Obviously you’ve heard of Damon Baehrel. After all, it’s supposedly the world’s most exclusive and sought-after restaurant, with dining reservations completely booked through at least 2025.
Oh, you haven’t? Well that’s really not that big of a surprise considering the entire thing might be a hoax.
The mysterious restaurant in upstate New York has been covered by a variety of major news outlets and publications in recent years, but, as the New Yorker points out in its exposé about the restaurant, more than a few clues indicate that this purported exclusivity is a fabrication created by its namesake owner and chef/waiter/busboy/forager/farmer/butcher, Damon Baehrel (pictured below, right).
Fabrication or not, we can’t help but be fascinated by what a dining experience at Damon Baehrel might offer, because the restaurant does actually exist, even if much of its reputation appears to be based on total lies, or, um, over-exaggerations. Here are just a few of the intriguing points that make us want to add our name to the supposedly decade-long waiting list, even if dinner at the restaurant could easily run us $400 a head. Are we suckers? Probably, but get this:
Photo courtesy of Instagram/Jeffrey_Merrihue.
1. The Ingredients Are Totally Bizarre and Fascinating.
Damon Baehrel claims to grow or produce nearly all of his ingredients himself, out of materials he forages on the grounds of his restaurant, including three-dozen types of cheese and all kinds of unusual flours. He uses flavors and ingredients that might not even be flavors or ingredients. Sycamore sap. Milkweed pods cooked in fresh birch. Listen to him describe how he makes one of the many hand pressed flours he uses: “It takes me sixteen to eighteen months to make cedar flour. I use a pull knife, a two-handled grater, to shave off some cedar under the bark. The shavings are bitter, tannic—inedible. I soak them in water. Every four to six weeks, I soak them. After a year or a year and a half, I can grind it into cedar flour,” the New Yorker quotes him as saying.
2. The Food Really Does Sound Magical.
New Yorker author Nick Paumgarten admits that when he was finally able to taste Baehrel’s dishes he was blown away. Under his notes about one plate in his meal he simply wrote, “sublime.” He wrote that the dish “had so engaged my attention that the only surreptitious photo I got of it was of a plate licked clean. It consisted of a small layered cube of wild daylily tuber and wild honey mushrooms—a phyllo of the soil. He’d sliced the tubers thin and soaked the mushrooms in fresh maple sap, then stacked them in more than a dozen fine alternating layers. He then roasted it on a slab of oak wood, dribbled it with grapeseed oil and wild-fennel-frond powder, and added a drizzle of dried milkweed pods cooked in fresh birch sap, which he’d mashed in a stone bowl with some rutabaga starch, and a second drizzle that he called burnt-corn sauce, made from liquefied kernels that he’d scraped off the cob onto a stone, dried, then thinned out with sycamore sap.”
Other dishes he describes as “whimsical and inspired.” Though the wait may be imaginary, it would appear that the world-class cuisine is…real.
3. Who Doesn’t Love To Talk Motocross?
One thing about owner Damon Baehrel that does seem to be factually accurate is that he raced as a professional Motocross rider in the 1980s before he entered the culinary world. Paumgarten even managed to track down and speak with a Motocross driver who had raced against Baehrel at the time, one of the few claims the writer was able to completely fact-check and verify. What effect does this have on the meal? Who knows, but like everything else about this restaurant, it’s worthy of note.
4. Your Meal Is Literally Longer Than A Marathon.
Various diners who have managed to eat at the restaurant have described an eating event that can take up to seven hours (a few hours more than your average 26-mile race). Finally, a marathon we wouldn’t mind training for.
5. There Won’t Be Any Celebrities To Steal The Attention Away From You.
For two reasons: 1) Everyone who has dined at the restaurant has described what sounds basically just like eating in someone’s small dining room. 2) There’s no evidence that any of the celebrities, or celebrity chefs, that Baehrel claims to have served have ever actually eaten there: Rene Redzepi, Aziz Ansari, the Obamas, or Journey—yes, that Journey.
6. The Meat Comes from Disappearing Mennonites
Since Baehrel claims to grow/farm/forage all his ingredients by himself, he pretty much laughs when the New Yorker asks him about his food deliveries. Later, however, he reveals that his livestock comes from a local Mennonite farm. The article goes on to point out that there is no Mennonite farm in the area from which he claims to be getting his meat. Baehrel says that this is because they may be “low key moving to Michigan” which seems like the sort of thing you say when someone corners you about your imaginary girlfriend. Where is the meat coming from? Where are the Mennonites? Why Michigan?
Per usual, Baehrel has left us with more questions than answers. Paging Terrance, the restaurant’s (also disappearing) reservationist…