It’s never too early to start thinking about your Halloween menu.
There are many scary things that one could conceivably put into one’s mouth. Naturally, this reference is restricted to the world of culinary delights, wherein the very images of certain exotic foods can make one cringe. However, let’s leave strange foreign foods off the menu today and instead take a look at some of the potentially nightmare-inducing food and drink-related items showcased recently at the fourth annual Halloween convention/festival Midsummer Scream.
One of the most overt nods to dark delicacies [not a reference to the wonderful horror collectibles shop of the same name, located in Burbank] at this year’s Midsummer Scream was Drunken Devil’s Freaky Tiki Bar, which was set up in the festival’s Hall of Shadows, where all of the mini-haunted attractions were located. It was in the midst of the foggy atmosphere that thirsty haunt hounds could satiate themselves with an order of Devil’s Drool (gin, pineapple juice, lemon juice, Grand Marnier, grenadine and soda water), a Freaky Tiki (dark rum, Malibu rum, pineapple juice, grenadine, lime juice and club soda), or perhaps the less obscure Mai Tai or Blue Hawaiian.
Generally speaking, the tendrils of the tiki theme extended throughout the festival a bit, in the form of tiki-themed vendors and a presentation by Los Angeles retro horror artist Bill Rude. Rude hosted a presentation called “Horrors of the Exotic: the Dark Side of Tiki,” which mostly focused on the history of the tiki movement in American pop culture, but it also touched upon tiki bars and decorating tips for tiki bars. Local establishments of note that Rude identified included Santa Monica’s Ma’kai Restaurant & Lounge, the Disneyland Hotel’s Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, and Huntington Beach’s famous Don the Beachcomber, which closed in 2018.
The drinking motif continued when Midsummer Scream’s co-founder/creative director Rick West moderated a panel called “Spooky and Strange Themed Bars of California.” This panel highlighted several SoCal dream projects of people opening horror-themed bars. They included: The Cauldron (Buena Park), The 4th Horseman (Long Beach), Phantom Carriage (Carson), Beetle House LA (Los Angeles), and Lost Spirits Distillery (Los Angeles). Though the discussion didn’t detail any scary themed food or drinks, the decor and various interactive aspects of the bars are certainly conducive to dark wining and dining experiences.
Moving past the frightful aperitifs, “The Curious Creators of Christine McConnell’s Show” featured a panel on the Netflix series The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. McConnell became famous as a result of her Instagram account [@christinehmcconnell], where she displays her talent for macabre baking and decor. After the panel, which centered around McConnell, her costars — mostly puppeteers and voice actors — and was moderated by the show’s co-creator / executive producer Kirk Thatcher, McConnell spoke with L.A. Weekly about her inspirations. She said, “I think I watched an episode of the Munsters when I was much, much younger, and they were making spider cookies — but they were like these flat cookie cutter sort of cookies — and I think I had the idea to sort of make them three dimensional.”
That was kind of the kickstarter for doing this. Then I made a Danzig cake and people loved it, and it just resonated with me. So, I naturally gravitate towards that stuff.” After having gained a sizeable following on Instagram, Jessica Grimshaw at NBC Universal reached out, and the Netflix series — co-produced with Wilshire studios and The Henson Alternative — which is basically a mash-up of Martha Stewart and The Addams Family(with Muppets) was born. Now that the series has come to a conclusion, McConnell pointed out that macabre cooking and home decor are still a prominent part of her daily life and work. “I’m constantly making something weird. I’m working on something right now for the Winchester Mansion…[mum’s the word on the deets].
Finally, the most gruesome dishes on display at the festival were a part of a slideshow presentation by the Ambassador of Americana, himself, Charles Phoenix. While the “Charles Phoenix: Halloweenland” presentation ran the gamut of classic cheesy Halloween costumes, party decor, and themed parade floats, it also included a meatloaf designed to look like a rat — complete with a ketchup container in the middle, which would appear to bleed when the meatloaf rat was sliced into — a six-tiered stack of multicolor marble cakes, heavily iced with chocolate frosting, and completely covered by pieces of candy; and Phoenix’s cherpumple. Inspired by the holiday hybrid the turducken, Phoenix identifies the cherpumple as being “short for cherry, pumpkin and apple pie. The apple pie is baked in spice cake, the pumpkin in yellow and the cherry in white.”
The three cakes are then stacked and iced as one massive beast of a cake. Additionally, while it is not exactly Halloween-themed, Phoenix also included in his presentation a snowman made of Velveeta, covered in cream cheese, which he serves in an electric skillet; when the skillet is turned on, the snowman undergoes a dramatic melting/bleeding effect, which guests absorb with their fondue dippers.
Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of horror food vendors in the exhibition hall. While many Halloween and horror-themed festivals include creative chefs who sell beautifully designed, edible works of horrorific art, Midsummer Scream is apparently restricted from renting vending space due to the Long Beach Convention Center’s desire to control the food vending aspects of its events. Still, as spooky themed recipes, drinks, and establishments go, Midsummer Scream did leave us with a few things to chew on.