Santa & Surly Give Burning Beast the Thumbs Up, Declare Ron Jones Champeen


Burning Beast.JPG
They burned this thing after festivities were over, but I chose not to partake in such heretical pagan activity!
This is the third and final


Santa & Surly Give Burning Beast the Thumbs Up, Declare Ron Jones Champeen

  • Santa & Surly Give Burning Beast the Thumbs Up, Declare Ron Jones Champeen

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    Burning Beast.JPG
    They burned this thing after festivities were over, but I chose not to partake in such heretical pagan activity!
    This is the third and final account of my mystical travels through the world of the Burning Beast. With the departure from Purgatory we entered a land of clean lines and orderly behavior. This must have been Paradise: no buffoonery, no cigars, nothing that could stand in the way of the acquisition of delicious barbecued deliciousness. The sky was blue. The clouds were fluffy and so white it looked as though they'd been bleached. I saw a cloud that looked like Santa giving a thumbs up! Truly a sign from God Himself!

    Burning Beast was much more efficiently organized than in years past. The lines, for the most part, moved smoothly; the food might not have always been a slam dunk, but at least you could obtain it quickly.

    This is the list of the things I ate and really liked:

    Garret Abel's spicy duck wasn't fucking lying: it was, in fact, spicy, and there was no debating that it was duck. Tender pieces of duck, cut up into angular chunks the way the Chinese like to do, came with pickled watermelon rind and pickled peach and cornbread and SHITLOADS of different condiments. There were three different kinds of butter!

    Tamara Murphy's barbecued chicken was perfectly roasted, flecked with spices and smeared with sauce. A couple slices of chicken were served over a bed of smoky baked beans that managed to perfectly bridge the line between sweet and sour. Adorning the beans was a small corn pancake that was more precious than a mouse wearing a top hat and monocle.

    At the Art of the Table camp, Dustin Ronspie's crew dished out quinoa with roasted castelvetrano olives. The olives, huge green orbs that were crinkly and fire-blackened in places, were a great savory counterpoint to the quinoa, which trended sweet through the addition of mint, scallion, and roasted red bell pepper. Goat meat got the proper treatment here: braised until silky, then served with the quinoa. Normally I detest quinoa, which someday will replace hemp as Cheesiest Hippie Plant of All Time, but here, in its rustic natural habitat, it worked.

    We trudged farther and farther up the golden escalator, closer to the brilliant white gleaming culinary purity which had evaded us for so long. Note: by "trudged farther and farther up the golden escalator," I really mean "walked over there." The long fucking line to get to Seth Caswell's rabbit roulade stuffed with rabbit sausage was totally worth it. These glistening rolls of meat, tied up and sizzling on the grill, looked so delicious I wish I could stack them up like meaty Lincoln Logs and make a cabin out of them. A cabin which would quickly become useless because it would either rot or I would eat holes in the walls, which would allow meth-heads to sneak right into my rabbit log cabin and steal my laptop. The rabbit was tender and juicy, and the sausage inside was salty and fatty, but in a good way. Accompanying this was a cherry tomato salad, sweet but just tart enough to dispel the heaviness of the rabbit.

    Huge racks of ribeye, hewn into 12 cadaverous sections of rib cage and as big as a dinosaur's bones, were roasted and deftly carved into gleaming rare slabs by Johnathan Sundstrom. A smoky square of focaccia was piled with arugula, and caramelized onion, then a big quivering slice of prime rib, sanguine and crunchy with sprinkled rock salt, was draped over the top of the whole thing. The generous meat slice dwarfed the diminutive crostini below. Bloody and glistening brick red, marbled with creamy white webs of fat, the prime rib could have almost passed for toro. The comparison to fish was not lost on Sundstrom. "It's like beef sushi," he remarked, "because the meat is bigger than what's beneath."

    But who was the King of Burning Beast? Which chef prevailed over all? Surprisingly it was Ron Jones of Jones Glassworks. The lone amateur in the bunch, Jones is a glass blower. "He's a glass slumper," Jones' friend corrected me. Like your mom, I don't give a shit whether he blows or slumps because Ron Jones schooled ALL of you professional motherfuckers.

    The Jones crew was frying up pork belly in cast iron skillets, and badly at that. They kept trying to flip the sizzling pork prematurely, leaving the top layer of pork stuck to the bottom of the pan. Assembly was slow; you could tell they didn't quite know how to pace everything. But once they got the shit together, Ron Jones and company spread a thick layer of rich creamery whup ass all over the competition. These were pork belly buns a la David Chang: soft pillowy rice buns were folded around a succulent square of the fried belly, topped with slivered apples and fresh basil leaves and pickled onion and a sweet and grainy fig compote. This was fucking AMAZING: tart and sweet and smoky and fatty and crisp, all at once. What more could you need?

    If anything, Burning Beast is a libertarian experiment in self-reliance. In this strange land, past performance does not necessarily indicate future results. The mighty may fail; beginner's luck sometimes pays dividends, and egos become easily bruised, especially when oversensitive prima donnas are involved. Everyone had an equal chance to succeed, so if you fucked up it was your own fucking fault, and certainly not mine, you prick.

    Considering the sheer quantity AND quality of the food involved, Burning Beast is, at $75, a bargain. Plus it's a charity, for fuck's sake; all proceeds go to support the arts program at the Smoke Farm. So if you support the arts and think we need more awesome badass artists like Odd Nerdrum or H.R. Giger or Enrico David, then buy your tickets for Burning Beast 2011. Now. But if you like shitty art like Thomas Kinkade, then do nothing, you pussy. Don't support Smoke Farm. You'll get what you pay for, which will be a bunch of bullshit. Does that make sense?

    Rating: 8.5 charities out of 10

    Check out a slideshow of images from Burning Beast.

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