Plan an Over-the-Top Bacchanal for Spring: How-to With Artists Bompas and Parr
All photos by Beth Evans and Nathan Pask, courtesy Pavilion Let these guys show you a good party
Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.
Feasting with Bompas and Parr
By Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, 224 pages, Pavilion, $34.95
Sam Bompas and Harry Parr (known for epic culinary feats like exploding food-fireworks over London, pool-sized cocktails you can row across, and, earlier, artful jellos and cocktails), published their latest book Feasting last December, just in time for the holidays.
Now seems an ideal time to pull it off the shelf; if ever a winter warranted a bacchanal-style feast for the coming of spring, it was this one. Lately, 60-degree-day teasers have titillated our tender flesh into believing spring is actually on the way, which makes what remain of these winter temperatures increasingly insufferable.
But the end is nigh: Friday is the vernal equinox, that hallowed day when the earth rights its cosmic balance, giving equal hours to day and night, and after which, of course, daylight inches ahead of darkness. And everything is incrementally better for it. So come Friday, let's not skimp on the fun. And no, a 30-rack of PBR and a few bottles of liquor with maybe a roast chicken or beef or ham is not going to cut it.
Why not throw a party that's as salacious, as lecherous, as lewd and licentious, as any you've ever been to? This spring deserves a proper welcome. And if this weekend's too soon, Easter is just around the corner.
Originally, Bompas and Parr planned to title this book Rude Food after David Thorpe's infamous books from the 1970s and 1980s, which combined food and pornography. "We were really excited about it," Bompas said via Skype one recent afternoon. "But then we spoke to the American markets, and it was just going to be too rude for them to take. No publisher would co-edition it; it was just too naughty, too outrageous."
So they took a different tack and decided to make something that was sexy and fun, but really useful for consumers; the result was an awe-inspiring guide on throwing an avant-garde, unforgettable party -- from table dressing to recipes, illustrated in lush, full-color photographs.
To host such a party, focus your attention on fewer details to get the most impact. On plating, Bompas offers: "People are visual, and when you put little medallions [of meat] on a plate, you're addressing people's visual sense, but I think you're doing it in a very highfaluting, difficult way. And a way that not many people understand. It doesn't have any meaning."
So, instead, the authors give you roasted quails, drenched in marmalade, stacked into a pan. Or a three-foot tower of crayfish. For dessert, a hotel-pan of scooped ice cream in sickly-soft pastels. These make for showstopping presentations, but they're not at all hard to do; no need for tweezers or fancy china.
Because, Bompas points out, if you're throwing a dinner party, it's about entertaining, not sustaining: "We're lucky to live in Brooklyn or London, where the majority of people don't have to eat because they've got this vast nutritional deficit they have to fill. In fact, most people are trying to cut down their caloric intake, or at least moderate it...Which puts food in the realm of entertainment. So our food is food for entertainment, as opposed to going to the opera, having sex, doing all sorts of other fun things you could be doing instead of eating. So it has to measure up against that."
And how, you ask, does one make food that measures up against a good romp in the sack, or a night at the opera?
On the next page, Sam Bompas delves into proper costuming, tableside psychology, and the merits of smoke machines.