Inside Pulse 12

A Look at the Esteren Culinary Journey (Shadows of Esteren)

Earlier this year, we did an exclusive reveal of the $100,000 goal for the Shadows of Esteren: Occultism Kickstarter -An authentic Shadows of Esteren meal done up by the Gastronogeek crew. Well, 1,066 of you made that goal happen and on July 26th, a PDF version of the Esteren Culinary Journey was released to the Kickstarter backers. Although you do have to be a backer to get the full recipes, I figured it was only fair to give you, our Diehard GameFAN readers an sample of what Gastronogeek prepared for Shadows of Esteren fans.

If you were expecting the Esteren Culinary Journey to be a full cookbook, well, prepare to be disappointed. Remember, only a full meal that would authentically capture the low fantasy Shadows of Esteren feel was promised. As such, we received a six page PDF covering a three course meal. I should warn you, the meal is VERY French and so the choices are a bit more exotic than what you find at the average American restaurant or grocery store. However, as both a Francophile and someone who loves to cook French food, I was ecstatic with the menu selection.

Oddly enough, the PDF starts with dessert. It should be in the back, but hey, I didn’t do the layout for this. Because the PDF starts with it though, so shall this commentary piece. The dessert was Poached Pears “a La Osta-Baille.” The first French dessert I ever learned to cook was Poires au Gingembre, so it tickeled me to see a variant as our Esteren dessert. Instead of a Gingembre sauce, this dish uses chocolate, red wine and cinnamon as its primary ingredients. It’s called a hippocras. Meanwhile the pears are done up with butter, cream, sugar, butter honey and…black pepper. Yes, the pear part of the dish uses black peppercorns to give the fruit an unexpected sharpness. It’s fantastic. The dish makes four servings and takes about forty minutes to make. It’s an easy enough dish than even kitchen rookies can make provided they follow the recipe closely.

The first course is Venison Terrine with Hazlenuts and Porcini mushrooms. This recipe takes far more preparation than the previous one. You’re going to spend forty minutes in the kitchen preparing the dish. Then you have to let it sit for AT LEAST twenty-four hours. Then comes two hours of cooking. SO this dish is best done on a weekend or when you have a lot of time to devote to it.

Although the dish uses Venison in the name, it’s more than just deer meat. You’ll also need a pound of pig jowls. Yes, pig jowls. That’s pretty hard to find unless you have a dedicated butcher close by. If you can’t find jowls, find something else you can mince easily. I find a tenderloin works best, but you can still do this dish with a quality chop if needed. You’ll mince both meats together and then let them sit overnight. The next day you’ll take the other ingredients like the porcini mushrooms, brandy and ground hazelnuts to create a very thick meaty stuffing. You’ll then pack it into some puff pastries and then bake for two hours. This dish is very rich. It’s high in sodium, cholesterol and fat, so it’s best left as a rare special occasion. The amount of work that goes into this terrine, coupled with the choice of meats means it won’t be for everyone.

The final dish is the main course and it’s one of my favorite meals to prepare in real life, so I loved seeing it as part of the Esteren Culinary Journey. It’s Leg of Lamb! Well, it’s “Leg of Lamb and Soft Potatoes with Berries.” This is a very easy dish to do as prep time is minimal and cooking only takes an hour or so. All the ingredients are available at your local grocery store…except juniper berries, which may be a bit hard to come by. It’s a very starchy dish as it uses a full pound of potatoes. There are onions and carrots in the dish as well roasting with the lamb, but you might want something green to offset the tater onslaught. The dish uses a 4.5 lb leg of lamb. Now the instructions say this serves four but if you’re eating over a pound of lamb in addition to the other dishes in the Esteren Culinary Journey, you’re probably eating way too much.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Esteren Culinary Journey. This was a fantastic freebie for Kickstarter backers and I’m glad to see Occultism hit its 100K stretch goal. It’ll be pricey and time consuming to make these dishes for your gaming crew, but they’ll be talking about it for years afterwards. I can’t think of a more memorable way to immerse yourself in a RPG than to eat the actual dishes the PCs themselves would dine upon.

I’ll have a review of Occultism in the next week or three (I have three other Shadows of Esteren brand new releases that hit at the same time. Talk about your GenCon deluge of releases….) so keep your eyes peeled here at Diehard GameFAN for more Shadows of Esteren coverage. In the meantime, if you somehow haven’t jumped on the Shadows of Esteren bandwagon yet, check out our SOE Review Archive.

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