Yesterday at Ubud’s newest restaurant – Locavore – Slow Food Bali held one of the spectacular culinary events it’s fast getting a reputation for. ‘From Beak to Tail’ included extensive demonstrations of recipes for free range chicken and Muscovy duck, by Locavore’s chefs Eelka Plasmeijer and Ray Adriansyah. The class was followed by a three-course lunch.
Text and photos by Catriona Mitchell
Now, I’m a vegetarian. Or I was, until yesterday.
An Ayurvedic doctor recently suggested I eat some meat, if only on occasion, to address lingering exhaustion from a particularly nasty bout of typhoid. So while an event called ‘From Beak to Tail’ would hardly be one I’d normally rush to take part in, yesterday morning I found myself at Locavore, being greeted by Slow Food Bali’s Mary Jane Edelson and Cat Wheeler, in order to learn how to de-bone chickens and ducks, and to use every part of the carcass – the neck, the wings, the liver, the legs – to produce delicacies worthy of praise the island over.
I’ll be honest: the initial preparations had me a little woozy. The decapitated beasts with their bumpy, pallid flesh; the crack of still-supple wings as they were plied from the carcass; shiny gizzards; an array of juicy, freshly-rinsed purple livers on a piece of kitchen towel; the whirr of a blender as it turned chicken thighs into a kind of gourmet pink goo…. This newly-hatched carnivore seriously wondered what she’d signed up for. Even if the chefs’ attitude is rooted in respect: their recipes are specifically designed to use the whole animal so as to throw nothing away.
I was pretty much alone with my wobbly knees though. The other participants were agog from the start, and full of informed questions about the de-boning process as if they, too, performed this strange form of surgery all the time.
I have to say: Eelke and Ray are a beguiling pair of chaps. If I had to watch anyone cutting up flesh with sharpened kitchen knives, these two are the ones I’d choose.
And a little way in, I was hooked. It was something to do with the amiable way these two work together, circling each other seamlessly in the kitchen, concentrating hard on the task at hand while answering all manner of questions – from how a sprinkle of pink salt manages to retain the original colour of raw meat, to why it’s necessary to keep some of the ingredients on ice during preparations, to where to source the best sausage casing – in their typically friendly, unaffected manner. They were enjoying themselves, despite having worked until midnight the previous day, and returning to the restaurant early that morning in anticipation of our arrival.
Their informal teaching style made the sophistication of the recipes seem more accessible. “Why do you remove the wings before roasting the chicken?” asked one of the participants. “So that we have something to snack on in the kitchen – otherwise we forget to eat,” said Eelke, with a laugh. “Same with the potatoes roasted in duck fat: they don’t make it out of the kitchen.”
One highlight was watching Ray operate the sausage-maker, which, according to one of the participants, resembled an instrument of torture from the Spanish Inquisition.
Here are some of the recipes we learned, under the expert guidance of Eelke and Ray: chicken liver parfait, made with cream and reduced red wine (a man with a heavy French accent next to me explained that while a pate has chunky bits in it, a parfait is smooth and flawless, which indeed, it was); duck leg confit salad (the duck leg is heavily salted, and cut into tiny pieces – “you salt it, cook it overnight and it keeps forever” said Eelke); chicken galantine, deboned and stuffed; a terrine with chicken livers, cashews and sultanas (my favourite); fresh herbed chicken sausages; fresh duck sausage with sage and dried mango (stupendously good – there was practically a riot at the table over the last morsels); and dry-cured duck, roasted in the oven for a full 24 hours.
“To die for,” declared the Belgian to my right, stroking his belly after the meal. He looked like a bon vivant, like someone who should know. I couldn’t answer: I was too entranced by the quality of the food, and wasn’t ready to talk about it yet for fear of breaking the spell.
All the chicken and duck dishes, which came out one after another once we’d sat down to lunch, were indeed incredible. There’s no question: these guys are at the top of their game. They’d be considered top-class in any gourmet capital anywhere in the world, and we’re lucky to have them here in Ubud.
For me, still considering myself a vegetarian despite obvious evidence to the contrary, the biggest highlights lay in the almost hidden aspects of the menu: the condiments. Sweet and tangy pickled fennel, for example, finely sliced and tender; gourmet salt, put together with very finely chopped rosemary, thyme and other herbs, and a zingy lemon zest; and the dessert – coconut creme infused with lime leaves and served with coriander syrup, coconut and lemongrass foam, served with a mango sorbet. The foam had an impossible, heavenly creaminess, and was so light it almost defied gravity.
‘From Beak to Tail’ was organized by Slow Food’s Cat Wheeler and Mila Shwaiko. Mila explained the inspiration behind this particular event: “Locavore just opened and it’s an incredible vision to have a restaurant that only uses ingredients from Bali and Indonesia. They did such an amazing job with ‘Bringing Home the Bacon’ – we had to reprogram it three times. Their next event will be just for vegetables.”
Just for vegetables? Sign me up! (Just let me get over this meat-induced coma first…)
Locavore’s fruit and vegetables come from their own garden, and the chefs source their chicken from the only reliable supplier of free-range chickens on the island: Super Hygiene (suppliers of free range organic meat and egg products). Call 0361 980 866 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It’s worth mentioning that one of the participants, Christina Colbert, provided alfajoles (a kind of shortbread cookie with a salty-sweet dulce de leche filling) and truffle brownies (made of 70% chocolate, and walnuts), which were served with Seniman’s coffee on our arrival. They were some of the best sweet treats I’ve tasted in my entire life. “Wow. You can actually taste the love, the energy that went into that,” said the woman I shared one of the biscuits with – a comment that I took to be ‘pure Ubud’. The good news is, Christine supplies some places around town: Seniman Coffee Studio, Elephant Restaurant, Villa Nirvana and La Lola. You can contact Christina at email@example.com
Thanks to Slow Food Bali for organizing another stellar event, and for all the good work you do! See http://slowfoodbali.com
Locavore is located on Jalan Dewi Sita, about halfway down, opposite Soma Cafe. It will soon be open for lunch as well as dinner. For bookings, call Ray on 0817815718 or Eelke on 087761535300, or go to Locavore’s Facebook page.
For an earlier blog we published about Locavore, just prior to the launch of the restaurant, read here.