dinner series / flickr (creative commons)

Underground, Illegal, and Delicious

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — We are talking about super-secret, illegal dining experiences hosted in homes…. It may look like a dinner party, but it’s really an underground supper club…. “If the Health Department did come they would obviously shut it down. So there’s always a little bit of worry,” [chef Michael] Patlazhan said…. [I]f caught hosting an underground dinner party, the hosts could be fined $2,000 and ordered to shut down.
CBS 2 Investigation: Underground — And Illegal — NYC Dinner Parties, Sept. 11, 2013

Welcome to my damp, dark basement—my underground supper club, or, as I like to call it, RATS.

Don’t worry, that’s just an acronym.

It stands for Rodents Around The Sink.

Fear not, most of them are dead. Some people think that you need health inspectors to ensure the safety of food, but I’ve gotten sick in plenty of actual restaurants, so I don’t know what they’re so concerned about. Despite operating outside the purview of the Health Department, I assure you that I have read the health code and I am aware of the rules.

I should let you know up front that we do not have a working restroom here at RATS, so you should probably refrain from drinking too much water. There are other reasons not to drink the water, but I won’t get into them.

Your park-foraged salad is about to be served by the lovely Jessica. I’m jealous of her long, flowing hair, strands of which you may find on your plate this evening. Her nails are recently painted—they haven’t even dried yet—so if you’re allergic to lead, you may want to take a pass on this dish.

We use only fresh micro greens, discarded corn husks, and garbage. The salad was composed by Shelly, a good friend I met at the wound clinic at a local hospital. She only needs three more treatments until she’s better.

May I offer you a drinking straw from this open box of unpackaged straws?

No, don’t take that one—I’m pretty sure that’s not a straw.

Your next course, which I like to call “Meat Eater’s Surprise,” was slaughtered out back just a moment ago by a man who laughs at gloves. Or, to be more accurate, he sneezes at gloves, and then he wears them, and then he touches raw meat and doesn’t change them, and then he sneezes again, and then he sticks his fingers in his ears, and then he touches your food. I hope you enjoy it.

We have ice for your beverages, but you’ll have to grab it with your hands. Or with the hands of the street urchin who’s underneath the table.

The main course is on its way—there’s a decent chance it’s chicken, with a sauce made from mushrooms supplied to us by a woman who lives in a park. I should note that one of the ingredients used in its preparation arrived in a package that was swollen, leaky, and rusted. We get packages that fit one or two of those characteristics all the time, but it’s rare to find one that has all three—so you’re in for a special treat tonight.

We’re serving this course with a beverage pairing—it’s milk, sort of. If you like your dairy products pasteurized, you’re in for a disappointment, because this creation could not be more raw. Just like the chicken. I became a hardcore advocate of raw food this week, while my stove was broken and leaking noxious gas into my kitchen. I’d tell you to ask my sous-chef about it, but he collapsed. Right on top of the box where we keep the garnishes we’ve been using throughout the night. Did you think those garnishes were edible? Three out of four mice who licked them disagree.

Our fourth course, a palate cleanser of sorts, extracted from whatever fell into the juicer this week, was microwaved in a container that was not marked as microwave-safe. You may notice bits of plastic on the surface. The bits of plastic do not contain trans fats, unlike the rest of the dish. We are, however, able to promise that this course is the only one guaranteed to be vermin-free, thanks to the use of powerful pesticides.

Your dessert, made by our chimpanzee pastry chef, is served inside a cracked egg shell, which is how the eggs arrived. Inside, you’ll find some chemical sanitizer, a piece of the cage where we’re storing tomorrow night’s main course, and a scoop of ice cream that we’ve been storing at a comfortable temperature of 74 degrees. I suppose we should just call it cream now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your meal tonight. If you’re still around in the morning, I would ask you to please contact the Health Department and let them know that we don’t need regulations to serve tasty and delicious food and insects in this city. I’ll hope to see you again next week, when the chairs you’re sitting on will be made into a delectable salad of wood shavings.

(Thanks to the New York City guide to Article 81: Food Preparation and Food Establishments for inspiration during the writing of this piece.)