Of all the unusual ingredients that chefs are cooking with these days, this one probably tops them all. Today at noon, Victor Albisu, chef of the popular South American–themed restaurant Del Campo in Washington, D.C., is serving up a special nine-course menu, featuring bits of actual newspaper in every bite.
“I don’t know if it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever done in the kitchen,” says Albisu, “but I don’t think it’s been done before — let’s put it that way.”
Albisu’s innovative ink-stained meal — which notably features a newsprint-smoked wagyu steak and chilaquiles made with crisped newspaper tortillas — is designed to help Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank make good on his promise to eat his own words if brash New York real estate mogul and former reality TV star Donald Trump were to secure the Republican nomination for president. Now that Trump appears destined to represent the GOP in the general election this fall, proving Milbank and countless other pundits wrong, the paper has asked acclaimed D.C. chef Albisu to help prepare the publication in the most palatable ways possible.
You can watch Milbank and a Washington Post colleague, the James Beard Award–winning restaurant critic Tom Sietsema, try to choke down all of Albisu’s newsy creations during a live stream of this bizarre gustatory event on Facebook, beginning today at noon. (UPDATE: Watch a clip below.)
“I’m just hoping that it all comes out edible and people can actually take a bite and kind of enjoy it.”
As ridiculous as it sounds, Albisu says the meal simply parallels “how truly absurd this election cycle has been.” The chef has been planning the menu for a few months and began cooking (as well as taste-testing) the dishes over the past week.
No, his tongue has not turned black from all that ink — “the rest of me, I don’t know,” he says.
Each dish is a playful nod to Trump’s campaign, Albisu explains. There are “spicy ground newspaper and pork dumplings” inspired by Trump’s comments about China, as well as a taco salad with “grilled newspaper guacamole” that riffs on the candidate’s own recent taco-bowl episode.
Coming up with recipes based on rhetoric is the easy part, of course. The tricky thing is incorporating the featured ingredient, which Albisu describes as “hard to chew” and “hard to swallow” and tastes, as you probably imagine, “exactly like newspaper.” Suffice it to say, it requires a little prep work. “Rather than using just a raw newspaper, we’re wetting it, soaking it in different things like buttermilk and beer, just to get different flavors out of it,” he says.
Perhaps the best dish — or at least the one the chef has ingested the most — is a Peruvian-style ceviche with pureed newspaper blended into the dressing. It comes topped with fried calamari that’s been dusted with pulverized newsprint. Albisu can hardly contain his own laughter when describing it. “I can’t even believe I’m saying this,” he chuckles.
Given the sorry state of the print business, it makes you wonder: Is this the future of newspapers — as food? It’s got fiber, anyway. “I don’t foresee that happening,” says Albisu, who sounds less than enamored with his latest muse.
“You’re going to be hard-pressed to find true genius while trying to cook newspaper,” the chef says. “I’m just hoping that it all comes out edible and people can actually take a bite and kind of enjoy it.”