The confirmation email for the dinner noted that the entrance to the Whisk and Ladle apartment is behind the building itself, down an alley, "across from a small motorboat." As we approached, a young man was idly carving a six-foot long piece of wood. Canoe? Bench? Who knows?
The Whisk and Ladle is the kind of hipster supper club where obtaining a reservation requires a strategy. One of our fellow diners regaled us with tales of trying to get a reservation: She concluded her (slightly desperate) email with a picture of their pug puppy and offered to bring him to dinner. I was grateful our Casa Felix connection had guaranteed us a reservation as our dog is a bit big and unruly for crowded dinner parties.
Inside, the loft was busy and loud. A dapper bartender mixed strong cocktails at a small bar. The open kitchen, clearly renovated to allow for serious cooking, was crowded and bustling as both the Casa Felix and Whisk and Ladle crews worked. Ritten gave us a big hug when she saw us and filled us in on their travels since our last visit, then went back to taking photographs of the colorful meal.
While dinner was being prepared, we wandered the loft, enjoying the high ceilings, wood beams, open stairway to the sleeping loft ("a death trap," pointed out one mother in attendance), and eclectic furnishings. At one point, one of the guests got a little woozy in the warm, tightly packed room and an ambulance was called. I knew a moment of panic. What exactly happens when EMTs enter an unlicensed restaurant? Nothing, it turns out—the EMTs stay outside.
When he's cooking in the States, Felix does his shopping at farmers' markets, which he laughingly describes as "a little bourgeoisie." In New York, the Prospect Park farmers' market provided the bounty for a creamy, lime-green avocado soup to start, red quinoa-crusted fluke for the main, and a watercress, frisée, and sprouts salad in a light vinaigrette with fresh strawberries. Dessert was an Argentinian specialty: alfajores de dulce de leche coated in chocolate with strawberry custard. The fluke and dessert tasted of South America and reminded me of the meal I'd eaten months earlier, the other courses less so, which made sense as the meal was a collaboration between Casa Felix and the Whisk and Ladle.
After New York, Felix and Ritten cooked in Chicago and California, before pausing in San Diego, where Ritten's family lives. I asked Felix about the next step for Casa Felix. "We discovered the world was really open to this idea," he says. "Now we are asking: What are we going to do with all the energy?"
Currently on the list: a baby boy (due in February), an expansion of their garden, a line of preserves from the garden (a project Felix's sous chef will undertake while he travels), more culinary investigations throughout Argentina, trips to Italy, Thailand and the Caribbean, and a Casa Felix 'zine. He also hopes to expand The Casa Felix Collective, a term he and Ritten use to refer to the disparate employees and associates who are a part of their "gypsy lifestyle"—people like his sous chef and Ritten's sister, who lived with them in Buenos Aires for awhile, and their hosts around the world.
Felix also expects to continue cooking at his home for a few more years. But he points out, "It's fun, but you can't have dinner parties in your house for the rest of your life."