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Life, it is said, is like a carousel.  I like mine historical and full of cats.  You may recall my post last summer mentioning the carousel in Spokane, a 1909 Louff carousel in Riverfront Park, in fact.

When I heard the city of Albany in Linn County was fundraising for their own carousel, my interest was piqued.  It turns out a local family donated the inner workings of a carousel from the same year as the Spokane carousel, long disbanded and separated from its menagerie.  Without the business end of the ride, something needed to be done, so a group of dedicated volunteers set out to design and carve 52 new animals and two chariots for a new carousel.  They’ve been working on it for about ten years, and have a range of animals to see in all stages of completion.  The project is pretty cool, and you can go visit the studio, museum, and gift shop.  Or maybe throw this dedicated team a few bucks? More information is on the website.

Neighbor Sybaris restaurant, who often takes on great charitable causes, held a fundraiser for the carousel last week.  Chef Matt Bennett, who has represented the Willamette Valley at the James Beard House in NY and is one of our most renowned local culinary professionals, invited fellow Michigander Chef Brian Polcyn to cook a Michigan-inspired PNW menu with him.  Chef Brian, who coauthored everyone’s favorite charcuterie cookbook with luminary Michael Ruhlman, heads up a restaurant where I went to middle school (go Birmingham!) AND teaches in a city I spent my early childhood and where much of my family still lives (Livonia in da house!), is working on a second book on salumi.  He brought his cured meats all the way from his restaurant for the benefit, and they managed to get their hands on a big, fat Mangalitsa pig for the dinner.

Pig trotter croquette with sauce gribiche was the first course!

Surely you’re beginning to see how happy I was.

1) As a Michigan girl, I had to go bump fists with the chefs and talk tough about my childhood drinking Vernors and eating jello salads.  Check.

This is how we do it in Michigan.  Gotta be tough.

2) As a charcuterie aficionado, I had to go taste the creations of the man WHO WROTE THE BOOK. Check.

Frilly, gorgeous prosciutto

3) As a carousel fan, I had to see the carving in action, and all the love and dedication these artisans have poured into their project. Check.

Bulldog, interrupted.

And I was not disappointed.  Want to see more pictures?  I put the entire set of the studio reception and the dinner on a public page on my Facebook page.  Everyone can see it, even if you’re not a member of Facebook.  My fellow co-host on KLCC’s Food for Thought radio show, Laura McCandlish, did a spot on Chef Polcyn as he was preparing the meal.  You can listen here (near the end, if I recall).  She and I enjoyed the dinner together with local farmers, educators, and food lovers.  It was a great evening.

Thanks so much Chefs Matt and Brian, Janel and her & Matt’s staff at Sybaris, and everyone at the Albany Historical Carousel!