It was a dark and stormy night, and my mood was even darker. I’d trekked to a bleak industrial section of Ridgewood to join some friends for dinner and gotten lost twice on the way. It would have been OK if the food was worth the hassle, but it wasn’t. Then a gift from the gods fell into my lap. “Do you want me to see if I can get you into the Baron’s small game dinner on Saturday?” Chris Crowley, Serious Eats New York’s Bronx guru, asked. The Baron in question is none other than Baron Ambrosia, the over-the-top “quaffer of culinary consciousness” and star of Cooking Channel’s The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia. Naturally I said yes as I am a big fan of the Baron and was eager to see what his small game dinner was about. After all the only small game I’ve tried are quail, rabbit, and guinea pig.
The next day I received a flowery e-mail inviting me to The Third Annual Bronx Pipe Smoking Society Small Game Dinner. Among the items listed on this year’s catch were raccoons, beavers, skunks, gray foxes, red foxes, possums, bob cats, and coyote. And there was a dress code: “Black tie is the minimum.Tuxedos, colors, beads, medals, traditional garbs, kilts, turbans, wearable weapons, ball gowns, peg legs, and military dress are all encouraged.”
One of the first things I noticed outside the stately Andrew Freedman home was a small smoker and a large gent clad in furs. He looked and spoke like a cross between a backwoods barbarian and Hulk Hogan. This turned out to be Rebel Chef Terry French, champion of Food Network’s Extreme Chef. As one fellow attendee noted later in the evening, “I feel overdressed and undercostumed.”