Every attempt to defeat Martin Picard’s insane shack meals has ended in utterly embarrassing defeat. We’ve gone there 3 seasons in a row ready to leave triumphant and we’ve left with our heads, and guts, hanging low in shame. This time around we were going with 7 Shack Virgins. Hopes for success were slim. In the end it felt like everything would come down to everyone’s favorite shaggy beast: Sassy the Sasquatch. Unseen since our infamous voyage to NYC, he was back and he was hungry. But bringing Sassy out into the dark wilderness to eat mountains of food can easily backfire. We might just lose him to the night as he bolts into the woods hot on the trail of the various farm animals we all know are nearby. At least Fancy Actress Lady was coming with him. If anyone can keep him in check it’s her.
As a mildly successful, unpaid, internet writer I have my entourage of hair, makeup, and PR people that are with me everywhere I go. Having Fancy with us too can make things tricky. If Fancy shows up with all of her people too it will be cramped in there and weird as the other guests are all forced to have my people talk to her people and her people talk to them and so forth. Reluctantly, I decided to put my celebrity status aside in the name of face stuffing. Fancy and Sassy show up soon after I do and to my surprise, there is no limo and no “people” to be seen but one look at her magnificent hair and I am sure she’s forced her hair people to hide in the car whilst we eat. My attempt to peak in their backseat ends as she quickly tells me “You don’t need to see what’s in there.” I knew it. No one’s hair just looks that good.
The 15 of us are seated and our waitress warns the Shack Virgins “For those of you who haven’t been here before, get ready to eat.” Tonight there will be 6 entrees, 3 main courses, and 5 desserts. That’s not a typo. 5 desserts. I’m starting to think we might be doomed. They sell massive mugs of beer here that hold a litre. That’s just a ridiculous amount of beer considering how much meat we are about to cram into ourselves Kardashian style, so naturally I still get a mug of the stuff. Hey, no one ever accused me of being overly wisdomy. The first course comes out and it looks like it’s gonna be a heavy one: cream of tomato soup AND loaves of brioche stuffed with a zazzy giant sausage and some kind of crazy cheese. We are instructed to slice the bread and place it in the bowl then pour soup over it. Seriously, I love this place. Course #1 was awesome but dense. The Shack Virgins have a look of joy mingled with fear. Only now when it is too late are they starting to understand what they have signed up for.
Plates 2 and 3 come out together: a beef carpaccio style spring roll with raw beef and raw foie gras with some rice noodles and some kind of strange green stuff. The server man who brought it elaborated “For those of you who love vegetables take a good look at the green lettuce in here. You aren’t going to see that again tonight.” The other dish was a double D oyster baked with foie gras, some kind of magicly rich sauce, mashed potatoes and who knows what else but holy hot damn was this good. The roll was nice and fresh and a surprisingly light addition to what is usually an epically decadent meal. Ok so with 3 course down (and 11 to go!) I look over to my sister, Shooter, to ask how she and her boyfriend, The Boston, are liking it. She tells me flatly “Don’t talk to me now! I’m downing daquiris bitch!” Sounds about right. The Boston, who is a great eater but can be picky, is all up in this meal’s jammie so far. One day I’m gonna have to figure out what the hell a jammie is.
Plate #4 comes out and this one has me nervous that people are going to chicken out a bit. We’ve got a cauliflower head that is deep fried in liquified butter (Picard needs a Nobel Peace Prize for this) topped with breaded veal brains. Sassy bellows out a joyful “BRRRRAAAAAIIINNNNSSS!!!” and that seems to have steeled the wills of the whole table and those brains went down hard. For any of you fearing trying something as daring as brains I highly recommend you work on getting past that fear. Served perfectly fried and crispy on the outside and as creamy as meaty butter on the inside, it really is a unique texture and taste that would have most people loving it. The final 2 entree plates come out and we’re looking at some more intense, rich stuff coming our way. Plate #5 is a squid ink canelloni stuffed with freshly made ricotta. My picture of this didn’t turn out since I was trembling with panic when I snapped the shot but you’ll have to take my word for it. This thing was massive. Oh, and they brought two, one for each end of the table. I have to say there is something about squid ink pasta that I just love. Maybe it’s that extra little saltiness but whatever it is let it be known that squid ink is right up there with my all time favorite inks to ingest. The last of the entrees was another pasta dish; a gemelli style noodle with a perfect amount of pesto. So, 6 plates down and not a drop of food leftover except for some soup since they must have served us about 2 gallons of it. That’s not a joke.
This is the part where I start to get a false sense of accomplishment much like I did last year. I look around and as of yet no one is showing any signs of the Meat Sweats. Dare I start to hope? I ask Sassy his thoughts on the pasta dishes and get a “NOODLES?!?! I WANT MEAT!!!!!” Just when I’m sure he’s about to thump me Fancy whispers some sweet nothings in his ear and instantly soothes him. One day I’ll have to ask my therapist what it is she could possibly say to him to calm him so easily but for now I am content not to know. After all, I’m still eating over here. I feel like we’ve all paced ourselves pretty well while at the same time destroying every plate that was placed in front of us. With a mere 8 courses left what could possibly go wrong?
The first main dish is being wheeled towards us. Ya, that’s right, wheeled towards us. On an enormous cutting block we’ve what can only be an at least 7 foot long pork rib roast with an equally large roasted pork loin. Chopper man carves it all up real nice for us and serves it with some roasted carrots and rutabaga. Yes, I know, rutabaga is just a fancy word for turnip but Fancy and I are all about fancying it up today. The gravy underneath the roast is nothing short of gravily fantastic. Pete and I came close to chugging it out of the bowl but that would just be uncivilized. Not enough chefs have the balls to serve pork perfectly pink but Picard is balls out when it comes to cooking and this roast is served just how I like it. Sassy is doing unspeakable damage to this one. Like, he just nearly bit me when I got too close to the serving spoon. With only a piece or two left for us to take home I’m thinking we might have went a little too nuts on this one. No time to ponder that much, here comes dish #8: Some Kind of Crazy Pork Meatloaf. This bad boy is made in one of those round bread molds with the hole in the middle. Have no fear though about a gaping empty hole (….must……not…….make……such……an……easy…….Kardashian……joke……) because that empty space was filled with a gooey, melty wheel of brie cheese. Ya baby! Oh and as per our Server man this thing has exactly 147 different cuts of pork in it and it is fan-freaking-tastic. In a move I know I’ll regret I take seconds of this one. How could I not? To my left I see a faint trace of The Meat Sweats beading on Shawn’s forehead. He’s hitting a second serving of this too. This is around the exact moment last year when the whole night just fell apart. Last season I managed one single bite of the final main dish. I was able to actually feel myself getting fatter. I had also barely managed to sample any dessert last time. Tonight’s final dish was happily lighter though and I managed a nice portion of smoked mackerel and merguez without having visions of an untimely fat induced death.
Well that’s 9 dishes down with 5 desserts to go. We’re still a long way from the smug satisfaction of a well earned culinary victory but we’re at least getting a whiff of the finish line. We all chit and chat whilst we wait for dessert(s) and for the most part we conclude that there’s no standout overall winner that can be considered the plate of the night. Don’t get me wrong though, in this case that’s actually a good thing. There was something for everyone here so far and every plate was solid and well executed. The first dessert to come out is a whacked out looking berry ice cream cake with chunks of what looks remarkably like granite but consists of some kind of crazy almond dust. Whatever the hell this thing is made out of it’s amazing. I got all kinds of bravado oozing out my fancy parts now so I take a second of this too. Does anybody got a problem with that? No time to brag now here come two more desserts. We’ve got a dark chocolate and blueberry tarte and a flan aux poires. The chocolate tarte thing was obscene. The exact type of dessert I love. Not being much of a dessert guy normally I can’t believe that I am going back for another slice of this. I was about to forego the flan due to my dislike or flan type desserts and total hatred of all things pear when Paul says to me, he says “Dude, take some of the pear dessert it’s amazing.” When I respond that I hate pears he proceeds to ask me if I am some kind of a wuss. Never one to be called out I begrudgingly take a slice and hot damn, it’s some seriously good shit!
I’m on cloud 9 now and I can say that it’s more than a feeling cause we’re down to the final two dishes and no one has tapped out. Shawn is looking a little weebly and all kinds of wobbly but he’s holding in there. Sassy seems to be hitting a 3rd sampling of that ice cream concoction like only Sassy can and even Shooter has loosened her grip on her daquiri to have some of the last two plates. What we’re looking at here is a strawberry pie and also an apple and pumpkin pie. Like any warm blooded North American I love me some apple pie and both of these dishes are fantastic. When the dust clears on the battlefield we’re staring at nothing but empty plates. Can it be? Aside from Shawn’s inability to speak for about 20 minutes, we all come out relatively unscathed with nearly nothing left from any plates to pack up for home.
As we stand to stretch triumphantly we all hear gasps of oooohs and ahhhhs. Fancy and I exchange a knowing glance. The other tables are obviously both amazed at how much we all ate and also ecstatic to be in hers and my presence. I am standing by to sign some groupies bellies and stuff when I see that the gasps of wonder are, in fact, not for us but for a cute little piglet a server brought into the room and people are taking turns holding it and petting it. Go ahead, steal our thunder while you can little one. We’ll see you next year.
Picard’s Shack: 3 VS. Phatman & Friends: 1 (We finally put a point on the board!)