There are rare times when words escape the writer: not because of block, mind you, but because words don't seem like quite enough. Such is the predicament in trying to describe the spectacle that was Saturday night at the SFMOMA, where a Futurism banquet organized by OPEN restaurant (part of the ongoing MOMA Futurist exhibit which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Futurism) went down.
The banquet was loosely based of F.T. Marinetti's "cookbook," published in 1932, that's filled with radical ideas about food and theoretical recipes. The challenge for the OPEN restautant team (Jerome Waag, Sam White and Stacie Pierce, all veterans of Chez Panisse) was to reinterpret Marinetti's text, turning it into performance art while simultaneously serving a good meal. No mean feat. Flying in the face of the Futurist's obsession with speed, the main event of the night, a 600-pound spit-roasted cow, was delivered not, as the Futurists might have liked, by airplane, but rather biked through the city (from Hunter's Point, where it was cooked), arriving to great fanfare in the museum atrium. How to describe the sight of a giant roasted animal being unwrapped before an enthralled crowd? Otherworldly. Then, a crew of all-female butchers descended on the beast, carving the massive animal into manageable pieces, which were sent by conveyor belt to the kitchen. Later the meat reapperared in various guises: as beef "ice cream cones," and sliced atop Tartine bread, garnished with "crude oil mole" and "methane bean foam." To accompany all of this? Champagne scented with rose water, with a gellied cube of beef stock at the bottom of the glass; a boozy drink called the one-two punch that read like a liquor cabinet laundry list; and a dish called "my bleeding heart" which turned out to be gellied beet juice with goat cheese, set in a realistic heart-shaped mold.
For the finale, a culinary propanganda drop of panforte parachutes rained down on the crowd (which, early on, included a tired-looking Alice Waters), who mingled around the carcass of the steer and turned their eyes, expectantly, to the heavens to watch the honey-sweetened confection rain down. I can only say that my description doesn't really do it justice. For some fun video footage, head here and check out Tablehopper's coverage.