When God’s Butter Meets the Devil’s Water

My wife and I are staring at two hollow beef bones. The marrow formerly nestled in their canals were scooped, spread on crostini, and devoured less than a minute ago, and we’re talking about its flavor with the reminiscent fondness typically reserved for morsels enjoyed long ago. The bones symbolize the approximate halfway point of the “omakase” menu at Wildebeest in Vancouver, BC; a curious name considering its culinary milieu is New American and not Japanese. We don’t care about semantics at this moment. The marrow was good – damn good; an indulgent reminder why some call the substance God’s butter. I’m in afterglow mode and it’s only halftime.

Our waitress stops by our table and lets the bones linger. This is surprising. She’s been ruthlessly efficient – a definite plus if you’re doing a multi-course soiree. We gush over the quality of the marrow; how its gelatinous texture melted into unctuous magic on the palate, where its creamy earth-kissed secrets spilt over our taste buds. Her smile widens with her eyes.

“You said you were adventurous when you ordered the omakase,” she says. “Are you really adventurous?”

“Oh, yes!” I reply. “We’ll try anything.” I assume odd goodness will arrive with the next course.

“That’s great to hear!” she exclaims. She disappears, leaving the bones behind and us slightly puzzled.

She returns with two small glasses of reddish-brown liquid in her hands. “I’m so glad you said you’ll try anything,” she says excitedly, placing the tiny stemware on the table. “I’ve poured you two glasses of sherry. What you’ll want to do, is put one end of the bone to your mouth, tilt your head back, and pour the sherry into the canal.”

“I never heard of that before!” my wife says.

“It’s called a luge,” our waitress replies. “The sherry picks up all of the little bits of marrow you didn’t get, so you have all the flavor of the marrow with the flavor of the sherry. It’s wild. You’re gonna love it.”

As she explains the experience, a memory pops in my head. I’ve done a luge thing before, in San Diego at a place called Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar. There were no bones to luge in that seafood joint, but there were plenty of bivalves. There was also an abundance of Bowmore Scotch and a charismatic bartender with a generous elbow and an ability to guide us through the venue’s “oyster luge” affair. It was a five-step process: Sip the shell’s natural liquor; sip the scotch; eat the oyster; pour a splash of scotch into the empty shell; shoot the shell. The same principles of the ensuing marrow experience were in play with the oyster and the scotch. They worked flawlessly; a dance of smoke and brine with an essence of salinity that would have otherwise been forever left behind in the shell. It was glorious. I decide to keep this information to myself. I’ll drop the story on my wife later, lest I come off as a bragging bastard. Besides, while the concept is similar, I already know this is a wholly different experience.

I hold the bone to my lips and tilt my head back, the sherry glass hovering over the shaft and ready to pour. I probably look like I’m prepping to take a bong hit. I’ve never partaken, but I’ve seen enough movies and been to enough concerts to know the necessary hand placements for a proper toke approximate what’s needed for bone marrow luging. It doesn’t take long for the liquid to make its way down the canal, and it hits my palate with a near-electric kapow. As it unfurls, the sherry’s nuttiness heightens the seductive umami essence of the marrow flecks that stubbornly clung to the canal prior to its dousing. I may have said, “Oh God” afterward. It wasn’t the start of a prayer. It may have been the start of a confession.

I share the story judiciously with others when we return, reserving the tale for those that would react to bone marrow with intrigue and not repulsion. As I do, one friend informs me I can get the luge locally, without having to escape Orange County’s bubble. A second one tells me the same, followed by a third. Turns out 320 Main in Seal Beach – a restaurant roughly 20 minutes from my front door – does the bone marrow luge. They’ve been doing it for quite some time, the only difference is that they use a sherry-based cocktail shot instead of straight-up sherry. This information stokes my curiosity, but not before it makes me feel downright dumb. I’ve been to 320 Main several times. I dig what they do. It’s the first place I point people to when they ask me about a good place to eat in Seal Beach. Yet I had no idea they did this type of culinary sorcery. How could I have been so ignorant, especially when such ignorance has kept me from bliss?

The answers to this inquiry is unimportant. What matters is, a bone marrow luge experience like the one we had in Vancouver is some 1,300 miles closer to my home. I can’t wait to indulge. At the risk of sounding greedy, I hope they also have some oysters and scotch to share.