The pop-up restaurant trend seemed to have slowed down this year — until now. Tuesday, July 23, saw the debut of the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center ’s tastiest addition yet to its ECHO AfterDark  series for adults.
The dinner for 60 people had a Provençal theme and seven courses priced at $60, excluding wine pairings.
Stephen Perkins, director of development and community relations, says ECHO was ready for another foodie event after hosting various tastings and a culinary competition, “The Food Less Traveled.” The new concept came from Jason Zuliani, co-owner of Burlington’s Pistou , who attended one of Perkins’ brainstorming sessions. “He had the idea of throwing Max [Mackinnon, Pistou’s chef] behind the grill and doing a pop-up on the waterfront,” Perkins says.
Tuesday’s event began with an optional raw bar. Plated courses included brandade de morue, grilled monkfish, bouillabaisse and escabeche of grilled octopus, all served overlooking the lake. As always when Zuliani is involved, wine pairings were part of the fun. The co-owner of Dedalus Wine  chose one for each course, at $6 a glass.
To keep the events thoroughly al fresco, the two upcoming dinners will likewise focus on open-fire cooking. The nearly sold-out August 6 dinner includes dishes from the Rhône Valley, such as charcuterie, lamb and rich chocolate cake. The August 20 dinner has an eye toward the Basque country with tapas and pintxos.
Perkins says he has an eye out for other pop-up dinner ideas to spice up ECHO AfterDark. As long as there’s no Champ on the menu, we’re game.