Thomas and Mariah Pisha-Duffly have proven by now that their Family Feast series of pop-up dinners is worth the price of admission. See Knack Factory's coverage of their most recent event at The Well at Jordan's Farm for interviews and insight into what Family Feast is about. In a nutshell, Thomas prepares an insane amount of delicious food, roughly inspired by his Indonesian heritage, and Mariah makes sure all the guests are accommodated and happy.
For anyone curious to meet the forces behind some of Portland's notable restaurants, the guest list skews food industry. As Tom put it, though, these veterans aren't there for "schmoozing and rubbing each other's elbows. We're genuinely enjoying each other's company and that's pretty awesome." As the term "family" suggests in the title, it's always a comfortable, casual atmosphere, and meals are typically family style rather than strictly plated.
The cost of attending seems to be indirectly proportionate to the amount of food provided. At best, Family Feast tickets are geared to cover expenses, and at worst there's little doubt the events lose money for the generous hosts. Eater has referred to Tom as a "pop-up superstar" in the past only half-jokingly: He and his wife are some of the only locals consistently pushing the pop-up scene forward, and were recently the direct inspiration for a new pop-up venture, Cyle Reynold's Carbon Catering.
If any of this sounds enticing, clear your calendar for Sunday, September 28. Family Feast is hosting one of its last events for a while: "Hams and Clams." The venue is Portland's Slab, co-owned by regular Family Feast attendee Jason Loring, who has also had the Pisha-Duffly's at his other restaurant Nosh in the past. Here's Tom's elevator pitch:
Snacks from 3 - 6 p.m., dinner 6 - 7 p.m., including various preparations of ham, from Spanish Jamón, to Smoked Tennessee Country Ham, Tasso, and domestic Prosciutto. There will also be a clam raw bar featuring littleneck clams exclusively dug from Winter Point Oyster Co., and chowder using their quahogs. At 6 p.m. we dump out the New England-style boil, featuring Indonesian-inspired sides and condiments, as well as Winterpoint steamers. Live bluegrass will set the tone for the afternoon, and a beer bar from Banded Horn Brewing Company will be available cash only. Tickets are only available at the door and cost $20. Come hungry!
Eater asked Tom to go into more detail about the impetus behind the event. Why "Hams and Clams?" Was the name chosen for its easy rhyme and Seussian imagery, and the concept built around that?
Why hams and clams? First of all, for me the marriage of pork and shellfish is as good as it gets. Secondly, the oyster in Maine has gotten its share of love and attention, but the clam, especially on the half-shell, often takes a backseat. So we wanted to feature clams on our menu. We are lucky enough to be showcasing clams from our friend John Hennessey at Winter Point Oysters. The company is well known for its superior oysters, but what is lesser known is the same terroir of the land that allows those oysters to grow sweet, briny, and meaty also lends these characteristics to the steamers, littlenecks, and quahogs that grow on the property.
So Maine clams will finally get their due at Sunday's event. Will the hams be just as local?
For our choice of ham, we went with Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams from Tennessee, which produces some of the best country hams. The country ham is as delicious and complex as Spain's Jamon Serrano or Italy's prosciutto, and we wanted to share this fantastic domestic product, the production of which is one of the few true American food traditions.
The ham will be a representation of a unique American product, then, if not from Maine. But why would this be the last event for a while?
We consider this event to be a farewell to the summer season and a welcoming hello to fall and winter, and Mariah and I are embarking on another trip to Southeast Asia. However, we still have one more card up our sleeve before we take our hiatus, which is a collaboration between Family Feast, Pocket Brunch, and The Maine Brewers Guild. It will take the form of a game dinner later in the season. Stay tuned for more info as we are very excited for this epic collabo!
That excitement is contagious, as anyone who has met Tom knows. For anyone who hasn't, Hams and Clams is Sunday, September 28 from 3 - 7 p.m.