Manhattan Art Gallery Hosts Five Course Rat Meat Dinner
This exhibit, or whatever you want to call it, is being held at the Allegra LaViola Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The brains behind this is one Laura Ginn. It’s called “Tomorrow We Will Feast Again On What We Catch.”
For the privilege of eating rat meat, guests can pay $100, and sign a liability waiver in case they get sick. The menu is not exactly road kill stew either.
The first course consisted of a goat cheese crostini overlain with a small piece of rat meat and a shot glass of (rat-free) gazpacho. Diners at our end of the table noted that the goat cheese mostly overwhelmed the rat, but we found the flavor and texture reminiscent of lamb.
Next came two circles of rat and pork terrine over a deconstructed salad containing cherries, greens, pickled carrots and Mexican sour gherkins (also known as mouse melons—clever menu planning). Though oily (hardly a criticism, it’s a terrine for god’s sake), it was salty and delicious.
“Rat Two Ways” was the main course. Reminiscent of rabbit, a pile of braised rat was so tender it fell apart as soon as our fork touched it. A roasted half rat—glazed meat stretched over its tiny rib cage—was placed over a sweet corn salad. Throughout the evening, Ms. Ginn continually paced around the table, making conversation generously filling wine glasses, but for this course she hunkered down and performatively sucked the meat off the bones.
After a palate cleanser (much needed for a few reluctant friends of the artist, who came along more for moral support than dinner) of lemon sorbet dressed with an edible flower, we were served a dessert of French toast with the closest thing to bacon the chef and artist could summon from a rodent: a sliver of crispy rat jerky. As the most dramatic plating of the evening, an entire crispy rat head sat on each plate, mouth open and teeth jutting forward, and a back leg sat atop the French toast, toes and claws clearly visible.
The meal was touted as a “post-apocalyptic hunter-gatherer feast.” The gallery’s site notes that “allowance to current social memes” would be made, and in this way, despite the American taboo of the main ingredient which is widely eaten in other parts of the world, it was a completely authentic contemporary New York dining experience—on offer were upscale versions of a “low class” food, spirited with an imagined nostalgia and a hobbyist approach to survival skills. It occurred to us that cooking with rat is a slightly less socially acceptable version of taking up pickling as a hobby, drinking small-batch moonshine and paying $15 for grits at Sunday brunch.
Nowadays, it seems like anything can pass for art, as long as you charge (gullible) people enough money, and host it an art gallery.