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Omnivore - Get in Ma Mouth: Meat Fruit Edition

Tuesday December 1, 2015 09:02 am EST

The following Missed Connection was written late at night, after one too many craft beers consumed in Little Five Points...
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? You thrilled me at the bar - m4mf - (little five points)
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? Oh, meat fruit. Where have you been all my life? We met at the bar the other night - the Porter Beer Bar, to be exact - and you so thrilled me with your intriguing boasts, your pretty face, your shocking character once we got beyond the surface chitchat. I never imagined a dish like you could be so... meaty and fruity at the same time. Meat fruit, dare I say it, but I thought you and I could have something great, a real love connection.
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? But, meat fruit, when I got home, I googled you. I must say I was taken aback. It seems you already have a man? Everywhere I looked, I saw his fingerprints all over your body. Heston is his name? Heston Blumenthal? What kind of name is that? And he’s British, too? British?? Apparently I was deceived by your looks on more than one account. But - and this is important - I’m willing to overlook this shocking discovery. I’m willing to take a chance on you again. I’m OK that you’re Heston’s, as long as you’ll also be mine. Please. Meet me again at the Porter. I’ll be looking for you.
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?  ??? OK, the Missed Connection may be purely fictional, but I did fall in love with Heston’s meat fruit at the Porter the other night. Is that wrong? It was listed on the Porter’s ever-changing specials menu... Meat Fruit by Heston Blumenthal: foie gras and chicken liver mousse, tangerine gelee, grilled bread, $8.50.  I had no idea what I was actually in for, but I had to have it.
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? Once you see the dish, the obviousness of the name kinda whacks you in the head. It’s basically meat, made to look like fruit. In the Porter’s case, the dish arrives in the form of a single tangerine and a pile of grilled bread on a wooden platter. But it’s no ordinary tangerine. One touch of a knife and the orange skin yields easily, revealing a thick gelled surface and a creamy interior of foie gras and chicken liver mousse. It spreads easily on that crunchy grilled bread, and a tentative bite confirms that, yes, this meat and fruit were meant for each other. Foie gras often gets paired with sweet, fruity elements, and the tangerine here offers bright but soothing citrus to counter the rich mousse. 
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? It turns out the dish is indeed one made famous by Mr. Heston Blumenthal, a British celebrity chef (known first and foremost for the three-Michelin-star  Fat Duck, but also his restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal). You can find the meat fruit in his cookbook, Historic Heston, or even see an elaborate display of its preparation on Youtube from Blumenthal’s British TV show, Heston’s Feasts, featuring a related preparation of “bull’s bollocks” made to look like plums! You are sure to delight in watching Blumenthal skin the braised testicles and squeeze out the juices, but I’m thankful that the Porter didn’t choose to go with that meat fruit.
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? In any case, the dish dates back to roughly the fourteenth to fifteenth century, when medieval chefs working for nobles would attempt to delight and surprise their patrons. Blumenthal has simply updated it for modern times, employing more contemporary techniques and ingredients. In his TV show, Blumenthal recalls his initial infatuation with the dish:
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?  ?? When I first started looking at historic recipes, particularly recipes from medieval times, there was one dish that really attracted my attention, just because it was completely mad: Meat fruit. Literally, you took some meat and turned it into fruit... In the Middle Ages, fruit and vegetables were considered to have diseases unless cooked. With a typically wicked sense of humor, medieval chefs played on this fear by forming and painting meat to make it look like raw fruit. The idea being to shock and delight their diners.  ??
? Eater ran a feature on the dish last year, noting that Blumenthal’s version requires a good deal of magic in the kitchen to produce such an impressive impersonation: “To say the dish is labor intensive is an understatement. The multi-day recipe requires three cooks on the cold larder station to work five hours every day.” So to walk into a Little Five Points beer bar and find this dish... well, it’s impressive. 
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? Porter proprietors Molly Gunn and Nick Rutherford noticed the dish in London last year, but didn’t get to actually taste it. Gunn recalled:
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?  ?? We got stuck trying to fly out of Paris due to the AirFrance strike, so to get home in time, we took the chunnel to London and had exactly one night before flying home to Atlanta. Of course, we wanted to eat somewhere epic. We looked up Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and that’s when Nick saw that meat fruit was their signature dish. We didn’t get a reservation there, so we ended up eating at St. John, which was also meatily delicious! But when we got back, Nick decided to try and replicate the dish. It took him two tries - he didn’t like the consistency of Heston’s paté with eggs, so Nick makes his own paté with no eggs. Also, he couldn’t find paprika extract, so he uses just a little bit of regular paprika. We had one guest say they had eaten the meat fruit at Dinner, and they thought ours was better!  ??
? Now, I haven’t had meat fruit directly from Blumenthal either, but the Porter’s version is definitely worth seeking out. It’s a special, but Gunn assured me that it will be on the menu this week. Get thee to the Porter, otherwise you may suffer from your own Missed Connection with Heston’s meat fruit. 
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