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johnnyd

Deer Deathmatch 2007

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johnnyd   

Here in the northeastern USA, autumn is deer hunting time, so when a group of talented restaurant professionals gathered here in Portland Maine on Sunday, October 14th 2007 for a cook-off - or "Deathmatch" - deer was the obvious choice.

The players that night are hard-working local chef/owners of some of the exciting, new restaurants that are opening up at a brisk pace here in Portland: Bresca, One Fifty Ate, Bandol (now Evangeline) were the principle architects of the "Deathmatch" series, along with friends from other BOH venues, chefs de cuisine, sous chefs, and other specialists that work tirelessly to bring some of the most exciting plates in the country to the tables of Portland

The location was top secret. The course allotment (nine in all) was determined a couple of weeks ago. Two deer from Applegate Deer Farm in Shapleigh, Maine were slaughtered, bled and dressed the thursday before. All that was left before the Deathmatch was a very busy weekend shift for the contestants. The anticipation for this night was running at high voltage in Portland's restaurant community.

This is Chef Tomás (from Alsace-Lorraine) in the One Fifty Ate BOH an hour before the gathering:

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I received a private invitation through one of the participants and I was extremely honored to attend. There was about sixty people. Unfortunately, I lacked the stamina to carry through to the very end when some of the pieces de resistance were served but I managed to photograph some courses (I am tracking down other photographers who were there to hopefully fill in the gaps).

The Menu (I'll copy these to course photos to follow), showed skill and imagination:

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Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

These concord grapes were harvested from a beach-side arbor owned by a friend of mine. They were cleaned, de-lumbered and simmered down to a glaze for the ribs.

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A lot of the guests came dressed in camouflage and bright orange hunter's bibs and hats.

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To add to the fun, the host rented a "Big Buck Hunter" video game.

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Grilling deermeat & foiegras burgers for 4th course outside...

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The fact that restaurant workers here have such comaradie and would go to such lengths to spend their off-shift time cooking show undeniable commitment to the craft.

It was a magical night.


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

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Joe prepares to plate 3rd Course, "All F*ckin' Day Simmered Bolognese"

(note: The names of the contestants are limited to first names only)

1st Course

Carpaccio - Steve

Matsutake Mushrooms - Aged Balsamic Vinegar

A great opener - smooth as silk and the matsi came through unscathed. I got the last one.

Sausages - Erik

Cortland Apples - Star Anise

All gone before I arrived, a good sign

2nd Course

Frito Pie - A Southern Trailer Park Classic - Stephanie

Chipotle - Golden Crisps of Corn - Lime Crema

Croquettes - Courtney

Braised Cabbage - Caraway - Country Mustard

3rd Course

All F*ckin' Day Simmered Bolognese - Joe

San Marzano Tomatoes - Reggiano Parmesan - Tagliatelle Pasta

I liked this. Joe thought it was too dry - deermeat is too lean for this model so we agreed a slab of pork belly should go in next time.

Borscht a.k.a. The East End "Beet" Down

Beets - Celaraic - Carrots

Most outrageous Borscht I'd ever had

4th Course

Terrine of Head & Shanks - Erik & Krista

Dates - Tuscan 'Rish Kale - Brown Bread

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DDM Burger - Jon

Foie Gras - Truffle Essence - Tomato Confit - Caramelized Shallots - Horseradish Mayo

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Outstanding burgers! The Foie was a first for me and melded with the deermeat really well. The industrial grinder was impressive too.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

5th Course

As American As Apple Pie - Colin & Bronwen

Aged Chedder - Caramelized Onions - Sweet 16 Apples

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This was unbelievably good. The meat appeared to be stewed and broken down as if pulled. The flavor combination was top notch. I had a lot of this.

Note the wine collection rear-right. The host is in the business so there was some excellent pairings going on. Fortunately there was a bottle of Fernat Branca without which, I would not have made it as far as I did.

Smoked Ribs - Josh

Juniper Dry Rub - Elderberry Syrup

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The grape glaze was used here instead of elderberry, I think. Lots of black pepper made this a really great flavor profile.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

6th Course

Braised Skirt Risotto Cakes - Kate

Cider Reduction - Pomegranate Bacon Relish

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This went fast. I never tried it as I was still in a Burger-Foie coma.

Hunter's Stew - Nolan

Duck Confit - Pork Jowl - Root Vegetables - Juniper Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Outstanding stew - even if I thought the root veg was a little too al dente for me. The pot of this is in another pic up-topic.

7th Course

Jagermeister Marinated Livers - Piepers

Slow Poached Monkfish Liver Saucisson - Shallot Plum Black Truffle Sauce - Leg Meat Stuffed Summer Squash

Prior to plating:

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Another item that disappeared before a sample - bummer.

Deer Heart Reuben - Josh

House 1000 Island Dressing - Sauerkraut - Gruyere - Pumpernickel

Never saw this - I might have been outside with the increasingly bouyant crowd. By now I am getting pretty full and pretty tipsy, but the best is yet to come.


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

8th Course

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Saddle - Erik

Grilled French Rack - Bacon Wrapped Loin - Fresh Herbs - Paul's "Robuchon Style Potatoes

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This was truly amazing. I wish you all could reach into the screen and take a piece...

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Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

The Preparation for the feast was attended by the chefs...

Joe and a bunch of us planned the Venison party about a month ago.. We had a connection with a certain restaurant in town to procure 2 farm raised does. Three days before we were to host 60+ people with a feast of venison, we were supposed to pick them up. We arrived, cash in hand, and were told, “Yeah, sorry. No deer.” A minimal explanation was given, but what did they care?

Immediately, the three of us went out to see J at 158 to have a “What the fuck are we going to do” pow-wow. J, J, C and I were on our cell phones to ANYONE who may know 2 deer personally, and C made the connection. A deer farm in Shapleigh.

We arrived after a few navigational problems, and Edgar proceeded to show us his Bio-Diesel rig he uses to transform cooking oil to fuel, for his autos, tractors, and heating. We walked past the pen of deer, who stared at us with apprehension, and soon went about their routine. Edgar brought us into a 30′X30′ barn, quadroned off with various sliding doors, pens and a scale with a drop-floor. 2 of his prized East German Red deer were in separate pens, calmly gazing at us, and greeting us…timidly, but still interested. We weighed them, with C at the helm………they are a hell of a lot bigger than white tails….one at 240, one at 280-ish.

Eva went down with a stun, and Josh cut her throat. Edgar dragged her out to the other barn with a tractor, and i opened my little Opinel blade to skin her. Josh and i worked her coat off with ease. In order to avoid any expulsion of waste, we cut around the bung, and tied it wth twine. The innards came out in one large lump, into two 5 gallon buckets. Thank god for twine….

In to the back of the iced up Chevy pick-up, with the kidneys, heart and liver in a bag. Hose off the tarp, and on to Ilsa.

There was a slight drizzle, and the chill in the air reminded me of mid-November. “Erik, are you ready?” The cue from Edgar rejuvinated me. Josh handed me his Buck knife. “It’s from my Grandfather….make sure you cut deep, dude….”

With that being said, I took the knife in my right hand, the leather sheath in the left…….Joe took the wooden plywood shield to block any kicking….(these does loved to kick….) After Ilsa was stunned, I went in with the blade…..one deep stab along with a slice across the neck, and her eyes glazed over, with seconds of life still in her. As the newly opened jugular allowed the blood to flow, her flailing slowed, and soon, nothing but nerves caused movement. Edgar hooked her up to the tractor, and dragged her out to the other barn to be regarded and cleaned. This time, I was in charge of the gutting.

With a puff of steam from her jugular vein, life left Ilsa…..her snout in my left hand, and Josh’s grandfather’s Buck Knife in my right. Gazing down into her huge black eyes, I knew when life left her, in a 3 foot circle of deep amber blood puddling around my boots, the steam and metallic odor engulfing my olfactory. I wiped the Buck Knife on my pants, took a look at her on the floor of the barn, and really needed a cigarette. I gave Josh his heirloom knife, and we nodded at each other silently as the warm slurry of Ilsa ran around our boots and filled the air with the pungent odor of….well, not of death….but the circle of life, and the fact that there is an actual food chain.

Taking an animal’s life digs deep into your ego….a sense of empowerment mixed with a flurry of emotions not known to anyone who hasn’t done it.

Published here with permission from eG member Erikd


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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viva   

Wow! That's all I have to say. Wow!


...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Awesome, just awesome. Thanks for taking the time to post that. I would kill to have been there. Not so much for the killing and dressing, that's hard work and not for everyone. I mean for the eating. Venison is fantastic if prepared right, and that crew obviously knows how to to it.

Man, and to think last year I ground up an entire deer (except for the loins, of course) when I could have been doing so much more. Where is that post about food shame??


Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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Siren   

simply brilliant and envy worthy... First foie gras and now venison... God help the next animal on the Death List.


Deadheads are kinda like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but people who like licorice, *really* like licorice!

-Jerry Garcia

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johnnyd   

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More pictures of Deer Deathmatch 2007 have surfaced so here are a selection of courses I missed, plus some other choice photographs. Many thanks to Katie Selva who provided them for the next four posts

As mentioned, preparation for this event was extensive - right down to the beercan color co-ordination.

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The winelist:

2004 Cristom Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Marjorie Vineyard (1.5L)

1993 Castello Di Farnatella Vino da Tavola di Toscana "Poggio Granoni" (1.5L)

1997 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee (1.5L)

2000 Nicolis Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso "Seccal" (3L)

2002 Arbios Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (3L)

2004 Tramonti Chianti Classico (3L)

2003 Valderiz Ribero del Duero (1.5L)

1999 Scaglioa Barbera d'Asti Superiore "Sansi" (1.5L)

1986 Chateau La Lagune Haut Medoc (750ml)

Beers

Assorted Trappist

Full Line of Allagash (Donated by Brewery)

Miller High Life "Orange Hunter Cans"

Cider

Doc's Draft Apple and Pear (New York)

Booze

Fernet Branca

Aarlborg Aquavit

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Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

1st Course - pregarnish

Venison Carpaccio w/Matsutake

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Sausage prep earlier that afternoon:

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The proud sausage maker, ErikD

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Served with Cortland apples and Start Anise:

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Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

3rd Course

All F*ckin' Day Simmered Bolognese - Joe

San Marzano Tomatoes - Reggiano Parmesan - Tagliatelle Pasta

gallery_16643_5279_17186.jpg

Borscht (The East End "Beet" Down) sampling in progress:

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As one can see, the deer-hunting theme was ubiquitous, but even better was the owners of Applegate Deer Farm in West Newfield, Maine, Bob and Pat Dolbec, the providers of the evenings' theme, who were invited to attend and decided to take a crack at "Big Buck Hunter" themselves.

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As you can imagine, they were pretty high-scorers. Note the antler rack on the mantle behind them.


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

4th course - Erik & Krista

Terrine of Head and Shanks - the bricks come off

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Deer Deathmatch Burgers - Jon

w/ Foie Gras - Truffle Essence - Tomato Confit - Caramelized Shallots - Horseradish Mayo

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The makers of the unbelievable delicious deermeat pies, Colin & Bronwen Wyatt:

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It was served with a gallery of cheeses

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Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

By the 6th course things are in full swing.

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Braised Skirt Risotto Cakes - Kate

Cider Reduction - Pomegranate Bacon Relish

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Finally,

9th Course

Medieval Mincemeat Pie - Krista

w/Citrus Cream

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I left before this was served but I'm pretty sure that's what we've got here. I'm sure the crew will chime in if I'm in error.

Speaking of "the crew", I would like to thank Joe Ricchio, Jon Dietz, Erik DesJarlais, Krista Kern, Josh Potocki, and Courtney Lorig, the core members of the Deathmatch series, hard-working chefs-about-town and the original members of the Applegate Slaughter Patrol. A very special thank you to Katie Selva, who provided a wealth of wonderful pictures (last 4 posts) to contribute to this topic on the eGullet New England forum.

Cheers, and we'll see you this winter. If the rumor is true, I think we're looking at a Seafood Deathmatch next time...


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Johnny - thanks for the wonderful report and the fabulous pics. That post about salughtering the deer left me filled with mixed emotions. It was wonderfully written. Hubby's drooling over the grilled ribs. Again, maraming salamat!


Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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johnnyd   

Chef Erik DesJarlais and Ilsa

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The intensity of the moment was real. It was totally present tense, and she and I were the only things on the face of the earth. Naturally, when she almost kicked me where it counts, I snapped out of it. Back to reality. The question at hand, is do I need to kill an animal to achieve enlightenment? Probably not. Did I gain a new understanding of life and death? Yes. Death is a simple transition. In Ilsa’s case, she will probably come back as a cook, and I, the animal she will kill. Whatever will be will be. I would rather be a male rabbit, but that is a different story…….

- Erik DesJarlais


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

More Deer Deathmatch photography has come to my attention

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Chefs Josh Potocki and Erik DesJarlais skinning a 260lb deer

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Chefs Courtney Loreg and Erik DesJarlais discuss strategy during breakdown

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Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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johnnyd   

Some photos of courses I missed that night plus a couple extras of ones I didn't

7th course

Jagermeister Marinated Livers - Piepers

Slow Poached Monkfish Liver Saucisson - Shallot Plum Black Truffle Sauce - Leg Meat Stuffed Summer Squash

gallery_16643_5279_125.jpg

Deer Heart Reuben - Josh

House Thousand Island Sauce - Saurkraut - Gruyere - Pumpernickle

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8th course

Saddle - Erik

Grilled French Rack - Bacon Wrapped Loin - Fresh Herbs

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Above: right off the grill. Below: Josh serves up some delicious loin

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I am still marveling at all the outstanding work that night.


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Boo   

Great post and pics! I've just been wondering what to do with all the venison from spouse's first buck o' the season and now I have inspiration.

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LindaK   

wow, I'm really glad I read this--even if I'm not much of a meat eater. great culinary skills on display, as well as food philosophy. and that wine list--wow!

this is the first time I've ever begun and finished a post with "wow."



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Thanks for this story, Johnnyd. That's my kinda dinner party.

I have been trading with local hunters - my own farm-raised poultry and pork for venison. The dishes you've shown here are inspiring me to say the least.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Autumnal heaven. Beautiful food, even more beautiful people and fantastic smiles. I'm absolutely emerald with envy.


Shelley: Would you like some pie?

Gordon: MASSIVE, MASSIVE QUANTITIES AND A GLASS OF WATER, SWEETHEART. MY SOCKS ARE ON FIRE.

Twin Peaks

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johnnyd   

The Deer Deathmatch has been immortalized in a stunning, hard-bound book:

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Photographer Katie Selva's brother is an accomplished graphic designer for a high-end publishing firm, and created this single copy over the Christmas holidays.

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Recipes were included. Fonts from the event's menu were maintained in the book. The pages are of amazing quality, reminded me of silk.

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Naturally, we all want one but even a run of a hundred is very expensive. We are, however, exploring some options.

Another accolade for this legendary feast. :cool:


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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