Saturday, March 28, 2009

One Pot

w/ Steven Rinella

At Via Tribunali
6005 12th Ave S

I first encountered Auguste Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire in a Barnes & Noble a couple years ago. I was instantly entranced by this, the greatest of cookbooks. Le Guide Culinaire is like if you took The Necronomicon, Hammer of the Gods, and the Bible, combined them, and soaked the entire thing in butter. The instructions are so vague! The writing style is so eldritch! The recipes are so unlikely! If H.P. Lovecraft had become a chef instead of a legendary horror writer, Le Guide Culinaire would have been the unholy result.

Later I heard an interview on NPR with a guy who’d followed Le Guide Culinaire and prepared a 40 course Thanksgiving feast entirely from ingredients he either hunted himself or found. The book was called The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. The author was named Steven Rinella.

If you read The Scavenger’s Guide one thing will become immediately apparent to you: Steven Rinella is TOUGH. He is so motherfucking tough. You know that internet list of reasons why Chuck Norris is tough? Steven Rinella makes Chuck Norris look like a quivering orphan with a Hawaiian Punch mustache and a snot bubble. Fuck Chuck Norris: he’s old news and besides, he burned all his bridges with me for the rest of eternity by campaigning for Mike Huckabee. Steven Rinella is the real deal. Steven Rinella is so tough it’s like they genetically engineered him from DNA of the world’s toughest dudes, just like Serpentor from the GI Joe cartoon. No, fuck that: Rinella is so tough Serpentor cleans Rinella’s toilet for him. Then when Serpentor is done cleaning Steven Rinella’s toilet, Lou Ferigno comes in to give Rinella a blow job. Directly in line behind Lou Ferigno is Sylvester Stallone, readying his massage oil to give Steven Rinella a foot massage. In fact, there’s a line of the most legendary tough guys stretching out the door of Steven Rinella’s apartment and around the block, all waiting to sexually service him and/ or clean his house. That’s how hyperbolically manly Steven Rinella is.

So when I heard that the universe’s toughest dude would be reading from his newest book American Buffalo: in Search of a Lost Icon I jumped at the chance to attend. This is how Rinella wrote his new book: after he was done researching he let Paul Prudhomme and Kathy Bates fuck on his back while he did 100 push ups on a pile of broken glass. When he finished his push ups he took a quill pen, dipped it in the blood oozing from the cuts on his hands, and wrote the first draft IN HIS OWN BLOOD. ON KATHY BATES’ NAKED SKIN, which only someone as tough as Steven Rinella could possibly stand the sight of.

But I digress. Rinella would be reading from his new book at One Pot, which as everyone knows is the brain child of another mystical figure, culinary ringmaster Michael Hebberoy. One of Hebberoy’s ventures, as you well know, was recently reviewed by me, and like all polarizing figures he fascinates me. Besides, it seemed like a killer deal: the meal at One Pot was $45, and included a copy of Rinella’s new book. AND he would be reading from it. AND he would be eating four pounds of potassium cyanide, washing it down with hydrofluoric acid, then flossing his teeth with barbed wire.

The meal took place at the Georgetown Via Tribunali. It was crowded and loud. Wine was flowing freely; unfortunately none of it was flowing into my mouth, because although the event was advertised as “Bring Your Own Wine,” I forgot. But at least drinks were available from Via Tribunali’s bar. There was a long table for about 40 in the room. On one wall was a projection of a National Geographic documentary about Alaska. Sarah Palin’s face was luckily nowhere to be seen, though there were a few ice worms, which I thought only existed in the Star Wars universe.

Eventually Hebberoy clinked his glass and all the idle chatter died down. Everyone sat down at the long table, which was probably about 30 feet long and easily the biggest table at which I’ve ever been seated. Seriously, it was like Mr. Burns’ table. Hebberoy said a few words, introduced Rinella, and we started eating.

The first course was a salad. Apple wedges were tossed with escarole, thinly sliced Spanish chorizo, Manchego cheese, and red onion in a bright vinaigrette. This was a very simple salad. All the flavors interplayed well. The sweet apple countered the bitterness of the escarole. The chorizo was spicy, and the cheese was salty. With the salad was flat bread. Hebberoy swore that, despite the fact that we were eating at Via Tribunali, no pizza would be served. However, the flat bread was basically pizza with no cheese. As far as flat breads go, it was pretty damn good, with a crusty, sooty, charred bottom and chewy interior, and a smear of sweet tomato sauce on top. They should’ve just put some fucking cheese on it and let us have pizza though. I don’t see why not. I ate a vegan pizza once. Do I really need to say that it sucked? Everything’s better with cheese. Dairy council, you can thank me later.

After the salad, Rinella read an excerpt from his book, where he described half- mile long piles of buffalo bones encountered by pioneers in the Midwest. Then he passed around a container of pemmicam which he’d made from the buffalo he shot. Said buffalo is of course the subject of the new book, which details Rinella’s adventures on a buffalo hunt, and also discusses the buffalo’s place in American history.

Pemmicam is made of ground buffalo meat, mixed with buffalo fat and ground nuts. The pemmicam had a weird taste: like powdered dog food that someone had farted through. It was also disturbingly crunchy. Rinella claimed he used pine nuts to make this pemmicam, but I don’t believe him. It was CRACKLY it was so crunchy. Also, it was sickly sweet. Plus it left that nasty shellacked layer of waxy grease on the roof of your mouth like shitty movie popcorn. I guess I’d eat pemmicam if I was starving in the woods.

Next up was the main course: beef stew, served over farro. The farro came out first. Though Hebberoy expressly forbid us from doing so, I tasted the farro by itself before the braised beef came out. It was good, chewy, and earthy, with asparagus, cauliflower, and leeks. Normally I disdain farro, spelt, and all those other “old- timey” grains because that’s the kind of shit lesbians eat, but I must admit it was tasty. Then the braised beef stew came out. Ladled over the farro, it was quite delicious. The stew was hearty and rich, with carrots and bay leaves. The chunks of beef were so tender I didn’t even need to cut it with the superfluous knife they’d provided me. With this dish came of bowl of what Hebberoy called “salsa verde.” I’ve got news for you, Mr. Hebberoy: ACTUAL PEOPLE know that chopped parsley in olive oil with lemon zest and garlic is called GREMOLATA. But no matter what you call it, the gremolata was bright and fresh, and really gave a high note when dolloped over the beef.

As dessert was being passed around, Rinella entertained questions. Most people asked about buffalo, but I really wanted to know if Rinella thought that the dude from Into the Wild was as much a misinformed, naïve pussy as I did. Unfortunately, he stopped answering questions before I could pose my earthshaking query. Dessert was coffee from some loser country (I don’t remember which one) and Theo chocolates. The chocolates were mostly like tiny Three Muskateers bars, but better, with a chocolate outer shell filled with chocolate mousse. Still, like all chocolate it was pretty girly, and not at all the kind of manly dessert I imagine Steven Rinella eats. Maybe they should’ve served chocolate covered eyeballs.

After dessert Rinella autographed copies of American Buffalo. I insisted he make the inscription in my copy out to “The Surly Gourmand, the only guy in the universe who’s manlier than me.” He refused, so I challenged him to a duel to the death in the Thunderdome, which will be on Pay- Per- View next year. I better start training, I suppose.

This meal was a fucking great deal. The cover price of the book is $24.95, which means that the meal cost about $20. And that’s an awesome price for a 3 course meal, especially since the menu was designed by the dude from Art of the Table. It’s too bad that this was a one- of- a- kind event. I was so impressed with One Pot, I’ll be back for sure. And if you ever get a chance to see Steven Rinella in person, be sure to do so, or he’ll hunt you down with unflinching resolve like the Terminator. And unlike the Terminator, Steven Rinella can’t be killed by crushing him in an industrial press or dropping him into a metal smelter. So you better do what he says.

Rating: 7.5 unstoppable action heroes out of 10

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