Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feast of the Deceased

To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery, my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches.

                                  ~Charles Baudelaire

I love Halloween. I love black cats, pumpkins, full moons, and graveyards. Costume parties, witch's brew, spooky music and the Thriller video.  I'm a sucker for little mini candy bars.  I decorate my front porch and hand out candy and wish that I could still go trick or treating myself.  

So when I first heard of the Emerging Chefs' Feast of the Deceased, I knew that this was something I couldn't miss.  The invitation read in part:

  "Join us, as we stir up the spirits of All Hallows Eve and set the table for our First Annual 'Feast of the Deceased' fall dinner party. Haunt your palate with Emerging Chef - Brian Doyle of SOW Food ( as we awaken the Market District with a culinary celebration within the mystic confines of Historic Monroe Cemetery, Ohio City. 

Toast the hearty souls of Cleveland's past and feast amongst fellow foodies in quest of flavor immortality. Chef Doyle has planned a poetic meal even Poe would write about. Frightful fun, DJ mashups, and awards for best costumes are all ingredients for what's sure to shape up as Cleveland's Halloween party of the year."

Yeah, this sounded like a blast!  I couldn't pass up the chance to visit an old historic cemetery and eat, drink and mingle among the graves.  I just hoped the dead would appreciate the company.
I had never even heard of the Monroe Cemetery so before going I did a little research.  I found that it was originally known as the West Side Cemetery and contains over 31,000 graves.  The first person was buried there in 1818 and it includes graves of Revolutionary and Civil War veterans. 
When I walked up to the gate house, I admired the colorful leaves and a cool breeze blew past.  The gothic gate was both beautiful and eerie.  
There were tents set up to block the chilly wind.  A red glow greeted you.

The tables were glistening with iridescent red cloths and multitudes of candles.  Servers were costumed as they prepared for the feast.

Chef Doyle of Sow Food and his crew had quite a task creating a meal in a makeshift graveyard kitchen.  

But they were up to the task.  The creepy menu intimidated a lot of people, including me. Raw, bloody and pig brains were all words that don't elicit YUM. But thankfully the superlative creativity did not detract from the quality of the meal.  Chef Doyle really rocked the graveyard with his gory delights.
True Blood E Marry Oyster Shots
The amuse made me the most nervous because I've always been too chicken to try a raw oyster.  I'm a really adventurous diner but they always just looked so gross that I avoided them.  But, since the oyster was floating in a glass of Crav vodka, it couldn't be TOO bad, right?  Even though it looked like an eye ball, I decided to take the plunge.
Well, I'm glad I sucked it up and tried it because it was quite tasty thanks to the seasoned vodka.  And the garlic custard with crispy enoki mushrooms was a savory foil to the bright sea-flavored shot.  We were off to a great start.

Raw Flesh Carpaccio & Tombstone Crostini
I also wasn't looking forward to our first course.  More raw flesh. When the carpaccio was served, it looked awesome. The long plate enhanced the effect of looking at a grave site. If it looked this cool, I had to at least try a bite.  
Loved it!  This ended up being my favorite of the night!  I loved the micro green and capers - they added just the right texture. This is the dish I've been craving since the Feast.

love the "dirt" holding up the tombstone
Jekyll's Potion really was a fun presentation of white wine.  It was refreshing and I would have loved to have a few more test tubes.
Pumpkin Potage w/ Beet Frits
I love all things pumpkin and this was no exception.  The potage was thick and creamy.  The addition of a pumpkin seed oil drizzle and roasted pumpkin seeds for crunch really kicked this up in flavor. Excellent!

The punch was like spiced apple cider with a kick.  It was good but a little too sweet for my taste.  It was my least favorite beverage of the night.
Foie Gras & Rabbit Liver Ravioli w/ Fava Beans and Chianti Reduction
I saw Chef Doyle make course three on a morning talk show and was really looking forward to actually getting to taste it.  The pasta was made in cooperation with Ohio City Pasta.  I was impressed with how the chef took the infamous meal from Silence of the Lambs and interpreted it into an innocent looking pasta dish.  I love liver so I was surprised that I didn't really care for this dish more.  The flavors of the liver and the fava beans were a little strong and I think that more sauce would have helped balance the flavors.  

Instead of chianti, the chef chose to serve the aptly named Vampire merlot with this course.  It was the perfect compliment to the meal and would be a great addition to any Halloween party you are attending.
Sweet & Sour "Bloody" Pig Face and Fried Rice
The most highly anticipated course at my table was the pig face.  We were wondering if we were going to be served a whole pig head or if the meat would be incorporated into the dish.  Chef Doyle again did not disappoint! 

Half of a pig head was set atop a mound of pork and fried rice on a large platter that was shared between multiple guests.  This was perfect because you experienced the severed head without having to actually hack it apart yourself.  This dish was my second favorite.  The crispy skin, tender pork and savory fried rice were a great combination.

I never did catch what was included in the Faux Pig Brains cocktail but we thought it might be Bailey's.  Fun drink but I'm glad it was a small portion because I'm not a huge fan of drinking Bailey's with a meal.

Dexter's Blood Spatter Dessert
By this time we were really ready to see the dessert. Everything had been so creative up to this point we just knew that the grand finale would be impressive.

The chocolate was dark and dense and it was fun to nibble on the slides.  The cocktail for this course was a blood orange mimosa.  It was incredible!  I would order this over and over.  The blood orange worked perfectly with the dark chocolate.
Chef Doyle with Chef Kevin 
What a fun way to end the night!  The sugar microscope slides were provided by Chef Kevin at The Bonbon Bake Shop.  They are a new bakery that will soon be opening in Ohio City near the West Side Market at W26th and Lorain.  Looking forward to their opening which hopefully will be soon. 

It was a great party!  Love how the guests really embraced the theme and came in costume.  Here are some of my favorites:
even the cemetery was dressed for the occasion

David Moss of Emerging Chefs

Autism Speaks is a charity dear to the chef's heart and our ghoulish server Ami Heap spoke to us about a fantastic fundraiser "Rock 'Til it Stops."  This is taking place Oct.22nd at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  For more info, click here.  To learn more about Autism Speaks, click here.

There was discussion about having the Feast of the Deceased be an annual event and I already can't wait 'til next year!  It's a spooky and delicious dinner party amongst the tombstones that should be on everyone's Halloween must do list.  If you dare...

You can check out more of my pics on Facebook here.

**Disclosure: I was provided a media pass for this event.  As always, this did not influence the opinions expressed here. ** 

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