According to their website, “We want people to discover new spaces and foods, but more importantly new faces. Sitting around a dinner table with strangers can be a powerful means of community building. We think that's pretty important these days.”
Each event is documented on their website with a description, menu, and photographs. Events are beautifully captured by a professional photographer. A recent foray into the George Washington National Forest included a rustic menu themed Flora + Fauna. The six course meal featured ingredients foraged from the forest, such as berries and chanterelles, or wild mushrooms. The main courses were grilled rainbow trout and venison medallions, with a wild blackberry mousse for dessert.
While the weather interrupted with a rainstorm that prompted a slight change of location, guests were also treated to a spectacular double rainbow. It was all in keeping with the adventurous spirit behind the events, which aim not only to introduce people to new places and flavors, but to bring strangers together around a table to find common ground.
For more information on Sub Rosa Supper Club, please visit http://www.subrosasupperclub.com/.
Photographs by Sarah Featherstone
This blog is part of the Best of Harrisonburg Blog Series.