Carlo Lamagna of Magna Kusina, left, will be hosting Joel Stocks's dinner pop-up, JEM Supper Club

One of this summer’s hottest fine dining pop-ups took place in...a Northeast Portland garage. But this wasn’t just some idea born in the pandemic. Joel Stocks, formerly co-chef and co-owner at Holdfast until the restaurant closed in fall 2020, and his wife Emily Stocks had dreamed of transforming the detached garage of their 1911 house into a private dining room from the moment they purchased their house four years ago. This spring, they made that dream come true with their new project, JEM Supper Club (a combination of their two first names), serving Joel’s signature style of seafood-heavy, veggie-forward, globe-trotting cuisine to dinner parties of eight. Emily managed the front of house inside the spruced-up wooden-beamed garage, adorned with string lights and hanging plants. 

But with fall looming, the Stockses needed to move JEM Supper Club to a fully indoor location (because who wants to carry plates from the house to the garage in the rain?) Joel turned to a longtime friend: Carlo Lamagna, chef-owner of Magna. The two met while working at separate restaurants in Chicago and reconnected in Portland. The dinner series kicks off Nov 15 with an already sold-out collab dinner with Lamagna, with JEM-only dates scheduled for Nov 22, Dec, and Jan 17 at Magna. Reservations can be booked online for $200 per person including wine pairings and gratuity; proof of vaccination is required.

A tuna and grape dish from a previous JEM Supper Club menu

Dinner is a constantly changing menu of around ten courses served in surprise order—some served finger food-style, some plated, some snacky interludes like truffle popcorn, some desserts. Some plates balance rarely-seen-together flavors, like a summertime course of cured albacore tuna in clarified grape juice with broth, toasted almond purée, opal basil leaves and basil oil, a dish loosely inspired by gazpacho. Another course from a past dinner combined braised beef short rib with black garlic lacquer, covered in nasturtium leaves and flowers for a peppery flavor and sided by a slow-smoked torpedo onion filled with black garlic demi-glace. To drink, look for wine pairings from Jeff Vejr, former wine guy at Holdfast and owner of Alberta wine bar Les Caves and new sister patio bar Le Clos. In typical Vejr fashion, the wine selection is guaranteed to be quirky, with wines from unexpected places like Georgia (the country, not the state) or wines made with unusual techniques, like fermenting in concrete.

A short rib and black garlic course from a previous dinner

The Stockses say they plan to return to their garage supper club model in the spring when the weather improves, though Joel hopes to transition back to a more traditional restaurant model eventually. “This has been a great project to take on while things are still in so much turmoil,” says Joel. “Down the line, we definitely want to get back into a more traditional restaurant. But for the time being, this has been one of the most fun ways to cook the food we want, and I actually get to work with Emily, which has been amazing. It’s been a good transition.”

JEM Supper Club, Nov 22, Dec, and Jan 17 at Magna, 2525 SE Clinton St, thestockshouse.com

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