If you want to give your guests a chance to break away from the daily hustle and bustle, a remote pop-up dinner is a perfect way to host an event that is equally focused on connecting with nature as each other.
That’s where a “venue activation company,” like Cloth & Flame, steps in to help create an unforgettable culinary experience wherever they can be imagined.
Cloth & Flame works with private landowners, stewards, and organizations to open up new and unexpected areas to curious and adventurous diners. The company has hosted over 300 events since its inception and offers a wide variety of gathering opportunities including community dinners, private and corporate events, and one-of-a-kind weddings.
Let’s take a look at some of their most awe-inspiring pop-up dinners and locations.
Reporter: The Venue Report and Cloth & Flame
From the Founder
For this event, Cloth & Flame wanted to create a dinner that immersed guests into the stunning rolling landscape that marks Southern California’s coastline and found that setting in a gorgeous animal sanctuary in the Malibu mountains. Set atop the highest point on the property, the table overlooked lush hills aglow from the setting sun.
From the moment guests arrived, the entire event was a process of discovery. In Cloth & Flame co-founder Olivia Laux’s words, “Dining outdoors is one of the best ways to really discover an area because it allows one to take it in slowly and get a feel for the soul of the place.”
Rolling Hills (continued)
After a scenic winding path, guests enjoyed an intimate dinner prepared by a local chef, while sipping on specialty wines and craft cocktails. The natural and remote setting provided the perfect excuse to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Around the Bend
It started with a dream. When a young couple from California shared their dream of an elopement-style wedding in Arizona, Cloth & Flame rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
“When a client puts a pin on the map, we go to that point and find the place they're actually dreaming of,” Cooley said. “We work with property owners, cities, land trusts, and forests to bring the dinner table where it could never go before.”
Around the Bend (continued)
The result was a stunning reception in a canyon just outside of Page, Arizona; the perfect complement to the couple’s ceremony at the awe-inspiring Horseshoe Bend. Freeform shims were created for the tables to balance them on the red rock floor, and the menu was inspired by street food from the couple’s Columbian and Guatemalan roots. The group lost themselves in the evening, enjoying tostones with grilled shrimp, fried yucca, corn fritters, and lechon with mango, followed by dancing until midnight.
One of Cloth & Flame’s first adventures sent them on a 3,600-mile journey to the wilderness of Alaska. Accompanied by a troop of designers and collaborators, they would create some of their earliest experiences, including a riverside dinner on Alaska’s Turnagain Arm, a glamping experience at Hatcher Pass, and in-flight cocktails in two of the only hot air balloons to fly over the unforgettable Alaskan frontier in more than 10 years.
Aspen Forest (continued)
Inspired by the color palette and texture of the forest landscape, the team made a flowing garland of foraged spruce tips, saving enough for use in the craft cocktail that would be served. Upon arrival, guests were greeted with gin sours, played up with lemon and spruce, and served alongside wood-fired appetizers, which they enjoyed as they mingled amongst the trees. Dinner was prepared by the team from Shift Flagstaff and paired with wines from a regional vineyard. And in true wilderness fashion, guests staying overnight gathered after dinner around the campfire for a treat of s’mores and shared wine.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
One of the company’s most iconic (and logistically challenging) dinners was held at the base of the Grand Canyon (yes, that Grand Canyon). All of the materials, food, and guests had to be flown in by helicopter. The Cloth & Flame team worked closely with the Hualapai Tribe and Maverick Helicopters over eight months to map out how something like this could be done; nothing breakable, no heating elements of any kind.
"Creating a zero-impact culinary event inside the Grand Canyon was an education in finding a way where there has never been one before. It was about keeping balance amid surprises and designing something meaningful in one of the most remarkable places on earth. It felt at times like we were collaborating with the Canyon itself." Cooley said.
The company used six helicopters, nine crewmembers, seven tables sawed in half and invisibly reassembled, eight panels, a door, and hundreds of enamel dishes. The chef team was also flown in, with five courses to be assembled and served on site. One hour later: nothing at all.
Set within the unmistakable red rocks of Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon, this series of events has become a popular summer getaway for those living in the Phoenix area. Each dinner or private event is individually scouted for the perfect site for that particular occasion, including events within apple orchards, vast overlooks, or directly by Creekside. A recent dinner featured James Beard Award-Winner Chris Bianco and frequent C&F collaborator Robbie Tutlewski, who created a five-course dinner inspired by classic Italian cuisine and ingredients native to Arizona.
San Francisco, California
There isn’t a sight that signifies San Francisco more than the massive red-orange profile of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is why Cloth & Flame was determined to make it a part of their first Bay Area experience. The team began scouting sites with the help of the Marin Headlands National Recreation Area several months before the dinner. They found their location on a widened trail with shelter from the constant breeze characteristic of the coastal facing headlands. Chef Rupert Blease from the Michelin rated Lord Stanley prepared the dinner by tableside with cocktails from Andrew Calisterio.
Superstition Mountains, Arizona
The Sonoran Desert with its massive saguaro cactus, rocky buttes, and remarkable sunsets was the landscape that inspired Cloth & Flame to begin creating dinners in the wilderness. The team has activated desert space with everything from massive community dinner tables and hundreds of immersive weddings to pop-up movie theaters and intimate performances under the stars. They will also be opening a retreat-focused 30-bed luxury camping resort within the rugged terrain of the Superstition Mountains.
Central Avenue Shutdown
For their first out-of-the-wilderness community event, the Cloth & Flame team closed off a block in downtown Phoenix, where they set a 150-foot long table and shared it with their city. Their steadfast commitment to low-impact use was traded out for careful adherence to city code.
A kitchen was built around the existing structures and daily use of a busy central corridor. Each course was created to play off the last by some of downtown Phoenix's best restaurants and cocktail bars. The lights, bustle, the occasional train, massive illuminated cranes, and passing traffic all became a frame for an unforgettable urban dinner.
Sonoita Wine Country
Babacomari Ranch in Southern Arizona is comprised of nearly 28,000 acres of savannahs, deserts, and woodland riparian landscapes. After a day exploring the area, the team found the perfect spot beneath a canopy of towering Cottonwood trees surrounded by stunning conserved grasslands and easily accessed by a gravel road. The dinner marked the first official event with Michael Babcock as the Chef in Residence for the second half of 2019. Inspired by the diverse and rich history of the area, Michael created each dish to play off the remarkable wine-growing region. Three winemakers shared six wine selections throughout the meal.
Collaborators: La Lune Photography | Instrumental Hospitality | The Babacomari Ranch | AZ Hops and Vines | Dos Cabezas WineWorks | Callaghan Vineyards | Barrio Bread | Crow's Dairy | Nelson's Meat + Fish