Monday, September 24, 2012

A Bacon-y, Cake-y, No. 9 Park-y Birthday

The dreaded September 1st move has kept me away from the blog for a few weeks; there are still boxes to unpack, but we're making progress! Aside from unpacking and cooking a lot, we've been playing as much Cards Against Humanity as humanly possible, because we're horrible people. (Think "Apples to Apples" but offensive. It's pretty much the best game ever.)

Since I've been gone awhile, I'll use the next couple weeks to catch up on some long overdue posts and some very long overdue posts. I had a very delicious birthday weekend back in June, so I might as well start there and relive the glory.

On the day before my birthday, I was invited to attend a bacon competition and judge a cake competition. Not a bad way to kick off the celebration, right? Here are some photos from the Bacon Takedown in Somerville, part of a series of nationwide "takedown" events. (More recently, Somerville also hosted the Heaven and Hell Takedown - ice cream and hot sauce, two of my favorite things. I'm not sure how I didn't manage to squeeze this one in my schedule.) It was great to run into some other bloggers there: Sarah from Can You Cookie, Jessica from Oh Cake, and Leah from Oh Baby, Boston, who were all competing, as well as Katie and Rich from The Skinny Beet, who were judging the bacon dishes.

In the end, it was a bacon caramel that won both the people's choice and the judge's first place award. It was definitely one of my favorites. (In fact, in general, I definitely preferred the dessert uses of bacon.)

Just a few hours later, I found myself on stage at the Middle East Downstairs, being presented with cake. Lots of cake. Happy birthday to me. It was the Boston Cake Experiment, part of another national tour of cook-offs, and it was kind of insane being a judge as I had to sample something like 20 cakes.

Photo from Brooklyn Food Experiment on Flickr 
I've been on stage at the Middle East Downstairs one other time, but under very different circumstances: my band was releasing our debut album to a sold-out crowd in early 2011.

Both experiences were pretty awesome.

That wasn't it for the birthday festivities, though. The real feast was still to come. A few days earlier, I had heard that Google+ was giving away some tickets to a Zagat-sponsored six-course cocktail dinner at No. 9 Park, one of those restaurants that's always been on my "I'd-really-like-to-try-this-but-it's-out-of-my-budget-and-there-are-probably-other-fancy-restaurants-I'd-try-first" list. I got to work on a reviewing spree on Google+ in order to enter the contest and ended up winning a pair of tickets to the event, which conveniently took place on my actual birthday. (Joel was really let off the hook planning anything this year!) Turns out our dear friends Jon and Kathy (Kathy Can Cook), also horrible Cards Against Humanity-loving folks, were also attending.

The menu was challenging for me; one course, for example, was a terrine of foie gras. Ethical issues aside, I really don't like the taste or texture of foie gras, and more generally I can't get by the revulsion I feel towards the texture of terrines, pates, and the like. I think it might have something to do with the time my grandfather tricked three-year-old me into trying a scoop of chopped liver. He told me it was chocolate ice cream. It did not end well. Overall, though, the food was quite good. My favorite course was dessert #1 - or a palate-cleanser, I suppose - a Pimm's Cup-inspired concoction of sorbet and gel. The pig's tails were also amazing.

The cocktail pairings were intense. Some of my favorite ingredients made an appearance in the earlier drinks (Hendrick's gin, Chartreuse, mescal, root beer). With later courses, the drinks entered into the brown, bitter realm, which seemed very appropriate for the restaurant and the menu; I'm just not really into the ryes, bourbons, and bitters.

LANGOUSTINE EN GELEE ~ American caviar, summer vegetable consomme, XO sauce
Paired with a cocktail of Hendrick's gin, tomato, Chartreuse, Bisol Prosecco
TERRINE OF LABELLE FARMS FOIE GRAS ~ hops granola, bacon jam, pain au moutard
Paired with a cocktail of Del Maguey Vida mescal, root beer, falernum, Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier
GLAZED PIG'S TAILS ~ macerated watermelon, fresh chili, hibiscus
Paired with a cocktail of Tequila Ocho Reposado, truffled sangrita 

GRILLED VERMONT QUAIL ~ corn, chicken-fried duck liver, buttermilk dressing
Paired with a cocktail of bourbon au foie gras, bittered Old Monk rum cordial, Campari 
VEAL LOIN EN CREPINETTE & WILD BLUEFIN TUNA ~ artichokes en barigoule, sauce tonnato, olive oil crushed potato
Paired with a cocktail of "La Gitana" Manzanilla sherry, Willett rye, Velenosi Visciole, Cynar, ponzu 
PIMM'S CUP ~ lemon, cucumber, ginger
AMARETTI CHEESECAKE ~ strawberry, rhubarb, tarragon
Paired with a cocktail of Old Overholt rye, Kubler Absinthe, Peychaud's bitters, egg
Not a bad way to celebrate the unexciting, non-milestone birthday that puts me squarely in the mid-to-late twenties zone.

Disclosure: My admission to each of these events was free. I was invited to attend the Bacon Takedown as a blogger and the Cake Experiment as a judge, and I won my way into the No. 9 Park dinner by writing a large quantity of reviews on Google+ Local. Nonetheless, everything expressed in this post reflects my honest opinions.

No. 9 Park on Urbanspoon

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