Sunday, February 5, 2012

Legends of the Food

Two weeks ago I attended a clandestine meal...guerrilla dining at its finest.  Supper clubs, closed door restaurants...if you are not familiar with this culinary movement let me enlighten you.

This was the situation for attendees:  The guests receive an invitation to a dinner.  There is a day and time, but no location listed.  The cuisine is unknown.  The day of the event guests receive a note with the location.  They arrive and the meal begins.  An underground feast.

Fifty or so people, mostly strangers, all seated at one long table nestled between giant steel vats draped in twinkle lights set in a brewery near the train tracks. Twice during the meal I watched a train roar by over the shoulder of the person sitting across me.  The effect was marvelous.

Underground culinary movements are springing up all over the world in infinite variations.  Its philosophical roots reminiscent of the French Situationist Movement...a social movement of Europe during the 60's that revolved around creating spontaneous situations within the context of everyday life.  Every moment is infinitely different from the next, no matter how mundane. To keep reality fresh, spontaneity reminds us that existence is exceptional.

This subversive spread did just that.  I present the menu:

Roasted marrow bone, Braised oxtail marmalade, brioche toasts
wine: 2001 Campo Viejo Grand Reserva / beer: The Factor Scotch Ale
music: Mussorgsky Bydlo (The Ox) from Pictures at an Exhibition

Strauss lamb sweetbreads, Romesco, Tuscan Kale
 wine: 2007 Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Reserva "Unica" Rioja / beer:Triad Belgian Tripel
music:  Hugh Maskela, Grazing in the Grass

Roasted saddle of rabbit stuffed with rabbit confit and prunes, Sformato, natural jus.
wine:  2000 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado
music:  O'Conner, The Road to Appalachia

Veal braised in Intuition Ale Works Quiet Storm Belgian Quad,
Potato puree, Piquillo pepper, Marcona Almonds
wine:  2005 Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco Reserva / beer: Quiet Storm Belgian Quad
music: The Pixies, Where is My Mind?

"Soup & Sandwich" a la Indochine. Pho, Banh mi, Assorted preparations of wild boar
wine: 2005 Maetierra Dominum Quatro Pagos "QP" / beer:  Dubbel Helix Belgian Dubbel
music: Theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cheese Course...Cabrales, Aged Gouda, Epoisses, Manchego, Brillat Savarin

That is right people.  Exquisite Spanish wine and craft beer paired with food from this region's top chefs and a specific musical composition individual to each course that was performed the brilliant violinist Philip Pan, Concertmaster of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

 No small potatoes here. No small potatoes.

Yes, I said Spanish wine and craft beer in glorious harmony.  Look at them...Vibrant Rioja and Intuition Ale. Such an unlikely pair, but totally perfect together.

We all eat.  We all dine out, sometimes even on a whim.  There is nothing unexpected about that, nothing original.  It is what people do.   To eat is a common goal of all humans, to eat is to live.  But when people get together in an effort to truly transform one of life's most simple acts and share that transformation with others for one brief is not just an exceptional experience, but a communal gift.  Spontaneous art.

Jacksonville, bless her heart, may be The River City, but in many ways she is a backwaters kind of gal. It is renegade events like this that will mark her as The Bold New City of the South.  Put your feelers out, and maybe you will stumble upon one in your region. Friends, who live in my neck of the woods go here for a taste of creative subversion to open the mind and the palette.

Wake up that brain and belly.

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