It’s a bit of a mission, getting there and back. Forty minutes by train from Paddington, then queuing for fifteen minutes to get a five minute taxi ride, then doing the reverse at the end of the meal, to get back into London and then spend an hour and half on night busses to get home. For those keeping score, that’s about three hours forty minutes of travelling, total.
That’s OK. It took us a bit over five hours to eat the meal (which is, in many respects, the best way to think about the prices, but more about that later), and there were no pauses of longer than a couple of minutes between courses.
But, having told you that it took five hours to eat, you should be duly warned that this is going to be a very, very long entry. Strap in. And no slacking. There will be questions at the end.
The Fat Duck is Heston Blumethal’s Restaurant, and one of only two restaurants with three michelin stars in the UK, which is why we were all willing to make the trek.
The restaurant itself is small, and unprepossessing. You could walk right past it, and think you’d just walked past a small village cottage. Inside, it’s much like any other slightly-posh restaurant – while linen, calm pastel shades for highlights. Which, I think, is good. The surroundings don’t matter, and I don’t think it would have been good to be distracted from the food by much imposed ambience beyond basic elegance.
Before I get on to talking about the food, I think a word about the service is merited, because it was excellent. I’ve eaten in some reasonably upscale restaurants before, so I had some idea what I thought good service was: there whenever you want them, invisible when you don’t.
This was better. They were helpful, took plenty of time to explain what it was we were eating with each course, and the best way to do so, and were in no measure stuffy or removed – they took time to be part of the whole experience of eating there, rather than simply being the mechanism by which food was conveyed to our table. It was interesting to watch them serving the other parties, too. While they retained some of the same character throughout, it definitely changed a little to suit each party – they took more time to laugh and joke with us, a party of six friends than they did with the intimate couple in the corner, for whom the night should obviously have been about each others’ company…
Particular credit, I think, goes to the sommelier – a woman in a male dominated profession, who has not only selected some absolutely blinding wines to accompany the food, but who was also extremely helpful to those of our party who didn’t want to go the full whack extra for the wines, picking out a couple of excellent glasses of wine for them that would support larger sections of the meal almost as well as the specific wines on the tasting list, but would also fit nicely with their individual tastes.
So, what was the food like?
Well, let’s start with the amuse-bouches, which served with a Manzanilla En Rama Sherry from Barbadillo, which was a lovely, refreshing dry sherry. Those sherry snobs (do I know any of those?) paying attention will note that the name means it was a) unfiltered, and b) aged a bit longer than normal, in this case for six years in an oak barrel. I have to admit, I’d love to know what the whisky that might then come from such a barrel would be like, but I’m leaving the topic here.
First on the list: Nitro-green tea and lime mouse.
They really do kick off in a manner that sets you up for the rest of the meal. That makes it clear that this is going to be unlike any other dining experience you’ve ever had. See, to begin with, once you’re all seated, orders taken, and generally settled in, a couple of waiters wheel a small trolley over to beside your table, in perhaps the manner you’d expect if you were getting something flambéed. On the trolley are two flasks, a large basin, and a long-handled spoon. One of the flasks has a nozzle on top; the other is a jug like thing that is steaming slightly.
The waiter squirts a dollop of foam onto the spoon from the nozzle, which turns out to be a foam of lime, green tea, and vodka. And then he pours the liquid in the jug into the bowl. Vapour cascades over the sides, like dry ice vapour, except that this turns out to be liquid nitrogen. He then dips the spoon into the vapours, rolling and turning it to get an even chilling all around the foam, and it is served to one of the party, with instructions to pop it in their mouth whole, now, before they move on to making another for the next person at the table.
If it’s not you popping it into your mouth, you will laugh as the person does so, and small jets of vapour escape their mouth and nose. If it is you, there is a brief sensation of having your tongue stuck to a particularly cold and tasty lamppost, before the ice-shell cracks and melts, and your mouth if flooded with an ice-cold, cleansing, refreshing liquid, zesty and relaxing all at once. It’s possibly to pick out all the individual flavours, but together, as turns out to be the case with so many of the night’s dishes, they come together into something much greater than the sum of their parts.
For those keeping score at home, it should tell you something that I’ve written seven hundred and fifty-odd words, and so far I’ve only got as far as the very first amuse-bouche.
The next amuse-bouche turns out to be two small squares of jelly, one orange and one beetroot, and much like cairmen I can’t quite believe I’m writing this of a restaurant meal but: warning! Spoilers ahead!
We were advised to eat the orange one first.
Because I’d done a bit of reading beforehand, I knew the joke ahead of time, so that advice fucked with my head, rather.
You see, the orange coloured jelly was beetroot flavoured, and the beetroot coloured jelly was orange flavoured. Well, kind of. I’ve never actually eaten a meal in a restaurant that got me thinking about emic and etic reality before. Emic reality is, essentially, what we experience every day. It is the world as filtered by our senses. It is all we can ever know, because well, everything is always filtered by our physical existence. Etic reality is the (theoretically existing) absolute truth. It is our existence, as it would be seen by an outsider whose senses were not constrained by the fact of being contained in this existence.
Etically speaking, the orange square tasted of beetroot. Etically speaking, the beetroot square tasted of orange. Emically? Not so much. I’m honestly not sure how I’d describe either of them. Each had some of the flavour of their respective ingredients, but both of them were altered, twisted by our colour perception. I knew it would happen – I knew what the trick was, and I know of a similar sort of study that was done with wine – a group of wine tasters were given some white wines to try, and came up with all the usual white wine words: apples, hay, summer meadows, etc. They were then presented with a group of red wines, and came up with all the usual red wine words: berries, hedgerows, juicy autumn flavours. Except that unbeknownst to them, the “red” wines they were tasting were the same whites they’d just had, with flavourless food colouring added to turn them red. Ever since I heard that, I’ve paid a bit of attention to the words people choose to describe flavours – the whisky society’s tasting notes, for example, tend to talk about honey and butterscotch and vanilla quite a lot, for example. But still, even knowing it would happen, I was completely unprepared for the strangeness of the experience.
Amuse-bouche number three was an oyster. Well, OK, it was an oyster with passion fruit jelly and horseradish cream served on a lavender pommery. So, not just an oyster. In fact, it occurred to me that it was also a pun. It was seafood, or, in French, Fruits de Mer. And, of course, the way everyone describes oysters is to say that they taste of the sea. And indeed, this one did. It tasted of the sea, and of (passion) fruit, with just a slightly sharp kick at the end. And it was lovely.
Those of you who know of my hatred of fish and seafood may be staring at that last sentence in disbelief. All I can say is that while I don’t think he’s changed my position on seafood as normal food, I was quite happy to suspend all my eating prejudices for the evening. I mean, the man cooks Mad Scientist Food, and gets three Michelin stars for it. I’d have been mad not to try everything, and it is clear to me exactly why he has his three stars.
Just two more amuse-bouches to go. I hope you’re still reading. If you’d like to take a break, maybe stretch your legs and get a drink, please, feel free. I know I’m going to.
Our next amuse bouche was the most striking looking yet. Grain mustard ice cream with a red cabbage gazpacho. As it was served to us, it was a tiny, teaspoon-sized scoop of yellow-brown ice cream, flecked with mustard grains, in the middle of a pristine white bowl. Then they poured the gazpacho around the ice cream. The gazpacho was a beautiful, bright purple, and I could have stared at the damn thing for hours. But of course, I didn’t, because it was not for looking, it was for eating.
Again, another dish where the constituent parts – no, wait. I’ve just noticed something. I have made no comment on the mild absurdity of the very idea of mustard ice cream.
This may give you some idea as to how well the amuse-bouches were doing on adjusting us to whole style of the meal – by this point, nothing seemed too outlandish or strange. This is, I am sure, one of the reasons the place has three stars – it’s not just that the food’s good, it’s that it’s well structured, too. Ideas are introduced well, and the absurdity threshold is pushed only at intervals, so that we were able to focus on how these things tasted, rather than focusing on how outlandish the food we were eating was. It would have been very easy to be sitting there going: “Frozen mustard and cold cabbage soup? Is the man on crack? Is this some retro Russian madness from communist Siberia?” But we weren’t. We were getting on with enjoying some mind-blowing food.
But to return to the food at hand: as I was saying, this was another dish where the parts tasted completely differently to the sum. Tried alone, the mustard ice cream was interesting, but lacked the level of bite I might have expected, and the gazpacho was, again, interesting, but extremely salty-tasting. Not in a bad way, you understand, but when taken together with the ice cream, the salt vanished almost entirely by some alchemy I don’t understand, and the bite of the ice cream was similarly enhanced.
And the last of the amuse-bouches: jelly of quail on a pea purée, topped with langoustine cream and a parfait of foie gras, served in a an angled cup like thing that made it seem like a strangely private eating experience – there was no way to see what anyone else was eating. On first looking at it, I was struck by how much the langoustine cream looked like egg white in the egg-shaped cup, something that was reinforced as I was handed a slice of toasted bread to dip into it and eat it with. The thing that struck me most about this dish was just how astonishingly meaty it tasted. I expect a meat-taste explosion from something rich like foie gras, but astonishingly, it was the quail jelly with langoustine cream that packed the most punch, kept nicely checked by the pea puree, which stopped the meat-tastic dish from becoming overpowering.
Score so far: Almost two thousand words, and I’ve just finished the amuse-bouches. Bloody hell. I need both tea and wine. It’s the only answer.
Now, though, we come to, the first of those really freaky dishes that everyone’s heard about: snail porridge, with Joselito ham and shaved fennel, served with at 2002 Savennieres from the Loire Valley. I’m not a big drinker of white wines, although I think I may have to put a bit more time in after this meal, because it was bloody lovely, and the first of several occasions during the meal where I was wowed by how well the selected wine went with the dish.
They deliberately don’t refer to them as escargots. There’re fucking snails in this dish, and they’re going to damn well call a spade a fucking shovel, here. So, what’s it like? Well, it’s quite nice. Lovely bright green porridge-y based, topped with a sliced snail, a wafer thin bit of ham, and the fennel. It smelled faintly of old books to me, which is nice, because it’s one of my favourite smells. I have to admit, though that I had not hitherto thought to connect it with eating – mind you, I don’t generally connect snails and eating…
I can’t say I detected a uniquely snail taste in there, even in the slices of snail it was topped with – mostly, I was tasting ham and fennel, and what I think was pea. But the texture was definitely interesting, like rubbery oatmeal. So, yeah, it was nice (and again, I don’t much care for escargots as normally served), and lets face it, you, whatever you thought of the idea, you’d eat that one because you’d want to be able to tell people you’d eaten snail porridge and that it was quite nice, as I’m sure the restaurant is quite aware, and again, I found myself unexpectedly thinking about wider topics that the simple ingredients, presentation and taste, dwelling instead on the social context of food while I was eating this one.
As if to balance the freak-out value of the last one, we turn to roast foie gras with almond fluid gel, cherry and amaretto, served with a 2002 Tokai Furmint, a Kiralyudvar from Hungary. (In case anyone’s wondering, I’m being pretentious and giving the full wine info because I want a convenient place to refer back at some point.) I have to say that this wine, while it, again, went very well with the food, was probably my single favourite one of the meal, with a strength of taste I don’t normally associate with white wines – very fruity, sharp and clean, definitely one that commanded attention, and just the thing to cut through the full, rich flavours of the dish. And speaking of which:
This was the first time that I went “ok, this is the best thing so far”, and while everything at the meal looked good, this was another of the dishes it seemed a shame to eat, after the plate had been made up with such artistry, but eat it we did, and my god, it was awesome. The foie gras being roasted gave is a slightly different flavour and texture, but it was accompaniments that blew me away. I expect foie gras to have a pretty intense flavour, but it was the way everything else had been made to punch above its weight to keep up that stunned me. The amaretto, for example, took the form of three tiny cube, none of them more than a few millimetres a side, but any time I put one of them in my mouth with a fork full of food, the amaretto taste filled my mouth, wrapping the rest of the flavours together with a fantastic sweet marzipan tang that went perfectly with everything. The cherry flavour was just as rich, and now I’m drooling just a little at the memory, so it’s probably time to move on.
Now we hit the one and only item on the menu that had the response I was expecting, given the ingredients. Sardine on toast sorbet, with Ballotine of mackerel and marinated daikon, served with (and again, I’m copying straight from the menu here) Taisetsu, Takasago, Junmai Ginjo Sake. I have no idea what any of that means, but it was quite the nicest sake I’ve ever had, that taste, for some strange reason putting me in mind of tangy marshmallow.
The food, though: I’m being harsh on the dish what I say it had exactly the response I was expecting – I only did not enjoy half of it. Specifically, I did not enjoy the ballotine of mackerel, which, give that it was basically plain fish, is not a shock. The sardine on toast sorbet (which, for the sake of clarity I should stress was a sardine on toast sorbet, not a sardine on a toast sorbet) did not particularly wow me (although I liked it more than I might have expected) until I tried it with the sake, at which point, there was a taste experience there like of which I’ve only had with smoked salmon and a particular Linkwood 16-year old single malt at Whisky Live.
Yeah, OK, none of you know what that means, but I don’t care – it’s interesting to me that it can be done with something as different as whisky and sake. Allow me to explain: I don’t like fish. But it turns out that on both occasions, despite not being wild about fish, when you mix it with the right alcohol (which is nice in itself, in both cases), the properties of both change massively, and you get a completely new and marvellous taste out of the combination, a rich, round, creamy sort of flavour. So, while on the one hand, I wasn’t wild about the mackerel, or indeed, the clever sorbet, so all credit to the sommelier for producing something marvellous. A real study, for me at least, in how the right wine can really lift a dish to another level.
So next we have the most astonishing dish of the night, for me at least. Not my favourite, which is still to come, but the one that surprised and confounded my expectations more than the rest, which given that I’d already eaten and enjoyed several kinds of seafood, and snail porridge is really saying something. This dish was served with a 2001 La Grola Igt Veneto, from Allegrini in Italy, a nicely balanced, chewy red wine – sharp enough to go well with the fish, but with all the fruit flavours one expects in the sort of red I like. The nose in particular on this one was exceptional – I could have sat with my nose in it quite contentedly for hours. At the sommelier’s urging, we also kept a little of the sake back to try with the dish as well, and it was fantastic to find that the two drinks went so well with the food, but in such totally different ways, each bringing out different flavours, and wrapping the whole thing up differently, so it felt very different in the mouth…
The dish in question was salmon poached with liquorice, served with asparagus, pink grapefruit and vanilla mayonnaise. Under normal circumstances, the last two things on that list, I like. The rest, I tend to avoid. So to find myself declaring this dish the new winner of the “best so far” prize was astounding. This was sublime stuff. As cairmen has observed, it’d be damn easy to run out of superlatives talking about the food at The Fat Duck, and I know I wasn’t the only one reduced to incoherent noises and gestures as I appreciated this set of taste combinations. It was like nothing I’ve ever eaten before, and short of return to The Fat Duck, I don’t think I’ll ever have anything like it again. It was fantastic, amazing, and a whole fistful of other superlatives, and to find myself saying that about a dish made up of things I would never normally eat is just marvellous. It’s everything I went to the restaurant for, and I am hugely delighted that I had the chance to eat this dish.
Time to calm down a little.
But it’s damn hard, because the next thing I have to talk about is the poached breast of Anjou pigeon pancetta with pastilla of it’s leg with pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices, served with 2002 Cote-Rotie from Domaine Duclaux in the Rhone Valley. I’m generally fond of French reds, so I was looking forward to this one, a spicy, Christmas-y smelling full bodied affair which did not disappoint, that, at risk of sounding like a broken record, went very well with the meat, which was very heavy and rich, and as cairmen observed, had something of the texture of liver, and the same sort of intensity of flavour. You’d think that might be quite a heavy thing in the mouth when combined with a full bodied red but actually when one put the two together, the whole thing was suddenly wild and alive, bursting with rich flavours given enough edge by the spicy wine to prevent any heaviness.
This one immediately jumped in as the new “best thing yet”, but partly, I suspect, because I was already prejudiced in favour of its ingredients, over y’know, fish and liquorice.
At this point, at out waitress’ urging, we departed briefly from the menu, as she suggested that we might quite like a break, and perhaps a little cheese?
Well, obviously, anw was not going to allow any of us to say no, so it was fortunate that none of us wanted to. And somehow, to accompany our cheese, we found ourselves ordering a bottle of sherry, and looking at my notes, I discover that I’m a class one idiot, because I don’t seem to have made much in the way of notes about this, except to say that we tried 15 cheeses, most of which I found absolutely cracking, and that the sherry was lovely with them. So, I’m afraid I can’t really provide a lot of details, but if you do go, I recommend that you do stop to enjoy the cheese course. It costs a bit more (although not exorbitantly so) and is very fine indeed. Although I’m not sure it qualifies as much of a break.
If you’re still reading this, by the way, give yourself a prize. God knows, I’m barely still typing. I’m hanging on to the keyboard by my fingernails, here. And also wishing that I could figure out some way to crowbar this in to my NaNoWriMo effort, because I’m pretty sure that by the time I’m done, I’ll have written about a tenth of the required word count for that…
And now, dessert.
We begin our sweets course with a history lesson. A tasty history lesson, and a cautionary tale about trusting Americans. You see, it is generally claimed that the edible ice cream cone was invented by a Mr Marchioni in 1903, and first saw the light of day at the World Fair in St Louis in 1904. And while he did invent a machine for making such a thing, and it was indeed used then, the claim that an American was the first to invent an edible cone is naught but a filthy lie. The first recorded edible ice-cream cornet was made by a British Woman, Mrs Agnes B Marshall, in 1888, some 16 years before. And then, in 1901, was the first to suggest making ice-cream using liquid gas.
The reason we were told all this is that the first desert was a miniature ice cream, Mrs Marshall’s Margaret Cornet, filled with an apple and ginger ice cream. The cornet itself was a crunchy, sugar glazed thing that went perfectly with the sharp and refreshing ice-cream, which was a marvel in itself – I’ve never eaten an ice-cream I would have described as juicy tasting before now, but that’s what this undeniably was, with such an unexpectedly strong flavour of apples.
After that, a palette cleanser, a pine sherbet fountain, the sherbet to be eaten with a vanilla pod. So, a posh version of a kiddie sweet, then. Which is one of the things I liked about most of the desserts – as well as being clever and interesting, they were fun. For all that they were three-star food for grown ups, I could imagine them being served to kids, and the kids thinking that they were really cool food, too.
And, I have to say that my palette has never been so cleansed as when I, thinking there were only dregs left in my fountain, opened the top, and tipped what I was expecting to be a small quantity into my mouth, only to find that I’d misjudged the remaining amount. Zesty and refreshing on an unprecedented scale, oh my. Still lovely, though…
So, having said that the desserts were fun, playful things, of course, we come to the one dessert that was most like the regular sorts of posh dessert you’d get in another high-grade restaurant: mango and douglas fir purée with baravois of lychee and mango with a blackcurrant sorbet. OK, so maybe the Douglas fir bit is a little odd, but I’d just swallowed a load of fizzy pine dust. My odd-scale might have needed some recalibrating. This was served with 1989 Riesling Beerenauslese Scharzhofberger from Von Kesselstadt in Germany. I know next to sod-all about German wines (which isn’t to say I know much at all about other kinds, but I have a particular ignorance for German wines, which I really must correct at some point) so this was a lovely surprise (well, by this point I was expecting it to be lovely, but you know what I mean), even if the initial nose did put me strangely in mind of what I can only describe as a particularly fruity rock.
The dessert itself was light and fluffy, quite fruity and refreshing, and served with several tiny cubes of jelly (on the same scale as the amaretto ones from earlier) that were at once intensely fruity, and quite peppery and warm, with, again, the same surprisingly vast amount of flavour crammed into a tiny cube as the amaretto ones had had. They turned out to blackcurrant and red peppercorn jelly, and they went just magnificently with the blackcurrant sorbet.
Following on from this, harking back to start of the meal, we got a carrot and orange tuile and a beetroot jelly, each their correct colours this time, and again, we’re back to fun food. The tuile was nice, but the beetroot jelly, something I would not have picked as a dessert item was like a particularly interesting fruit pastille, with a lovely, almost berry like flavour.
And then things got odd. To set us up for out final dessert, we were first served a parsnip cereal (in little variety pack style boxes) with parsnip infused milk, which prompted anw to declared that he’d officially reached the weirded-out point. How it was this, and not, say the snail porridge that did it, I’m not sure, but this was, like everything else, nice. If I’m honest, by this point, I think I was getting just slightly blasé about the food, especially something that basically tasted like parsnip crisps without the salt, and a bit of milk. It was nice, but it was the final course I had my eyes on. I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth, and this one I’d been looking forward to ever since I first heard of the idea of it.
Smoked bacon and egg ice-cream on a tomato jam, with pain perdu, and a tea jelly, and a thing whose name escapes me, and isn’t on the menu, but was an interesting combination of mushroom and chocolate, served with a 2002 Vin Santo, a Siglas from Santorini. I have to confess that as I made an involuntary noise of rapture as I tried this – far and away the finest dessert wine I’ve ever had, like a sticky toffee pudding with hints of grape. Bloody marvellous.
But to return to the food: yes, they basically serve the ingredients of a cooked breakfast as a dessert. And bloody hell, but it’s marvellous. It’s a fantastic combination of flavours, smoky and sticky and sweet all at once, accompanied by the marvellously sharp and refreshing tea jelly (served in a separate cup that looks like a broken boiled egg). They recommend that you basically eat little pieces of the three things on the plate, and then eat a spoonful of the jelly to prevent the whole thing from becoming overpoweringly sweet, and I have to say that without doing that, it might have been hard going, even for someone as fond of sticky sweet things as I am. But of course, they know what they’re doing, and yes, it is bloody marvellous. I feel a little childish, confessing that my favourite thing in the whole meal was a dessert, especially when it’s up against the salmon, the pigeon, the roast foie gras, and hell, that nitro-green tea, but it’s true, I felt that this was the best bit of the meal, a real high note to end on, although I think the general consensus was in favour of the salmon, and it’s certainly an idea I’d be willing to entertain – there was certainly nothing to choose between any of them in terms of quality, interestingness, or general well balancedness, both in themselves, or as part of a meal.
Having finished the last dessert, so we wind down, with tea or coffee, violet tartlets (lovely, despite the fact that I’m not generally wild about the flavour of violet), and pine and mint chocolates. That’s pine chocolates and mint chocolates, not the two together, and before anyone gets any ideas about the mint choc being an odd finale to the evening, I should tell you that these were L’Artisan chocolates, so the mint taste was the genuine taste of fresh mint leaves, as opposed to the synthetic mint flavour you thing of as “mint” when coupled with chocolate, and it really left me thinking about the sort of conventional food I was going back to eating now the meal was over, and the flavours that I take for granted, but that don’t actually taste anything much like the “real” versions.
So that was it. One meal out. Five and a bit hours at a table, and it’s taken me about a thousand words for each hour of the meal. Would I recommend this to others? Absolutely, without hesitation. It cost me almost two hundred and fifty pounds, by the time you include travel there and back, and I have to say that it’s without a doubt the best value sum of money I have ever spent on food and drink, in terms of the sheer pleasure I got out of eating it, and the fact that it genuinely went beyond the food to make me think about the whole experience of eating, and about what I eat.
I said earlier that time might be the best way to think about the price of the meal. There are plenty of one-off do-it-for-the-experience leisure activities that cost a great deal more per hour for a rather shorter experience – bungee jumping, skydiving and the like, for example, cost hundreds, and are over in the minutes of time it takes you to fall. I would suggest that this is a similar one-off experience – it’d loose the magic if it were a commonplace experience (although yes, I do very much want to go back one day, either to try the a la carte, or maybe if the tasting menu changes, as I’m sure it will in time).
I’ve been thinking about how I might summarise the whole experience, and I think it’s this:
At one point during the course of the meal, cairmen was comparing some aspect of the place and service to The Boxwood Café, Gordon Ramsay’s venture. As Britain’s other big-name three-star chef, it was a pretty natural comparison, and he was saying that he felt the Boxwood would be a very good impress-your-date kind of venue, as the whole thing seemed to be geared to making those eating there feel suave and sophisticated. “Ten minutes there, and I felt like James Bond”, was what I think he said.
The Fat Duck is not like that. There were couples dining there, but honestly, I think we probably did it the right way – take a group of friends. This is a restaurant that is about food being fun and exciting and different and something to talk about. This isn’t a meal to stare into someone’s eyes over. It’s a meal to laugh with friends over, to share in the exclamations of “Oh wow!” and “Oh, you have to try it with the sauce!” and to laugh as your friends snort nitrogen vapour. The Fat Duck is about celebrating the entire experience of eating, and the full range of flavours on the palette. It’s sophisticated, and as I’ve said, definitely invites a great deal more thought than any other meal out I’ve had, sure, but it is in no way pretentious.
If you have any passion for food at all, then this is a must have experience. Save your pennies, suspend your food prejudices for a night, and go along.
And if you’ve made it all the way to the end, then I salute your lj-reading stamina (and leave a comment would you, just so’s I know that people did make it without becoming discouraged, or dying of thirst?), and once again, I just want to thank anw, cairmen, fire_sermon, lilitufire and mindwanders for their company, without which the evening would have been much less special.