Members Only

In which our new food columnist experiences the joys of exclusivity.

On the rare occasions I go to a movie, I spend two hours wishing I were at home watching the DVD. Almost every time I go see a band, I find I'd rather be lying on my bed listening to the music alone. It's not that I don't like going out, it's just that I really love being at home.

The organizers of Gypsy, Seattle's appropriately titled premier underground fine-dining fraternity, understand this. They understand that most things are better when they're small, intimate, homey, and perhaps just a little exclusive. They also understand that foodies across the country are whispering secret locations to each other and meeting in exotic dining venues to enjoy special dinners prepared by moonlighting high-profile chefs. Welcome to the latest culinary craze: food raves.

Because a few health department codes are bent in the process of enjoying an intimately prepared and immaculately presented meal in a private home, the specifics of these dinner clubs must be kept hush-hush, and of course, that makes them all the more attractive. A few Sundays ago, Gypsy offered an inaugural evening for 14 guests. The five beautiful courses included seared scallops, gorgeous foie gras ravioli in apricot-scented lamb broth, and pan-seared organic veal chops on delicious brown-butter spaetzle with sorrel sauce. Each course came with a paired wine, the evening's chef spoke briefly about each plate, and a woman in the next room played classical guitar throughout. Plans to extend the seating to 24—with two two-tops on the outdoor deck—are in the works.

What does it cost to be a gypsy? My "suggested gratuity" (we're bending the rules here, remember?) came to $91 before tip, but, as the couple next to me remarked, they had paid far more for experiences far less special. The mystery chef's menu was immaculate and enjoying the evening at home—even though, OK, it wasn't my home—made it that much more special.

Now, I can't even give you an e-mail address for Gypsy, but interested parties should keep their ears open because word in the foodie world is spreading, with former and current chefs from some of the best restaurants contacting Gypsy to request guest stints. Hint: Serious-foodie cooking classes are a great way to link to the grapevine.

Yes, membership has its privileges. Just ask the people behind White Tie. They've partnered with the Metropolitan Grill and Pacific Northwest Ballet and other area food and entertainment businesses to offer their associates (who pay upward of $300 to join) "exclusive" goods and services. And they plan to extend their program to key cities across the country. The only problem: At the "launch party" for this local "start-up" (is it '98 all over again?) in the Sorrento Hotel's penthouse, my friend and I butted into conversations all night long without meeting anyone who was actually a member. The amazing view and signature White Tie cosmos were great, and we loved that instead of an ice sculpture, there was a salmon carved out of cream cheese, but so far, it seems the only people enjoying White Ties' exclusive advantages were the company's IT guy and an accountant from Ballard.

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