Studio 54: A Disco Dinner
*This post is an entry for Foodbuzz’ Project Food Blog. The prompt: host a luxury dinner party. If you like it, vote for it using the widget on the sidebar starting Monday 10/4-Thursday 10/7. I would like to thank my guinea pigs guests- Jamie, Robert and Patrick, Ethan and Efrain, and my stellar husband, Jonas. They gamely got in fancy dress, played along, and brought their A-game.
When I think of luxury I think of hedonism, bacchanalia and excess. Studio 54, in its halcyon days, was the earthly embodiment. Steve Rubell, the flamboyant proprietor of the club, knew a thing or two about luxury. Every night, hundreds of people lined up outside the velvet ropes of Studio 54 clamoring for admission into an enchanted world. Rubell hand-picked a select few to come in and take part in the madness. He called it mixing a salad- the art of acheiving perfect blend of black, white, gay and straight, celebrity and commoner in order to make the club sing and rumors fly.
The infamous disco breathed life into bohemian society for a brief moment in time in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s before it lost its luster in an Icarus-like plunge from grace. Studio 54’s mystique was, and still is, unparalleled. Many say that no one will ever come close to recreating the magic that was Studio 54. I was just a wee sprite during the dog days of disco, but the era is particularly poignant for me because I feel it speaks volumes about our country’s rampant obsession with excess. We are a young country that sometimes acts like a spoiled child with our constant aspiration for more. Studio 54 is a good lesson in the fact that the pursuit of excess often leads to a fiery fall.
I cannot help but draw a parallel to our current economic crisis and the factors leading up to it. Luxury is not an altogether sustainable concept, although we can enjoy it in moderation now and again. The luxury displayed in this post is meant as a whimsical interpretation of the perils of excess. The food resembles drugs that were taken during the disco days, albeit in a much safer form factor. If you must have pills and needles, why not make them from things like pomegranate seeds and pea puree instead? It’s safer, more sustainable, and I daresay more delicious.
I presented all of the food for this feast using non-traditional serveware. I gave a lot of thought to the party as a whole, and I decided I wanted to foster an intimate, cavalier approach to both the food and guest interactions. By forcing people to use their hands or get close to the food in other ways, I was able to disarm them and thus set a thought-provoking tone for the meal.
During the kiss kiss/can I get you a glass of wine/oh my god I love your outfit portion of the evening, I presented my lovelies with a mozzarella balloon amuse bouche. I will go into greater detail about how to make mozzarella balloons in a full-feature post, but suffice it to say they are one of the best uses of cheese curd I can possibly imagine. I filled these with foam made from tomato water and served them on a bed of red basil and pea shoots.
Anyone lucky enough to gain entrance into Studio 54 will undoubtedly remember the club’s logo, The Man in the Moon (with Cocaine Spoon). It was a piece of movable art- essentially a giant moon and animated spoon made to careen into one another throughout the night. It was not mechanized; rather, two employees were stationed under the moon and spoon whose sole job was to move the iconic artwork via rope and pulley.
I knew I needed to represent the famous logo, so I chose to do it with a piece of culinary art. I made a bi-layered gelee of watermelon and sauternes then cut it into moon shapes. For the spoons, I dehydrated pears sliced in spoon shapes.
The piece de résistance of the dish, however, is the foie gras powder. It is essentially rendered foie gras that I powdered using a molecular gastronomy technique. It is sofa-king good, each of my six guests were veritably licking it off the mirror on which I served it. I had to bring out backup foie powder just to appease everyone’s craving.
Throughout the meal, diners had the option to take an inter- ‘lude consisting of red pills (pomegranate seeds), green pills (chardonnay grapes) or blue pills (corinth grapes). By the end of the meal, the pills were gone, if this gives you any indication as to what a raucous bunch I hosted.
Lest anyone need to satisfy their pyromaniacal tendencies or soothe an oral fixation, I provided “cigarettes” and “matches”- both edible. The cigarettes are a Turkish delight called borek I discovered while researching for this post. Mine consist of feta and pea vines rolled in phyllo and they are immeasurably good in their simplicity. They certainly sated my desire to put something long and slender into my mouth- perhaps the smokers amongst you will give them a go.
I fashioned the matches from mandolined potatoes dipped in crème fraiche and paprika. While they may not be lighting any real fires anytime soon, they certainly sent tantalizing sparks to my tastebuds.
The intermezzo consisted of pea and mint puree served heroin chic. Guests were invited to go back for seconds by plunging their syringes into the bowl of a candlelit large spoon filled with puree.
In keeping with heady decadence, we decided to have dessert before the main course. I created blancmange pyramids of bicerin chocolate, cardamom and gianduja, presented them on oversized knives and dappled them with edible 14 karat gold. They left us piqued to the point of toe-clenching and knife-licking, but alas- the final course saved the day.
Since I had to render a ton of fat to make my foie gras powder, I also needed to find a use for all that luscious foie. I elected to get crazy-lavish and make gravy with it, and when I think of gravy, it’s only natural that I also think of poutine. The brilliant tie-in with poutine and Studio 54 is that happy revelers would pour out of the club at sunrise starving for breakfast and they’d find themselves at diners ordering what they referred to as “disco fries”- aka poutine. This little factoid is so awesometastic I had to include poutine on my menu, no? I bedazzled it with foie gravy and used Okinawan purple sweet potatoes for the fries.
After dinner, we slipped on our dancing shoes and did the Hustle to Patrick’s expertly-chosen Studio 54-era playlist (he is the only guest among us who had actually been to the real Studio 54 in its heyday). We also climbed on the bubble chair, got super silly with slang flashcards and exhibited budding ninja skills with Samurai practice swords. Indeed, it was a night to remember, and since they weren’t real drugs, we feel fabulous enough today to do the whole thing again tonight. The moral of today’s tale? Don’t do drugs, do disco (and if you want luxury, eat it- it’ll cost you a lot less than a mortgage you can’t afford or a staggering loss of brain cells).