Let’s talk about things we don’t expect. Accidents, love, loss, new opportunities, old friends… House-made tonic syrup? Dinner at a ball park? In Nebraska? Unexpected to say the least.

When I decided to move back to my home state, I had no idea what it would be like. I had never experienced Lincoln as an adult and after six years between Boston and Austin, I’ve developed a few… needs? An espresso addiction, a cocktail and beer obsession, a palate … So, moving to Lincoln, I was preparing myself to deal with less. But, I discovered Thursday night, thankfully, all of that preparation was in vain.

I found Lincoln Secret Supper, and it found me, through the magic of the internet and the kind of perfect timing that only happens when it’s supposed to. Dan Parsons and his wife Sunny organize the event out of what feels like a true, visceral necessity. As owners of a Lincoln PR firm, they’re no strangers to bringing out the best in people and it really does show when they talk about the things they love. The night at Haymarket Park was right up Heart N’ Stomach’s alley – kinda about food, but mostly about people. Lincoln Secret Supper has three events under its belt now, a beautiful handcrafted 30-seat community table, and endless creative energy. It works like this: you sign up for the club online, they let you know when tickets become available for the next event, you buy a ticket and wait. You dream about the food and you guess at what fascinating person you’ll end up next to. Then, a day before the supper, you receive your ticket HAND-DELIVERED and it’s just so exciting you can barely STAND it!

The drinks by mixologist, Jake Kester of Bread and Cup, were simple and beautiful. As he told the table how he wanted to bring us drinks that were built from the ground up and how thankful he was for us being there and being excited about it, all I could think was “Nebraska mixologists are so much better.” His humility and attention to detail in something as common as a Gin and Tonic made me think if I approach anything that simple with so much care… I hope I do.

The food was equally impressive and even more so “from the ground up.” Chef Eric Hustad owns and operates GUP Kitchen (Ground Up), one of Lincoln’s few craft food trucks. His pork belly confit was met with rowdy marriage proposals, his desserts were swooned at, and his grilled flat iron steak with roasted sweet corn, fingerling potatoes, and beurre rouge was by far the table favorite and dubbed “Nebraska on a plate.” Chef Eric is busy opening his new restaurant, Honest Abe’s, at 70th and Vine. Totally go to it. Go to the truck. Eat the food. Be a good Nebraskan.

One thing I found myself telling people in Austin about Nebraska was that I thought , maybe there aren’t so many mind-blowing restaurants and hip looking things because people are more interested in each other than in any drink or dish. Over the course of the dinner we celebrated an engagement, a 31-year marriage, and a military promotion; toasts were offered up and shared table-wide and we were never left without a glass to raise (thanks to the amazing wait-staff!). I spoke briefly with Kevin Shinn, the first Lincoln Secret Supper chef and chef/ owner (with his wife, Karen) of Bread and Cup and he told me about an interview he did with an out-of-state writer who told him, “I get the feeling that food is secondary.” And I could not have said it any better myself.

On Wednesday I arrived in Lincoln after a 14-hr drive and after the supper on Thursday I feel more at home here than I ever expected to.

Check out www.lincolnsecretsupper.com and sign up for the club so you don’t miss the next amazing event!