Category Archives: exciting food events

The Questionable Legality of Open Flames in the Backyard: Twelve or So Hours of Epic Roast Beast

We promised pig photos, and pig photos you’re going to get. Be forewarned though; spit roasting a 50 lb pig in the backyard is not exactly a pretty process, although it ends in lots of happy deliciousness. If you’re squeamish about meat, weird animal parts, nose-to-tail eating, or happen to be (gasp!) vegetarian…you probably shouldn’t click the button below. But if you’re curious about how to roast your own whole pig on a bed of charcoal in your backyard, then choose the blue pill and take the plunge into our carnivorous world…
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Mom, Dad and BeanPie Turn 150. We Celebrate with Roast Pig, Crack Pie, and Butter.

It was a grand occasion in the Li family household on Sunday for an epic once-in-a-lifetime event: the 150th birthday party! Once-in-three-lifetimes, to be exact – it was a springtime celebration of our mom’s 60th birthday, Irene’s upcoming 20th birthday, and our dad’s upcoming 70th. Obviously, 60+20+70 = BADASS PARTY TIME. And no badass party would be complete without roasting a 50 lb pig in the backyard.  Or grilling a 30 lb fish. Or baking 10 desserts, including 4 crack pies. Or making 3 kinds of homemade pickles. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of beef brisket, pulled chicken, barbecued ribs, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, three bean salad, collard greens, and sandwich rolls from Lester’s Barbecue and three sheet trays of cornbread from Andy’s restaurant Harvest.  And an accompanying approximately 20 cubic feet of alcohol. How else would you celebrate such a once-in-three-lifetimes occasion?

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Rambling Restaurant at the Market Estate Project

We’ve cooked in old train depots and darkened car parks and city centre squats and sprawling warehouses. Last week, Rambling Restaurant added a soon-to-be demolished 1960’s North London housing estate to the list of odd and unusual venues, swooping in just ahead of the wrecking balls.  In the amazing Market Estate Project, artists from around the world took over empty flats to create imaginative, engaging, thought-provoking and awe-inducing installations ranging from short films to death-defying performance art to covering entire apartments in building plans or blue plastic.  We were honored to be a part of the day by cooking up all sorts of meals and snacks for people involved with the project.

Sarah and foodrambler conjured up massive pots of beef rendang and aubergine and sweet potato coconut curry with rice and creamy cool banana chutney to fill up the many volunteers before their very very cold outdoor shifts.

Once people began trickling in, we Rambling Restaurateurs turned our attention to making canapes for visitors and staff and lucky wanderers. Homemade chickpea and beetroot hummus on crackers, carrot and cumin dip on crispbreads, mini onion quiches, and Michelle’s famous fried-on-the-spot fish and chips.

In between dishing up cute little newspaper cones and assembling sandwiches for staff sustenance, we found some time to explore the incredible and inspiring works of art. Like an entire flat – bedroom, living room, bathroom, balcony and all – transformed into an enormous blue plastic balloon:

And another apartment entirely papered over, top to bottom, in building plans:

More art photos and some thoroughly inauthentic banh mi sandwiches after the jump…

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“Doesn’t Everyone Spend Saturday and Sunday Nights in the Kitchen?”: The Deadpan Entree Smackdown

We on the Deadpan/Ithaca FamilyStyles Team – you know, that ruggedly good-looking bunch – always love a little bit of competition. You can usually find us going to war with Bananagrams, settling Catan with all the imperial zeal of Cortez or Columbus himself, or quizzing each other on random yet seemingly important information (think real-life Sporcle): name as many pokemon as you can! List the members of the nightshade family! Extoll the virtues of kosher salt! You get the idea.

So, it was only natural that when it came down to figuring out an entree for our first Deadpan event, we decided to compete for it, with a facebook event, scorecards, and of course, hours upon hours in the kitchen. Once again taking advantage of Hilary’s generosity and five-burner Electrolux stove, we went to work.

Max Hull is a photoshop god

I’d say each one of us totally and completely brought it. Pictures and results after the jump!

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Butternut Squash Polenta and Other Mayhems: Deadpan Restaurant’s Opening Nights

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Amin is now gallivanting in Dresden, and Judy has proven a valuable addition to our kitchen cohort. We at Deadpan Restaurant had our opening debut a few weeks ago, and then a repeat event this past weekend. It was, in a word, insane. Five dishes, 12 guests per event, hours upon hours in the kitchen, and I don’t think I’ll ever look a pot of polenta in the eye again.

Let’s talk about the menu. Since we’re new at this whole restaurant thing, we haven’t really figured out how to simultaneously serve a secret supper and photodocument it, so bear with us on the pictures!

We started with a red wine oxtail and beef tongue stew, served as chilled, jelly hemispheres, with a layer of homemade Momofuku pickles on a toasted baguette round.

Probably the most challenging dish of the evening, our tongue-and-tail amuse bouche was cast in a mold designed and cut by Amin. Pretty cool, huh? We value the use of all parts of the animals we eat, and wanted our guests to do the same. To our surprise and delight, nobody tried to escape the event while we described this dish, and everyone cleaned their plate! On a side note, those pickles are so addictive and delicious – definitely at the top of my these-are-so-easy-to-make-i’ll-never-buy-them-again list.

For our starter, we served the dish that has been our pride, joy, and near-undoing for the last several months: pork belly with butternut squash polenta. Cured for two days in a mix of brown sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black pepper, and then braised for upwards of three hours in a pot of chicken stock and Delirium Tremens (famed as the best beer in the world), this local pork from Autumn’s Harvest Farm is tender, buttery, and melts in your mouth. The butternut squash polenta is cooked on the stovetop and then baked (or is it fried?) on cast iron with a lot of butter. We made our sauce out of a reduction of the braising liquid and some Cornell Orchards cider. This isn’t actually the pork belly we served, but an earlier incarnation that looks mostly alike:

We also served some cider mulled with the same spice mix that we cured the belly with. Still with us, even through the bad flash photography? Our other three dishes, after the jump…

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A Southern Spread at Rambling Restaurant: Pulled Pork, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and Squirty Cream!

With an American-themed meal at our last Rambling Restaurant, we just had to do a dessert featuring the never-ending source of birthday party fun for all ages:  shakeable whipped cream in a sleek metal canister. They have it over here in the UK, except they call it…squirty cream. I thought that it might be just an affectionate nickname, but nope.  It even says so on the packaging.

Hilarious. Say hello to the squirty cream and a slice of sweet potato pie.  But wait, dessert first? Nothing wrong with that, but let’s rewind a bit to cover this Southern-inspired feast from the beginning. Sadly, I failed to take photos of the slices of warm cornbread with chunks of sweet corn and a dusting of paprika. You’ll just have to imagine them stacked in cute little baskets and served with pretty rounds of colorful green, red, and yellow jalapeno-chile butter.

Next up, shared ramekins of creamy mac & cheese with a crunchy cheddar and ciabatta breadcrumb topping, served up baked, browned, and bubbling.

The main course was a stomach stuffing plate of pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce on freshly baked rolls, dirty rice (made satisfyingly, mouthwateringly dirty with chicken livers sauteed in the trinity of green pepper, celery, and onion), and a light lemony cole slaw.

We had an extreme overabundance of pulled pork, which is never a bad thing, although this picture’s a bit extreme. WARNING: GRATUITOUS PULLED PORK PICTURE AHEAD.

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A Rambling Aphrodisiac Dinner, Complete With Searing Loins and Gin & Tonic Jelly

Hooray! It’s time for another Rambling Restaurant Singles Night featuring an aphrodisiac dinner, so you know things are bound to get hot.  Particularly when you have five people in a veryverycozy kitchen and have fresh bread baking in the oven, a giant vat of soup bubbling on the stove, and ten large pork loins popping and fizzing boiling oil all over the place.

Really. Hot. Temperatures. Luckily, there was also a dining room full of really hot people (yes yes, as in extremely attractive) all mixing and mingling on the other side of the curtain.  To get their taste buds primed and hearts racing, we served four courses featuring ingredients thought to have aphrodisiac qualities.  Of course, both dessert courses featured what is inarguably the most guaranteed aphrodisiac of them all – a large quantity of alcohol. Which is how we started the night as well, with glasses of passionfruit, raspberry and rosebud fizz.

Each cocktail came with a little tag marked with a suit denoting where to sit for your first table, along with some silly icebreaker questions inside to spark conversation or incite passionate debate.  Our eleven brave men and eleven brave women scattered amongst four tables to wait for these shiny happy braids of dough…

…to toast to perfection into these lovely browned plaits with a soft and fluffy white interior.

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Food Events Around London: Tea Parties, Pizza Parties and…Wine Parties?

I love parties. I’m in the process of planning a big family joint birthday party for my mom, sister and dad that may or may not involve an entire roast pig. Who doesn’t love a good party?  Obviously, the best parties include copious amounts of food and alcohol. At many London parties and events of the last month or so, my alcohol consumption has drastically outweighed the food consumption.  Often, my memories of the event can get a bit fuzzy. Luckily, I took pictures.

Here’s a photo from the Bibendum wine event at the stunning Saatchi Gallery. Can you spot the foodrambler?

Amidst approximately 149803454 bottles of wine spread over something like 10 galleries on 4 floors were all sorts of cool installations by local designers:

Equally alcoholic was the fabulous Yelp’s Burst Birthday, a surprise-filled soiree in an old metalworks building complete with a grassy garden tea party room filled with tea cups of gin and teapots of tonic amidst tiered trays of sugar-stacked snacks.  I’m still dreaming about the plate below of melty chocolatey caramelly Millionaire’s Squares…

The room was carpeted in real grass (hand laid by our dedicated friend Lizzie!) and populated by a small community of garden gnomes, one of whom came home with me at the end of the night. Chris and I named him Chomsky. We’re nerds.

The Yelp party also featured a real tube-car-as-a-bar slinging free cocktails and bunch of market-style food stalls, including fantabulous frozen yogurt, a sort of bizarre spiralled potato chip on a stick, and my most favoritest roast hog people.

Last up, I got a chance to taste the new Pizza Express menu by Francesco Mazzei, the chef from an award-winning London restaurant called L’Anima that I’m hoping to go to someday.  Shockingly, I’d never had Pizza Express before – it’s a very popular chain in the UK – but I was quite impressed with what I tasted of the new dishes.  I liked the spicy Calabrese pizza the best – a thin and crispy crust, fior di latte mozzarella, watercress in basil pesto, a few more chilies and peppers, and most importantly, nduja sausage.  Anything with nduja on it is a friend of mine.

Mmmm…looking at pictures never fails to make me hungry. I’ll take a spicy pizza, a few Millionaire’s Squares, a bottle of that rich and chocolatey Malbec, and a teacup of G&T.  It’s 2am.  Bibendum, Yelp and Pizza Express, do you deliver?

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Introducing Ithaca’s Newest Secret Supper Joint: Deadpan Restaurant!

In approximately three weeks, Deadpan Restaurant, Ithaca’s newest secret supper club, will be hosting its first event.

What’s a secret restaurant, you ask? Good thing we already wrote a post on that: big sister lays it down for the uninitiated.

We’ll be serving a three course meal at a to-be-revealed location. Look out for more announcements!

After all, who wouldn’t want to hang out with and experience the epicurean adventures of champions such as these…

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Big Buck Hunter: A Day in the Life of A Not-So-Average College Sophomore, or, Little Sister Waxes Philosophical on Meat

Most of the time, eating meat seems simple. After all, processed meat in the grocery aisle is neat, clean, and offers us little in the way of reminders that we are eating something that used to be alive, that had a head, feet, fur or feathers.

Deer in Ithaca are so populous that they’re essentially pests – destroying gardens, disrupting the ecosystem, and all too often meeting unfortunate ends in car accidents or starving in the winter. When Daniel’s dad offered Dan the chance to go deer hunting, we were all thrilled. Now, before you close the book on us savages, let me say this: we don’t believe in hunting for sport, or for trophies, but we loved the idea of getting another step closer to our food, and decreasing our dependence on factory farmed meat.

So, a few weekends ago, the Ithaca FamilyStyles gang experienced just how complicated and incredible meat really is. Sure, we’ve gutted fish and cared for livestock that would eventually become food, and I like to think that we’re thoughtful about and appreciative of the work and care and life involved in producing meat. But, butchering the deer that Daniel killed (with one shot, by the way) on his family’s land, was a whole new, up-close and personal experience for all of us. This time, we were responsible for seeing the animal through from death all the way to neat packages in the freezer.

And it was fascinating. For more pictures, and the occasional rumination, down the rabbit hole we go!

Warning: These pictures feature meat in a pretty serious way – view at your own risk! (Just so you know, I considered making a joke about “rawness,” but decided against it. You’re welcome.)

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