You know that feeling when your food comes to the table and it looks so good that cartoon eyes burst out of your head like Jim Carrey’s in The Mask?
That’s everyone at the table staring down the Lavo’s Ultimate Bloody Mary at this afternoon’s Party Brunch. The bug-eyed stare lasts for just a few seconds, and now they’re all reaching for their phones.
“I wanted to create an Instagram moment for people,” says chef Marc Marrone.
Once again, he’s done his job.
“My favorite reaction is when it hits the table and people dive in with these big, giant straws,” Marrone adds.
The corporate executive chef for Tao Group, who last season conceived the $800 18-scoop Party Brunch Sundae, set out to top himself this year with a massive Bloody Mary mixed with a bottle of Tito’s vodka, house sauces and base, fresh horseradish and tomato juice, and garnished with a whole lobster, crab legs, shrimp skewers, bacon skewers and, of course, celery sticks.
It could only come from Marrone’s mind, but he insists his process is to start small with something he loves before adding more and more to create the “wow factor.”
“I like ice cream, and I like Bloody Marys,” he explains. “I was thinking, ‘How am I gonna one-up that sundae?’ And I said, ‘We should do a giant Bloody Mary, and let’s put the whole freakin’ raw bar on top of it.’”
The drink—$250 and served in an ice goblet—fits the Lavo Party Brunch atmosphere, one Marrone politely describes as “over-the-top,” although that is beyond an understatement. (There is a larger version for $500 that comes in a huge ice bowl.)
If you’ve missed Party Brunch in past seasons, here’s how it goes down: Brunch starts at 2 p.m., and the first hour is like any other relaxing, relatively quiet meal you’ve had on a Saturday. Then about 90 minutes, in the shades are drawn and the place goes dark. A DJ dials the music up to 11 as a laser show begins and people start dancing on tables.
That’s as far as I’ll go with the description. The rest you have to experience for yourself.
“It’s sensory overload; it almost feels like you’re doing something you’re not supposed to,” Marrone says. “And the [Ultimate Bloody Mary] is as close to sensory overload for food as you can get at one time.”
Last year’s sundae was an out-of-the-box hit for Marrone, and while early reviews of the Bloody Mary indicate repeat success, he’s not going to get ahead of himself when it comes to the next creation.
“Food takes weird trends, I’m going to see how this one goes,” he says. “You gotta understand your crowd as well as what you’re trying to accomplish with food.
“Who knows? I might get an idea halfway through next year and come up with something else.”