24 hours spent frolicking in flesh.
Are you the kind of person who wakes up to a piping hot mug of rendered bacon fat in the morning instead of coffee? If so, then you were probably at Burning Beast — a hedonistic feast of all things mighty, muscled and meaty.
Between fondling Ethan Stowell’s goat scrotum and helping the Taylor Shellfish crew roast oysters (run, don’t walk, to their new store in the Melrose Market), I had a chance to cram roughly 11 pounds of pure, glorious, fatty meat into my mouth all in the span of a few hours.
Burning Beast is the brainchild of Tamara Murphy of Brasa notoriety. Every year, she convinces dozens of chefs to set up shop for the day on a 360-acre farm outside Arlington, Wash. Each chef is assigned a whole animal — and they must devise clever means of cooking their beast. This year, I saw all manner of homespun culinary contraptions, from cold smokers fueled by a fire tunnel to cast iron spits straight out of the Middle Ages.
Due to outcry from misguided vegetarians, an entire section of vegetables was added to Burning Beast, complete with a five-foot hopper for roasting corn on the cob. Lest all those vegetables threaten to derail you of your Paleo diet ways, don’t worry, there is a cube of butter the size of a refrigerator upon which to belly-flop your corn.
Every year the Beast crowns a victor — that is, the person who manages to make the maximum number of festival attendees swoon in swine-like pleasure. This year, the title went to chef Holly Smith of Café Juanita who teamed up with chef Maria Hines of Tilth and Golden Beetle. These two mistresses proved that they can hold their own outside their highly-regarded kitchens, as they adopted the very macho approach of spit-roasting a 130-pound goat.
Smith served the tender, flaky shards of goat meat with polenta that was creamier than — well, make your own analogy. In fact, I believe they must have harvested some sort of nubile, virgin cow cream that they used for the polenta, because by comparison, eating regular polenta is like gnawing on moldy corn cobs.
It’s hard not to compare Burning Beast to Burning Man, that other famous festival in a field (well… desert). There is even a giant wooden sculpture that gets incinerated once the last vestiges of sun rays dart behind the Olympics for the night. This year, the sculpture in question was a moose and everything went according to blazing, brilliant plan until the moose’s manhood refused to succumb to the fire. I can’t imagine what his nether regions were dipped in to make them so flame-retardant, but every man in the place looked on with a mix of undisguised reverence and envy.
I am telling you this now because tickets for Burning Beast sell out in about 10 seconds flat. It’s a party you don’t want to miss, so bookmark the website for 2012 festivities. For the complete experience, be sure to bring camping equipment to stay the night, a sturdy pair of Hunter Wellies, and a very ravenous appetite.