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11 Feb 2016

In the lair of the hominid – I set out from home last night as the sun dropped low in the western sky, casting a golden but somehow ominous glow over the land. I was on a quest, a journey into the heart of darkness: the lair of the hominid. After an uneventful ride on the silver snake through the bowels of Seoul, I emerged to catch a brief glimpse of the sky above—perhaps my last such glimpse—before plunging into a dim warren choked with the smell of charred flesh. I clutched a map, crudely drawn on a sheet of yellowed parchment, and found my way to the carriages that would take me to the top of the dark tower, where the beast has his lair.

“Then the door opened and I was face to face with a horror out of my darkest dreams.”

I rode the carriage with another denizen of the tower, a poor man with lifeless eyes and a grimace that seemed etched into his face. I did not speak to him—he could have been a thrall of the beast for all I know—and he did not speak to me. When I arrived at my destination, I hastily exited the carriage and did not look back.

I knew that I was at the right place; the foul reek emanating from the as-yet-unseen lair was unmistakable, just as it had been described to me by the half-crazed man who had given me the map in a dark corner of some forgotten tavern. I approached slowly, dragging my reluctant feet. As I neared the heavy iron door, I could hear snuffling and scuttling from within. I raised a hand and, after what seemed like forever, finally worked up the courage to rap it against the door. I held my breath—both out of fear and as a natural reaction to the reek. Then the door opened and I was face to face with a horror out of my darkest dreams.

OK, so it was actually just Kevin. He doesn’t live at the top of his building, but “the sixth floor” doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic. And the “reek” was actually the delicious smells of the food he had prepared for my visit. I had already read his post about what he was preparing, so I had steeled myself for copious quantities of food, and I can tell you now that I was not disappointed. In fact, armed with only eight slider buns I had baked the night before, I felt like a poor guest. I know that Kevin, like me, likes to prepare food for guests, though, so I didn’t feel like I was imposing that much.

The ostensible reason for my visit was to try out two versions of Kevin’s pulled pork, one made from tenderloin and the other made from the more traditional cut of shoulder. The meats were brought out, and the moment of truth arrived. I had said that I would easily be able to tell the difference, but would I? Here are the two versions; see if you can figure out which is the tenderloin and which is the shoulder.

I will admit that I had to bend down and take a closer look, but after a moment I made my choice and quickly followed it with, “Am I right?” I was, and my culinary pride remained intact. How about you, dear reader? Did you guess that the pulled pork in the black bowl was the shoulder? They may look similar at first (which is why I had to take a closer look), but you can see that the meat in the white bowl is definitely more fibrous, despite there being some shoulder-like chunks.

This was our first course. I pulled out the buns, and Kevin pulled out a proper serrated knife for the cutting. For condiments we had shredded cheese and slaw-that-had-not-been-overthought (long story short, the last time I had some of Kevin’s slaw, he had followed a Bobby flay recipe that turned out to be overly complicated and not all that awesome; this time, the slaw was simpler and much better as Kevin trusted his instincts). I went for the tenderloin first and dressed it with only a little of the cheese to get the full effect of the pork. My second sandwich was shoulder for comparison, this time accompanied by slaw (admittedly not a scientific comparison—I probably should have kept all other variables but the meat the same). And for my third slider I went back to the shoulder but topped it with both cheese and slaw.

That’s my final slider there, on my whole wheat and teff slider bun (80% whole wheat flour, 20% teff flour, and some toasted sunflower seeds thrown in for a change in texture). Believe it or not, I actually ended up eating more of the pulled pork than Kevin—I had three sliders to his two.

You’re probably wondering how the tenderloin stacked up to the shoulder. Kevin did say that the tenderloin version had dried out a bit and wasn’t as good, but I thought it was fine. It was indeed a tad on the dry side, but it worked far better than I would have thought. I pronounced it a “viable” alternative to shoulder, should the latter not be available. That being said, there’s a reason that pulled pork is usually made from shoulder and not tenderloin—we both agreed that the shoulder was better.

The next course was nachos—triangular tortilla chips smothered in homemade chili, sour cream, guacamole, and a homemade salsa that had just the right amount of heat. Kevin apologized for the guacamole not being homemade, although I wasn’t too surprised to hear it. When I read that he was planning to make guacamole with an avocado he had bought the day before, I figured there was no way it would be ripe enough yet. And I would say that the chili and the salsa more than made up for it.

If that looks good, I can tell you it tasted even better. Kevin informed me that there was chocolate in the chili, something he picked up from the Sorted guys (but I’ve also seen Jamie Oliver do this, so maybe it’s a cheeky British thing to do?), but we both agreed that it was hard to detect it. That being said, the chili was just one element in the mix, so perhaps the chocolate was masked by everything else. It’s also possible that it added something that might not have been readily detectable. And I guess it’s also possible that it didn’t do much at all. It’s hard to say. I think I’d have to compare a chocolate chili with a non-chocolate chili to know for sure.

After the nachos there was supposed to be another course, Greek in inspiration, but although I managed to polish off the nachos, I was feeling quite stuffed. We decided to take a little break, and we watched some videos on YouTube and chatted about how the world was going to hell in a handbasket. (These two things are not necessarily unrelated, I suspect.)

I have to admit that I find the sight of Kevin sitting in front of that tiny computer quite funny. I am sitting here at my own computer now with a 23” wide-screen monitor and a full-sized keyboard in front of me.

Anyway, after a considerable break we returned to the trough. There was no way I was going to be able to do another course, though, so we skipped straight to dessert, Kevin’s chocolate mouce. He plunked down two rather large bowls filled with enough mouce to smother a baby.

Kevin described it as being “like ice cream, but not.” I had to agree. I was also surprised that it was not nearly as sweet as I had been expecting. Don’t get me wrong, it was sweet, it just wasn’t the sugar uppercut that I thought it would be. This version apparently had a greater proportion of chocolate to cream, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Although I stood no chance of finishing it, I did my valiant best, and I think I got maybe halfway through before having to call it quits.

It was getting late by that point, and I took my leave and began the journey back home. I had thought about walking home from Nakseongdae Station to work off some of the calories, but as soon as I left Kevin’s place I realized that wasn’t going to happen—I wasn’t sure I would even make it to the subway station by his place without bursting at the seams. I did manage, taking very slow, deliberate steps, and made it home without springing any leaks.

And that, my friends, is the tale of my evening in the lair of the hominid. I think it is safe to say that a good time was had by all.

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