Friday, March 25, 2011

Come Follow the Band

Writing this blog has resulted in many fun invites, but in all these years I had never received one as unique as visiting a full-fledged circus train for lunch. I had never devoted much thought to the way performers live and eat (Surely they could eat cotton candy and peanuts to their hearts content?), and having the chance to experience the Pie Car with performers and the Chef charged with feeding them and their 300 colleagues was certainly eye-opening.

Chef Michael Vaughn has quite the feat before him: feed performers from 6 continents, all with different palates and dietary needs, while sourcing food from national distributors as well as local purveyors. For people who spend 11 months out of a year touring by train and whose day job is to tease death and delight audiences, Chef Vaughn's meals are little pieces of home, as well as the fuel they need to keep in top physical shape. The entree pictured, for example, is Brazilian Chicken Stroganoff, a healthier and lighter version of the traditional beef entree. Our tasting menu also featured dishes from Greece, Bulgaria, and the Gulf Coast of the United States, as well as bite-sized cheesecakes.

The Pie Car itself is a feat of engineering - recently renovated, it sits 20 people, and its kitchen has a staff of 7 working a diminutive line that cranks out 3 meals a day for this rolling city without a zip code. The car is a study in space maximization that would put any Scandinavian hotel to shame. Besides answering our questions on food and circus life, the performers confirmed that running away with the circus is the stuff of urban legend. You need to be at the top of your game to be invited to join, and in certain cases, such as with the Opera-trained Ringmaster, Johnathan Iverson, the opportunity just presents itself.

While the circus is in our area, Georgetown Cupcake will offer a custom cupcake as part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus 200th birthday celebrations of PT Barnum's birthday. All proceeds will benefit the Sunshine Kids Foundation. The red velvet cupcake will be topped with a blue fondant elephant (the circus logo should put Democrats at ease).

Barnum 200, shows in DC through March 27 at the Verizon Center and upcoming shows in Baltimore and Fairfax, VA.

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