Gallery Presents $100 Rat Feast in New York City
In the basement of a Lower East Side building, a group gathered to dine on what plenty consider to be the most vile animal on the planet; rat. But this group didn’t consist of fictional movie villains or contestants on a reality TV show; it was the culmination of Laura Ginn’s exhibition on post-apocalyptic survival.
On July 25, the Allegra LaViola Gallery on East Broadway hosted Ginn’s exhibit, "Tomorrow We Will Dine on What We Catch," that focused on a five-course dinner with rat as the main ingredient. Guests enjoyed their $100 meals as the kick-off to Ginn’s exhibition. Her endeavor was chronicled in The New York Time's Art Section (Click here to view their slideshow).
"With photography and video I document my continued attempts at this ad-hoc crash course in self-reliance," Ginn writes on her website. "As the investigation unfolds it continually builds on itself until a comprehensive system for survival has been achieved."
Ginn, who received her MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art, not only organized the preparation of the meal but the dining space as well. To coincide with the hunter-gatherer theme, Ginn designed the room with wood accents and simple stools for diners to sit on. The dining table was composed of salvaged materials and constructed by the artist. Videos displayed on a screen behind the table and photographs of Ginn’s post-apocalyptic existence decorated the walls as she as played hostess for the meal dressed in a rat pelt dress.
"I tried rat for the first time two days before the dinner after we butchered, skinned, and gutted the rat," said Allegra LaViola who owns the gallery. "Once I butchered the rat I felt more at ease with the whole thing."
Chef Yuri Hart prepared 75 rats for the 20 diners in a variety of ways including a dessert classic with a twist. The feast began with goat cheese bruschetta topped with rat leg tenderloin, rat-pork terrine encircled with beef fat, and crostino with rat tenderloin. Guests were then served a rat-free pallet cleanser of sorbet with raspberry before diving back into the meal. The entrée was rat two ways, braised and grilled; and the meal finished with French toast topped with rat jerky.
When asked how she originally felt about dining on New York City’s most infamous rodent, LaViola said she was "fairly filled with trepidation."
She continued to say, "It seemed kind of horrifying but I’ve learned to go with the flow with a lot of artists’ projects."
Ginn attempted to put her potential guests at ease before the evening by explaining on the event’s website that the rats came from a "clean and safe facility" and had been taste tested in advance. Many guests were surprised how much they enjoyed the meal.
"The grilled rat was my favorite one weirdly enough," said LaViola. "Apparently it’s quite common to eat rat in other places."
Sean Flynn is a Junior Writer for The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @BuffaloFlynn