First a note: The Gastronauts is a food club for adventurous eaters that boasts over 900 members. Once a month, they ask a restaurant chef to prepare a menu filled with "challenging" items. The organizer writes in to Eater about this month's dinner, which was a little more eventful than usual:
For this month's Gastronauts dinner, we planned to eat from the following menu at Palo Santo, which included things like Beaver Tail (pause to savor all the jokes, please):
Beaver Tail at PALO SANTO
Beaver Flapper Cracklings
Avocado/ Hot Pickles
Frog Leg Fricassee
Grilled Elk Steak
Asparagus/ Mushrooms / Chimichurri
Braised Beaver Tail
Succotash/ Beer/ Molasses
Whiskied Bread Pudding
Strawberries/ Whipped Cream
You can see that there's all kinds of ... umm... different stuff on the menu, particularly the Beaver Tail and Flapper Cracklings. Sixty of our members were happily sitting in Palo Santo, sipping Sangria, cracking jokes about the upcoming menu, when a young fellow with a pony tail walked in. As he approached the bar, he flashed a badge and muttered "Health Department."
Jacques, the chef and owner, laughed and said "Yeah, right. Funny, dude," thinking a member of the Gastronauts was playing a practical joke. And I laughed, thinking I was witnessing a joke between Jacques and his good friend, the Pony Tail Guy. We all stood there for a moment, and then another, and as the awkwardness grew (why won't he introduce me to his friend?), it finally sunk in. This was for real.· All DOH Chronicles [~ENY~]
Jacques expression changed from amusement to surprise to a kind of frozen smile — more of a grimace, really — as he found himself in the unenviable position of having his restaurant inspected the night of serving some seriously — seriously! — OFF the menu items.
Did someone tip the Department off, (it is Park Slope after all...) or was the inspection just chance? Who knows? Most likely word about our Beaver Dinner had gotten out and someone had ratted (again, pause please) us out. A tattle tale had told about our Beaver Tail. (ba tum tum).
Jacques tended to the inspector with a mixture of patience (stall! stall!) and masked anxiety. A hush went through the restaurant, as I began spreading the word. The Gastronauts scrambled to take all the menus off the table, (god knows we didn't want any questions about that night's frontier fare). I went from table to table telling Beaver jokes and spreading the word. "The dinner's on hold until the Health Department leaves" I explained. There were whispered rumblings: "How long do you think it's going to take...?" "Is the dinner off?" This was definitely a first for the Gastronauts. The crowd waited patiently... albeit growing ever more tipsy and hungry.
The inspection took about an hour — the polite and professional Pony Tail Guy went through the kitchen, bathrooms, the walk in freezer, cabinets, everything. Then he settled in at the bar and began typing into his laptop, while the guests tried to catch a glimpse of his screen and looked for signs of his departure.
Finally, Jacques was summoned by the inspector. We couldn't discern what the discussion was about, but Pony Tail Guy produced what appeared to be some kind of a list. We witnessed some nodding, hand gesturing, and some serious and concerned looks. Nobody could tell how this was going to go. Then, the inspector reached into his bag and appeared to be looking through some files. We all knew what was happening. It was the moment of truth.
Finally, as the inspector packed his bag to leave, he handed Palo Santo its Health Department inspection grade: It was a big, bold "A."
And with that, Pony Tail Guy left. Seconds after, the restaurant — at this point entirely populated by Gastronauts — erupted in applause, as Jacques pasted the letter grade on his door, grinning from ear to ear.
He then returned to the kitchen and produced, in record time, one of the best meals the club has ever had. Everything, including the Beaver Tail was phenomenal. True story.
P.S. All of the things on the menu were legal to serve and were legally obtained.