Here we are, one day away from Dec. 21, 2012, and it’s difficult to ignore all of the people out there talking about what’s just around the corner. Tomorrow’s date marks the final hours of life in this world as we know it — at least, according to certain people’s interpretations of a certain version of a certain type of ancient Mayan calendar.
But let’s stop dwelling on contingencies and second-guessing forecasts. If this is indeed The End, how we spend our final moments — the people with whom we interact, the places we go, the things we do and the foods we consume — is phenomenally important.
You don’t need to remind chefs about that last point, though. Many of them have been shaping their customers’ final meals for weeks.
“What do you have to eat before the world ends? What do you have to get your hands on one last time?” asks Chris Jakubiec, the executive chef at the Jefferson Hotel’s Plume restaurant and Quill lounge, who’s preparing an “end of the world” menu in honor of the date. His answer is a multicourse meal at Plume with nods to Mayan (by way of present-day Mexican) culture.
An appetizer of caviar “tacos” — tiny black orbs of salty Osetra and Hackleback roe, cut by cool horseradish-laced whipped creme fraiche, chopped red onion and parsley, within a delicate potato chip-like shell — kicks off the evening. (The tacos are also available for $36 at Quill through the end of December.) “It’s basically all the ingredients you would have with classical caviar service, but presented in a completely different fashion,” Jakubiec says.
Dishes of increasing indulgence continue the waist-expanding evening (no need to worry about that diet anymore, anyway): seared foie gras, lobster thermidor gratin and Kobe-style beef with papaya “ceviche.” Dessert is a spicy chocolate lava cake.
“The whole point is really high-caliber, extravagant ingredients,” Jakubiec says.
Poste Moderne Brasserie’s “final feast” is equally decadent. With eight courses — including an amuse-bouche of foie gras, an “intermezzo” of pickled champagne grapes, and a plate of stinky, whipped Epoisses cheese playfully prepared to resemble an ice cream cone — chef Dennis Marron’s lineup would leave a strong impression (if diners weren’t all doomed soon after digesting).
At Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, chef Omar Rodriguez is approaching the date with more reverence for Mayan tradition than for all-out gluttony. That’s not to say the special dishes (priced a la carte; and also available for New Year’s Eve, if it should happen) won’t be rich.
Seared foie gras stars in the “al pastor” taco ($6.50), served with pineapple and guajillo chile sauce. It’s also in one of a handful of special entrees: “bistec a la parilla,” or grilled rib-eye steak, served with chipotle foie gras compound butter and huitlacoche (corn fungus) mole ($50).
One dish that’s especially true to Mayan cuisine is “chuleta de jabali” ($40), a wild boar chop with peanut mole and a sweet potato-pozole hash, according to general manager Michael Iglesias. “Peanut mole is very Mayan,” Iglesias says. “Wild game in general was something you would have eaten for a celebration or a ceremony.”
Special-occasion dishes seem only appropriate with Armageddon so imminent. But don’t discount the value of comfort food. Marron realized that when he researched real people’s ultimate eats and looked into one of the most sobering sources around: death-row meals.
“One guy had a slice of cake as his last meal. One guy had two pieces of pizza and a Coke,” Marron says. “One guy had a cup of coffee — that was it.”
For his part, Marron probably won’t be eating his dream final-farewell meal (which would include whole roasted pig and a variety of desserts) this weekend — even as he serves diners what could potentially be their closing courses.
“I think this menu is a nice celebration of, ‘This is not going to be our last meal,’ ” Marron says. “This is not the end of the world, we hope.”Plume and Quill at the Jefferson Hotel, 1200 16th St. NW; $85 for the prix fixe meal, Fri. & Sat.; 202-448-2300. (Farragut North) Poste Moderne Brasserie, 555 8th St. NW; $180; Fri. 8:45 p.m.; 202-783-6060. (Gallery Place) Oyamel Cucina Mexicana, 401 7th St. NW; Fri., 5 p.m. through midnight; 202-628-1005. (Gallery Place)