What Does Quarantine Taste Like? Apparently, Strange but Delicious

Experimental supper club hosts unlikely themed dinner party this weekend

By Courtney Humiston
|  Tuesday, Apr 6, 2010  |  Updated 5:10 PM EDT
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What Does Quarantine Taste Like? Apparently, Strange but Delicious

The word "quarantine" does not bring a lot of pleasant things to mind: Disease, outbreak, isolation, plague, that terrifying scene in ET or a scabby, although still sexy Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later. So all in all its not really the ideal theme for a dinner party.

Unless, of course, you are the organizers of The Taste of Quarantine -- a banquet taking place this weekend in connection with the Storefront for Art and Architecture's Landscape of Quarantine exhibit -- in which case the theme is an opportunity to explore the role that quarantine still plays in the transportation and consumption of food, while also offering an inventive and mouth-watering meal.

Geoff Manaugh, from the blog BLDBG and one of the event's organizers, considers "the very idea of a quarantine menu extraordinarily inspired ... as it takes materials and foods that have themselves, at various points in history, been subject to quarantine and treats them as ingredients for a gourmet meal." Photographer Taryn Simon, for her book An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, captured a particularly powerful image of the contraband room at JFK that shows all the food confiscated from international arrivals over a 24-hour period: enough to stock a small, eclectic supermarket.

Admittedly, in the wrong hands such a meal could be a disaster. But in this case, your competent, albeit eccentric hosts for the evening is A Razor, A Shiney Knife, a traveling supper club founded by a couple of mustachioed boccie-playing Brooklynites (Daniel Castano is a professional chef, while Michael Cirino might be considered more of a mad scientist) that experiment in modern cooking methods ("I want people to not be afraid to have liquid nitrogen in their house," Cirino told the Village Voice). The team hosts dinner parties that they describe, intentionally vague it seems, as "a theatrical culinary experience." For a dinner in London they served only black food, for example, while at the New York Wine and Food Festival last fall, they challenged the extent of the locally sourced dining fad by serving food from as far away as possible, but used only locally made dishes, glassware and tablecloths.

Cirino tells Edible Geography (Edible founder Nicolla Twilley was the brainchild behind the event) that his kitchen is well stocked with, in addition to the standard kitchen supplies: vacuum chambers, immersion circulators and induction burners that he uses to experiment with traditional food like meatballs  and also more bizarre creations like onion soup sandwich cookies with split pea cream filling.

The five course meal will take diners on a quarantine voyage through  "exposure" (trout roe that Cirino plans to make look "dangerous but also beautiful," like something in a a pitri dish ) to "disinfect" (cold-smoked halibut based on the black plague-era practice of "smoking" suspicious mail cargo). But the real highlight of the menu is a 24-day dry-aged steak from Master Purveyers, the supplier for Peter Lugers. While you cut into that ribeye, you will enjoy/be subjected to a time-lapsed video of the dry aging process during which the quarantined raw beef literally turns green.

Each course is paired with the appropriate wine, sake or cocktail, selected by wine writer and personality Jonny Cigar. The price of your ticket includes access to the exhibit (indeed, you'll be eating in part of it) and pre-dinner classes like knife sharpening, beef butchering and "interesting applications for an iSi whipper."

Saturday April 10 and Sunday April 11 

97 Kenmare Street

Tickets are $152 here.

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