Thursday, July 31, 2008

Festival Of Eggs

As the titian sun sank serenely into a blossom of blushing clouds, I peddled hastily in a race against time and temperature. I was on my way to a dinner party dedicated entirely to the egg and was fearful that my contribution, ice cream, was on its way to becoming soup.

When Chicken Boy (Ben) initially uttered the words, ‘egg-fest,’ I had no idea what to expect and must admit that the first images to cross my mind were of Paul Newman’s egg eating challenge in movie Cool Hand Luke.
As it turned out my ice cream did not melt and, luckily, egg-fest did not consist of us feasting on unwholesome numbers of hard-boiled eggs. Instead, what ensued was an eight-hour, six course observance of the egg in all its forms. Evan and Amber, the other participants, graciously hosted the event in their Red Hook home. Over thirty eggs were used to produce everything from fancy egg-based cocktails, to sauces, custards, souffles and much much more.

To kick the event off, we began with a round of Ramos Gin fizzes and a sorrowful toast to the recently diseased chicken, Beulah. (I have been hesitant to mention the demise of Brooklyn Chicken Beulah it came at the end of last week when she was abducted by an unknown and unseen, though very hungry, animal. Though I have a fear of birds, I must say that had grown to admired Beulah and all her spunk and was disturbed by the news.) We did not linger for long though and were onto a bottle of sparkling wine that was so yeasty and exploding with the undeniable aroma of stinky blue cheese that it could have stood alone as a liquid cheese course. This treat was accompanied by our first coarse, an egg flight – who say eggs make for a challenging wine Pairing? The flight consisted of a quail egg, chicken egg, and a duck egg. The duck egg was the richest of the three and the quail egg, the lightest and fluffiest. The chicken egg, possibly Beulah's, was somewhere in between.

The second coarse consisted of a bottle of Amber’s father’s White Meritage from California, a Bordeaux style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, and an Arugula salad with cauliflower, olives, capers, and a vinaigrette tossed with crumbled egg yolk.

At this point, three hours had passed and it was time to get serious. Amber washed dishes as Evan prepared a mushroom souffle with a Brandy Sabayon and I assisted Ben with the task of making egg noodles. We didn't have a recipe, but that didn't stop us. With a pile of semolina, and egg yolks galor, we were two thirds of the way there.

For libation we took part in yet another egg friendly cocktail, cognac topped with maraschino beaten egg whites. This drink was so rich and extravagant, that we counted it as the third coarse.

With the egg noodles waiting patiently to be boiled, we tip-toed out to the back so as not to discourage the sensitive souffle with our giddy and impatient laughter. We did not exit soon enough however, for in the end the souffle refused to perform its one and only duty, to rise.

This did not at all put a damper on the festivities for, regardless of its disobedience, the souffle was delicious, and the sabayon was a rich and pleasing accomplice.

At this point - six hours and for courses into our fest- it was beginning to dawn on us what a successful endeavor our little egg fest had become. Though there was an abundance of food, and a slew of eggs, there was plenty of time and activity (cooking) between courses for us to reignite our appetites. With smiles on our faces we finished our last two courses, egg noodles with pesto and asparagus, and Sour Cherry Custard pie with Candied Bacon Ice Cream.

It is not often that you are able to escape the worries and troubles of the mundane world, but with the generosity and enthusiasm of our hosts and the donation of a great many fowl, our modest dinner party had turned into something greater than simply an observance of the egg and all its facets. Instead, it became a celebration of our shared zeal for the alchemy of the kitchen and its power to eclipse the temporal aspects of day-to-day living with the more wondrous material of life: the subtleties of good wine and drink, the phenomena of good food, and the fortune of good friends to share it all with.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bacon is...

"Bacon is hot right now," so says James Norton, blogger for Chowhound's, The Grind. And who can really argue with him with July 7th being day one of Salon's week long series of stories dedicated to the Pork Belly. Sarah Hepola kicked off the event with her article Bacon Mania, in which she ventures to answer the question, 'Why are Americans so batty for bacon?' Now I am a professed lover of bacon and can hardly argue with anyone who wants to blabber excessively on topic however, when bacon becomes the product of intellectual debate, I must admit, it find it wholly unappetizing.

In her article, Hepola attributes part of bacon's growing popularity to the fact that it is, as she puts it, 'rebellion'. Now, sure pork has been forbidden by both the Torah and the Qur'an for hundreds and even thousands of years. And yes, bacon has been condemned by doctors and dietitian alike, but be honest people, can we really claim that Bacon's popularity is merely a fat drenched means of 'giving the finger' to the healthy, kosher, and halal. Though for some the finger factor may be an added benefit, I am certain that it is only secondary to the number one reason for its popularity, and that is that it tastes good!

Hepola goes on to claim that bacon is also 'sexy.' This one would be hard for me to contradict considering only four posts ago, I myself described how I made Candied Bacon ice cream in an attempt to woo a boy, claiming that in my opinion, 'any man who could turn down a scoop of this stuff atop a stack of pancakes must have some serious problems, or he could be a vegetarian. Either way, I'm not interested.' But wooing is very different than seducing and the notion of bacon as sexy makes me think of the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza is attempting to eat a pastrami sandwich while in bed with his girlfriend. Ah, not so sexy.

My biggest gripe with Hepola's claims about the 'bacon chick movement,' is that she claims that it is an Internet joke. To support her claim she links to this bacon flow chart, this add for a Bacon Robot, and the invention of Bacon cake, and Bacon ice cream. Though yes, these all happen to be very funny, they are at the same time, quit serious. Why just the other day i was frying up some bacon for a salad I was making and my thinking just so happened to flow down may of the same avenues mention in the flow chart. As for the robot, we all know how seriously I take my foodie robots. And the cake and ice cream, there is nothing funny at all about how freekin' amazing Bacon ice cream is. In fact, its so good, it doesn't make me want to laugh, it makes me want to cry. But perhaps, to some, this is extremely funny. To each his own.

Truthfully, when I think about it, Hepola's claims are not at all unfounded. What bothers me about it is just that, thinking about it. Bacon has somehow been transformed from a decadent breakfast item that is to be eaten, into an indulgent intellectual item that is to be dissected; so some of use like to play with our food, and some of us like to eat it. If there is something I myself am guilty of, its thinking and talking way to much about food. The one part of Heola's story I can really jive with is that, 'Bacon is America.' America is a free country and therefore, for you bacon can be subversive, silly, and sexy, and for me bacon can be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I guess what I am trying to say is that, if bacon is anything, for me, Bacon is freedom.

Some more bacon for thought,
Bacon is dead! Long Live Bacon!
Belly Of The Beast
Going Whole Hog