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The Hidden Goodness of Cena Familiar

September 7, 2017

Here’s the thing about menus. They have limits.

There is only so much information you can cram into a menu. Nobody wants them to be books that tell the whole story of every menu item. Although, I remember in Berkeley, there was an Indian restaurant which did just that. It was an amazing read about every spice and every technique that went into each dish. But every night, it only offered about five different entrees.

Plus, the restaurant did not take reservations. So, the wait to get a table was significant enough that one could really linger on every word of every description to help pass the time.

I don’t know if Cena Familiar vol. 2 is on your radar. It’s a pop up dining experience conceived of by Josh Coletto and Michael Lapi, and hosted by Peck’s Arcade. The first one happened a while back, and the pictures look stunning. The second one is coming up on September 17.

After looking over the menu, I asked Josh some questions about it. And after reading his responses, it sounds even better. With his permission, I’m going to share that conversation with you. And for the sake of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that what follows is minimally edited.

DB: Can you tell me about the foraged ingredients in the menu?

JC: As far as foraged ingredients go, so far I plan to use: Lobster mushrooms from Michael, sumac for one of the cocktails, jewel weed seed, autumn olive, and whatever we can find for the Hudson Valley Mole.

DB: How about the ones that come from local farms? Which farms are represented on the menu?

JC: Beef tongue will be from Kinderhook Farm, the boar leg and goose comes from Climbing Tree Farm, lots of veggies will be from The Abode Farm in New Lebanon, Ironwood Farm in Philmont, The Chatham Children Garden in Chatham and Michael will also be using some of his favorite farms from out by him too. Corn for tamales will be coming from Wild Hive Farm. Everything possible will be local, and I promise not to use any vegetables that are not from the Hudson Valley for this dinner.

DB: Fresh tortillas made from local corn! Mind sharing the recipe and method?

JC: Well it’s similar to making tamale masa from dry field (dent) corn. It’s quite the delicious and interesting process and involves the nixtamalization of corn. The recipe is secret, but you can find some of your own online to check out if you feel very motivated!

DB: What’s the one dish on the menu that you are personally most excited about, and why?

JC: I’m very excited about the boar leg. Climbing Tree Farms raises the most amazing pigs and I am always super stoked to do anything with animals they offer me. The leg will be braised whole, then finished over hardwood smoke, and crisped up with the open fire. Yum! Actually, I’m pretty excited about everything on this menu, it reminds me a bit of growing up in California and some of the foods I remember eating on the regular.

DB: Any specifics on the beer or cocktails? Or the desserts?

JC: Well, the beer will be of the Mexican variety and nothing fancy. We’ll have a few different beers offered. Tecate, Pacifico, etc. For cocktails, we will certainly have a sumac margarita, something with lemon balm… mint… watermelon… whatever we can pull out of the garden that day and make into a delicious drink! The desserts will include a Tulsi (holy basil) flan and some different cookies, but mostly a bunch of melons and other fruits and things from the area. Maybe we’ll make a cake or two. And there will be dulce de leche everywhere. We will feast!


I don’t know about you, but my conversation with Josh made me even more excited about this event. I’m still not sure I can squeeze it into my schedule, but I would hate to miss it.

In this second go around, the price has been reduced to $75 a head. Given the breadth of the menu, the sourcing of the ingredients, the preparation of the dishes, and the pitchers of margaritas, this feels like a great deal.

But it’s one night only. And you need tickets. Which you can score here. While they last.

My hope is that even if I can’t go, some of you will be able to take advantage of this unique experience, and tell me what a fool I was to miss it. Or if in the end I can make the meal, it would be great to see some familiar faces.

At the very least, now you know a bit more about what makes this so special.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 7, 2017 10:49 am

    Jewelweed seeds are the coolest thing. You pinch them and they burst and spray their seeds. Probably my favorite seed dispersal method. I could forage about a million in mine and my neighbor’s yard, maybe I’ll look into it…

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