Let’s step back in time, to Halloween. And from there even further back…to 19th century France.
To put us in the mood for a spooky evening we hit the books and were inspired by a very particular time in history – just after the bloody period known as The Terror after the French Revolution. As the blood on the streets was still drying myths began to emerge about raucous parties known as the ‘Bals des Victims’.
These balls were open only to those who had lost a close relative to the blade of Madame Guillotine, and were both a celebration of survival and a big f-you to the commoners who had tried to wipe their families out. Fashion at the time was intended to show just how close you had come to being a victim yourself: men and women would shave the backs of their necks and wear their hair high, just like the prisoners did to stop any resistance to the blade. Men wore high stiff collars to keep their heads on, and women wore red ribbons around their necks as if to show where the blade had nicked them. It was even said that ball guests would greet each other with salut a la victim – a sudden jerk of the head, imitating the drop of the head at the point of execution!
The historical accuracy of these accounts is very questionable, but they are a fascinating depiction of the mood at the time.
This period also heralded the rise of the restaurant, and by necessity, the first restaurant critic – Alexandre Balthasar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière. He was also famous for hosting macabre and bizarre dinner parties where the food was served on coffins, with live pigs roaming about the table. While we drew the line at live animals, we were intrigued by one his other dinners – the Funerary Feast, where all the food was black. And voilà the Banquet des Victims was born.
To get our guests in the mood we sent out hard copy invitations with a length of red ribbon included.
You are invited to attend Le Banquet des Victims
Dress: all black, with the attached ribbon tied around your neck or otherwise upon your person
We decorated our table with a length of black velvet, tea light candles, a pack of playing cards and two cat skeletons which we found at a $2 store and spray painted black.
We also scattered about tiny skulls and vampire fangs.
A cocktail inspired by the Marie Antoinette who was not-so-lovingly-known in her final years as The Austrian Bitch.
Sweet sloe gin topped with a frothy powdered wig of elderberry foam.
Squid ink pasta
Inky black pasta covered in creamy wild mushroom ragu with burnt sage butter.
Wild black rice cooked with herbs, vegetable stock and finely chopped mushrooms, stuffed into a carved out whole pumpkin. Once baked, you cut out slices of pumpkin like a cake – and serve with charred brussels sprouts and a dark chocolate red wine sauce.
The pièce de résistance!
Dark chocolate spheres filled with chocolate mousse, a liquid rhubarb and raspberry centre, and a sliver of genoise sponge. Served with blackberry puree, shards of blackened toffee and translucent balls of liquid orange blossom.