Monday, January 26, 2009

Fare Start

700 Virginia St

Fare Start is a cooking school for the homeless. I suppose that description is misleading, because although they teach the homeless to cook, they don't teach them to prepare traditional hobo fare such as an open can of baked beans, or half- eaten Chinese takeout found in a dumpster. Which is good because I don't think they'd make much money that way, since the only customers they'd get would be other winos. Instead, they school the homeless in fine dining.

To draw the crowds, Fare Start features a weekly “guest chef” night, where the three course prix fixe is prepared by a locally famous chef. This week was Chef Gabriel Claycamp, proprietor of the Culinary Communion cooking school.

The first course was “Handmade Stuffed Caramellos: Duck Confit, Roasted Pumpkin, Parmigiano Brodo, Sage Emulsion.” The description is in quotes because I'm pulling it from the menu verbatim. And don't feel bad if you can't understand exactly what this menu item is supposed to be, because I sure as fuck couldn't. I know some of those words, but they don't make sense together. The title of this dish reads like a stroke victim wrote it.

Luckily the handmade stuffed caramello was as tasty as its name was confusing. A mound of roast pumpkin, tender and sweet, floated in a pool of pumpkin puree, which was heavily muscled with pumpkin pie spice. Delicate sage foam crowned the whole affair. The menu promised duck confit; unfortunately, it failed to make an appearance. In fact, I didn't have ANY duck confit in my handmade stuffed caramello. Maybe there COULD HAVE BEEN confit in there, but if there was it was purely incidental. Statistically there was also probably at least one arsenic atom in the handmade stuffed caramello, but I didn't see arsenic listed as an ingredient. For all I care they could've listed cheeseburgers, pizza, and Leonardo Da Vinci as ingredients, and the result would have been exactly the same: me, pissed off, with NO duck confit working its way through my digestive tract. Plus I thought Caramellos were candy bars, and I sure as fuck could detect neither chocolate nor nougat.

The entree was a roasted lamb roulade with flageolet beans, shallots, trotters, crumbs, prunes. Again a random assortment of items. And in fact, those items might seem disgusting if mixed together, but this roulade was defyingly tasty. However, I question the inclusion of “crumbs” as a description. After all, crumbs are what you're left with AFTER you're done eating. By this logic, McDonald's should just rename the Quarter Pounder “Heart Surgery.” The Hyundai Accent would be called “Birth Control.” Internet service would be marketed as “Annoying Pop- Up Ads and a Handful of Jizz.”

Retarded hyperbole aside, the roulade really was delicious. Lamb shoulder was butterflied and rolled up with a prune stuffing. A telltale pearly webbing on the surface of the roulade indicated that it had been wrapped in caul fat before being slow cooked. The lamb was rich, flavorful, and very tender. The beans were creamy and perfectly cooked. The roulade was topped with a crispy breaded patty of shredded trotters. The breading on that crispy breaded trotter patty, I suppose, is how they justify listing “crumbs” as a key ingredient for this dish. Jesus, there weren't THAT many crumbs. If the roulade were served on top of a pile of crumbs the size of a sand dune THEN I would agree that they should list “crumbs” as an ingredient. Every sand dune- sized pile of bread crumbs should come garnished with a dune buggy, so you can drive up to the top and eat your way down. If I ran Fare Start that's what I'd do for sure.

Dessert was a cinnamon roll with mascarpone, espresso cream, and bacon frosting. Yes, you read that right. I've extolled the saintly virtue of bacon enough times that I won't go into its praises again right now, though I WILL say this: I overheard someone at a nearby table who ordered the vegetarian meal specifically request the cinnamon roll JUST SO THEY COULD HAVE THE BACON CREAM. Such is the power and the glory of bacon, cleanser of all wounds, soother (and clogger) of all hearts. VEGETARIANS can't even resist it. That's because bacon isn't really meat, after all. It's more like a really hearty condiment that can stand alone as a meal, the way a jar of sweet pickle relish seems when you're stoned. The cinnamon roll was flaky and cloyingly sweet. The espresso flavor was rich without being overpowering. The bacon frosting was a golden color flecked with black dots. It tasted as though they'd fried up some bacon and then deglazed the pan with cream to capture the bacon essence. When you got a spoonful of cinnamon roll, espresso, and bacon frosting together the effect was like mainlining breakfast.

Fare Start is a very good deal. It's $25 for a three course meal. The portions are big enough, although a triathlete might complain about it. It's so goddamned, motherfucking cheap because the waiters are volunteers. The kitchen staff are homeless. The ingredients, recipes, and techniques used for the meal are all donated by the guest chef. Fare Start isn't perfect, but the whole fucking place is so virtuous it's completely review- proof. After all, what kind of a raging asshole would write a bad review of a fucking CHARITY? Only a total ruthless dick would do something like that. And if you think I'M that ruthless dick, think again: I'm turning over a new leaf, you fuckfaces. Fuck you.

Rating: 7 hobos out of 10

FareStart on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hunt Club

inside the Sorrento Hotel
900 Madison St

I wanted one thing, AND ONE THING ONLY, from the Hunt Club: a fucking cheeseburger. You see, cheeseburgers are like currency to me. If I was somehow elected Emperor of Earth tomorrow the first thing I would do would be to abolish money and replace it with cheeseburgers. Different denominations would be determined by how good the burger was: one of those shitty little McDonald's bitchburgers would be a penny. Dick's cheeseburgers would be nickels. A Whopper, Jr. would be a dime. A Whopper would be a quarter. The Jumbo Jack would be a fifty cent piece. Red Robin would be a dollar. Are you tired of this yet? I am.

Anyway, you'd think that if I were elected Emperor of Earth I'd have bigger fish to fry (other than destroying the global economy by replacing money with burgers, of course), but no: like some chief executives I'm too lazy to tackle any REAL problems, and besides, this whole paragraph is a simple thought exercise anyway. After all, everyone knows I could never be elected Earth Emperor! I'm not eligible because I smoked pot once. And also because I never think of the children. People always want politicians to think about children: “Please, won't someone think of the CHILDREN?” No.

So we ended up at the Hunt Club in the Sorrento Hotel, mostly because it was the only place open. I wanted to go to Quinn's for their Wagyu bacon cheeseburger, which is damn tasty, but those pussies were closed. “Boo, hoo,” I imagined those whiners at Quinn's sniveling, “it's New Year's Day! We want to be with our families!” Fuck your family, Quinn's. I was up until 5 am partying the night before (if you consider an all night Yahtzee marathon “partying,” that is). I was hungover and wanted a goddamned burger!

As a result, I settled for the Huntsburger, which according to the menu features “Huntsman Cheese,” which sounds more like some putrid genital rash than a really delicious dairy product. Also, you should be warned that the Huntsburger is $16. Yes, that's right: all of the money I made selling your mom into white slavery in Moscow went right into that burger.

The meat was still pink inside, and juicy, but the burger meat itself was rather bland. The bun was just a regular grocery store sesame seed bun. It came with a pile of romaine lettuce, sliced red onion rings, and tomatoes. The lettuce was crisp, and the tomatoes were pretty good for this time of year. Two ramekins, one of ketchup and one of a mixture of coarse mustard and mayonnaise, graced the side of the plate in case you wanted condiments.

The fries were the biggest disappointment. They were of the shoestring variety, and tasted like frozen french fries, which seems reprehensible considering the price tag. For $16 I'd expect hand- cut pommes frites with truffle oil, or at the very least some iridescent magical flying beetle fries conjured by Harry Potter himself. Or maybe it could be the same frozen fries, only delivered to you by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Those fries better smell like sunshine and taste like rainbows, for that kind of scratch. But of course we don't always get what we want. Besides, everyone knows hotel restaurants always treat your wallet the way Mike Tyson treats his cell mate: they anally rape you using your own blood as lube (and then they don't call you after), in case you didn't understand that clever topical comparison.

Was the Huntsburger worth it? In and of itself, fuck no. But the swanky fucking décor inside the Sorrento Hotel has got to be worth something. Actually, I know what the décor is worth: it's worth exactly $16. So I guess I broke even. If the Huntsburger were a piece of Imperial currency in my new monetary scheme, it would be a counterfeit $2 bill. So there.

Merry New Year, dickfaces.

UPDATE 1/19/09:

In my haste to disparage these fucknoses ( at least partially because this review was written in a rare moment of complete sobriety), I forgot to mention that the Huntsburger is a BACON cheeseburger. And I also forgot to mention the very important fact that the bacon on the Huntsburger is fucking awesome. It's thick, juicy, smoky, salty bacon, and as flat as a board. They must've cooked it with one of those bacon presses because it was perfectly flat. Perfectly 2- dimensional. And there was plenty of it too. I would make that bacon my wife if it was legal to marry meat products. Hopefully Canada legalizes baconsexual weddings soon.

Unfortunately the rest of the Huntsburger was as mediocre as the bacon was delicious. How delicious was that bacon? Tasty enough, in fact, to single- handedly pull the Huntsburger's rating up from 3 to 4. You might not think one point is very much, but I do, and it's MY rating system so fuck off.

Rating: 4 dollar bills out of 10

Hunt Club on Urbanspoon