Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lion Inside of Me

So. I'm here to deliver it people. Life is grand. Last night I ate Lion. Yes, yes I did. To all of you who think that's cruel go F*CK yourself. It was delicious.

Last night was the Flinstone's Dinner hosted by Zot. It was a meatcentric, meatastical, meat festival of glory... a meatabration if you will. Among other things turtle, python, black bear, antelope, yak and lion were on the menu.

Now, mind you, I generally steer clear of the meat which is for no other reason then I like vegetables. I'm the kind of person whose apartment may have never known the smell of sizzling beef and I am a big time cook. Having said that, I love food and when I heard about this event I thought 'how the hell could I possibly pass up the chance to eat Lion!?!?!?!' I never would have been able to look myself in the eye again (which is weird in the first place cause I am me and that would be weird). So I went.

One noteworthy bit was that, of the four people I managed to drag with me (I say drag because there was a whopping $95.00/head price tag for the event), one was a vegetarian.

We got there early. 6PM was the starting time for the reception. We threw back the big yellow wooden door to Zot and were greeted by a very pleasant and very professional hostess who showed us to our table but urged us to visit the bar and get ourselves a glass of champagne. I for one was not going to argue with that.

Drinks were served by a man in a caveman costume (insert joke here) and there was a choice of two reception drinks. The first was a glass of Cremand de Bordeaux champagne (we actually had an option of white or a Rosé) which I thought was good, although I know more about a monkey's ass then I do about wine and claim no different.... if you asked the importer Mark Monaco (and the person who donated the reception drinks) he thought it was "a little young". Shrug. Whatever.

The other drink was the Barney's Breakfast, or some such ridiculousness, made with smoked-apple-wood-bacon infused vodka and tomato juice (that's a mouthful - pun intended). It was served "on the rocks" which meant w/ a pebble in the bottom of the glass. The bartender warned us not to choke on the stone which was nice of him (come on, that was funny). The drink tasted like bacon - or like a "meat milkshake" as one of my pals described it - and it was as thick as paste but I was impressed by the meat-right-out-of-the-gates attitude. Bravo.

There were pickey things running around - duck sausage served on a crostini and drizzled with an aged balsamic was one - and dinner started just after 7PM. Delayed slightly, we were told, since the Lion was still in the oven. Nice.

Our host Bernard (owner of Zot) delivered a few enjoyable opening words about the meal in an enjoyably thick accent and a Fred Flinstone costume (hmmm...) and then the eating began.

Each course was paired w/ wines from Robert Kacher Selections but you will not find their names here for two reasons - A. My intention here is not to bore you to tears and B. Please see reference to monkey's ass' above.

Strangely enough the rep from RKS who paired the food and wine was also a vegetarian... one who didn't break that stance for the evening. This was strange and probably resulted in shitty pairings, but again, WTF do I know? The first wine was too sweet for me and then we got to the second glass and you know, we were all drunk already so.... (don't forget to add the meat milkshakes and the champagne to the equation).

Anywho, I digress. So the food. The first course was Wild Snapper Turtle Soup. The snapper was smoky, and savory, and gamey and richly flavored the light broth. It appeared alongside a basic mirepoix. The onion, carrot and celery were cut just right - tender but still with some body. The soup was garnished with a healthy dose of cilantro which provided the magic touch. Yum.
Turtle was a little pedestrian as far as exotic meats go but I saw what they were doing... slow and steady.

Next came the good stuff. Python. Python Molurus Bivittatus & Foie Gras to be exact ("The Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus), is the largest subspecies of the Indian Python and one of the 6 biggest snakes in the world..." as stated on wikipedia). I have major problems and major delights with this dish.

Let's start off with the bad... cause... you know, that's what I'm going to do. Bernard admitted right off the bat that this was a tough one (again, pun intended). He said the meat was really... well... tough and that they played with the recipe for a week to try to serve it in a fashion that wasn't deep fried. Well, it came deep fried (boo....!) and we all know that you could deep fry a cat turd and it would be good. In addition it was served with a sauce made too sweet with vanilla bean.

After dipping a piece of Python into the sauce the vegetarian friend remarked "Wow. Python strangely tastes like funnel cake." Having said that, the dish was pulled off exceptionally well given the toughness of the snake (not your fault Bernard! We'll take that one up with Jebus.)

First of all, it was beautifully plated. Second of all it came with a heaping portion of foie gras, which is most certainly the way to any meat lovers heart. It was all served atop fava beans and when you took a bite of python, bean, foie gras and sauce everything came together. I LOVE when chef's nail this and it is apparently a difficult thing to nail. To all the chef's of the world - FOOD WHICH APPEARS ON A PLATE TOGETHER MUST TASTE GOOD... TOGETHER!!!!! (Thank you for letting me get that in there. I feel better really.)

I was impressed. Next we moved to the Black Bear In Greens. It was actually black bear bacon and it was served over frisee with a light lemony dressing. The bacon was fatty but I guess that would have been preferred by some as the fat was tender and melted on the tounge. Bernard actually walked around with a pot of "extra bear" and graciously offered seconds to all of us carnivores, or 'vores', or better yet, 'carnis'.

The Braised Nilgai Antelope Ribs were tender-fally-freakin-aparty and smothered in a special sauce of Asian flavors... basically just dreamy. Mmm! They were served with what the waiter described as 'fried asparagus grass' which was a delicious and impressive addition.

I'm glad the Antelope was so good because the next course, Yak & Gnac, was not-so-much. Again, I don't know how much this had to do the man upstairs. I mean it was Yak for Christ's sake. Also, please keep in mind that at this point we have already had four gigantic meat courses and a meat cocktail and appetizers of meatyness.

The yak was served on a skewer and prepared in Armagnac (hence the name). It was just tough and... and... I don't know... just ick. BUT it was served with Creme Fraiche (which I l-o-v-e) and a fresh fig which were both a delightful compliment and cut through the richness of the meat.

Finally the motherload. The meat of all meats. The holy grail if you will... and let's face it, the reason I came to the event in the first place. It was simply titled Lion Stew and was simply prepared in true stewy fashion and served over gnocchi (I'm a sucker for gnocchi). What can I say. It was lion. And now it's inside of me.

Dessert (Bread Pudding) and dessert wine came next but who gave a fuck? We carnis had lion inside of us.

Zot - 122 Lombard Street Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 639-3260

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