"Come and dine" with VEN

New eatery offers up fusion cuisine to the community

"Come and dine" with VENBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

“Nothing brings people together quite like good food,” said Reese Hogg, proprietor of VEN Communal Eatery. The food trailer has been making appearances on Balsam Street over the last several weekends and is the latest endeavor of local couple Reese and Miriam Hogg.

“It began as an idea for a restaurant and was something we always talked about and always wanted to do,” said Hogg. “Finally we made the decision to move forward with it last September. We knew we wanted a trailer to be part of our restaurant, but we weren’t sure which would come first. But the opportunity to get a food trailer came in January so we jumped on it and started planning.”

Longtime members of the community, Reese is a local pastor and realtor and Miriam is the CEO of Ridgecrest Charter School.

The family acquired the trailer in early March, just before COVID-19 mandates came into place. After some delays, VEN was ready to serve by July.

The Hoggs want VEN to not only be a spot to get food, but a gather place — made more difficult by social distancing measures, but not impossible in an outdoor setting.

“‘Ven’ is Spanish for ‘come,’” said Hogg. “My wife Miriam came up with the name. Our idea was ‘come and dine,’ like Jesus says in scripture. The whole idea is to invite people to come have fellowship and share through good food.”

VEN serves up fusion cuisine, mixing flavors and foods from different cultures to create something unique. Reese serves as the executive chef – coming up with food concepts – while Miriam and their son Christian help execute the process.

Hogg credits his diverse background for his culinary inspirations.

“My grandmother was Mexican, I had a grandfather who was Haitian-Creole and a black father from the South,” said Hogg. “And he was a Navy guy, so he traveled the world and had an appetite for all kinds of food.

“Initially my mother taught me how to cook. She would cook Mexican food, Italian food, Asian food, Soul food, and she would put so much effort into everything she did. She would cook food for church fundraisers, which is where I learned how to make tamales. So I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and when I was 7, she started letting me cook myself and gave me the freedom to experiment on her dishes.”

Hogg said he continued experimenting – cooking for his friends, family and church – all the while building his culinary catalog. He spoke honestly about his culinary creations and said that VEN is not really for food “purists.”

“Because VEN is ethnic-fusion cuisine, we’re not aiming to reproduce an ‘authentic’ version of any dish,” said Hogg. “David Chang said that ‘authenticity is only the beginning of something.’ There’s an evolution that has to take place in order to improve. We take something that is great and fuse it with something else, and do it in a way that respects the origins of a dish – and maybe we create something even better.

VEN will be serving food from 6-9 p.m., this Friday and Saturday at Flight Line Tap Room, 259 Balsam St. “La Bocca Di Birria” will be a featured dish this week – inspired by birria, a Mexican stew, but with Italian and Thai influences.

“If you go to Oaxaca in Mexico and have birria, it’s going to be great. But when you come to VEN, it’s not going to be the same thing. We take that experience and combine it with something new.”

The trailer serves primarily “pub food” – dishes you can eat in a more casual setting like burgers, poutine and tacos. An example of one of VEN’s more popular dishes is their “pub poutine.”

“Poutine originated in Quebec, Canada,” said Hogg. “Traditionally it’s served as french fries, beef gravy and cheese curds. We serve it with creole gravy and Oaxaca cheese topped with sweet peppers and onions. It’s probably our most popular dish so far.”

Many of the dishes feature the Hogg’s original recipes for onion jam and Carribean habenero sauce. And VEN’s pub poutine, as well as the jerk chicken burrito, were confirmed delicious by this reporter.

Currently, diners can take their food and enjoy it with a drink on the Flight Line patio. “Right now, bars and taprooms are closed unless they serve food,” said Hogg. “So we provide the food so that they can be open to serve on their patio.”

For more information, find @VENcommunal on Facebook.

“We hope you come and dine with us.”

Pictured: Reese and Miriam Hogg cook up some fusion cuisine at the VEN Communal Eatery trailer on Balsam Street. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-08-07