Smoked oil poached cod.
Some food that Trump would definitely not appreciate. Evanne Hall

Though I’m very, very opposed to Donald Trump and everything he stands for, I didn’t spend my Inauguration Day protesting in the streets. Instead, I ate through it. And I don’t mean a pint of ice cream alone in a dark apartment.

I went out and dined on the wonderful food at Rough Draft’s fifth pop-up dinner, held at Capitol Hill arts space Lovecitylove. Rough Draft is a purposely experimental pop-up series from chefs Aaron Wilcenski and Eric Jackson, enhanced by the boozy wiles of Carlile Room bar manager Nick Jarvis. Their extravagant feast started, as any extravagant feast should, with a glass of bubbles. Nothing says hello like sparkling wine. Except perhaps a full raw bar, which they also offered on this night.

After successfully devouring oysters bathed in St. Germain mignonette, my guest and I took our seats, tucking into some elderflower cured salmon served atop an airy smear of sheep’s curd. It came with a kumquat radler that has to be one of Jarvis’ greatest triumphs yet. Bad radlers are hateful things, but instead of being a good beer spiked with fruity bullshit, it was a perfectly balanced symphony of gin, St. Germain liqueur, kumquat, mandarin, and lager.

Then came a kale salad spiked with slivers of local partridge (no pear, but that would have been funny), and creamy St. Germain vin. Have you figured out that St. Germain sponsored this event yet? So did Big Gin, so kudos to them both. The salad gave way to cod poached in smoked oil, served with speck, figs, perfectly-charred brussels sprout leaves, and pomegranate. This was accompanied by a Gibson like none I’ve ever had, replete with peat-barreled gin and a Campari-pickled cocktail onion. Then came guava pork cheek with pork cracklings, followed by a lovely domestic blue cheese balanced out with earl grey, bergamot, and rye bread.

After cheese, of course, comes dessert. And the dessert—berbere chocolate with currant, caramelized shortbread, coconut, and “pretzel milk”—was an unexpected delight. It was essentially chocolate moonrocks, and they were sublimely crumbly and rich, their chocolate musk enhanced perfectly by the lighter, sweeter accoutrements.

The meal was, to put it lightly, wonderful. It was also an act of protest.

How, you might be wondering, could eating some fancy-ass elderflower cured salmon in a hipster art space be an act of protest? That’s a fair question. It has two answers.

The first is the tangible one: After expenses, the event raised $3,000 for the ACLU of Washington, Wilcenski said, and expected that the after-party admissions would put them over the line once tallied. They picked the ACLU specifically because they felt it was the best equipped organization to fight Trump.

“As Trump creeps through his four years, we are going to need a fair group to keep an eye on him and his hidebound cabinet,” Wilcenski explained. “We all need to hold this prick accountable, and having a well funded group like the ACLU out there makes me feel like someone is always watching.” In case you forgot what the ACLU does, and why we’ll need them to do a whole lot more of it under Trump, take a moment to browse their greatest hits.

Indeed, as sweet as that guava pork cheek tasted, it tasted all the sweeter knowing it was helping fund the folks who were around to fight internment camps in 1942. Here’s hoping we don’t need that expertise again.

On a more positive note, using food to raise money for good causes is not an uncommon thing in this city. Chef Tarik Abdullah is currently putting out a donation jar at his popular Morning Star brunch pop-up to raise money for the Bellevue mosque that was a victim of arson last weekend. Seattle’s edition of Speed Rack, the women’s bartending competition that raises money for breast cancer research, is hugely popular. The service industry cares, and they tend to have fun doing it.

That brings me to the second, slightly more abstract answer. A good meal—a truly good meal, not one that is merely expensive—is a wonderful experience. Trump, since long before he was even a presidential candidate, has been attempting to hijack our idea of taste. He wants us to think that overpriced steaks, private jets, and golden toilets are the key to happiness. He wants us to love things for their price, not their value. I think it’s pretty clear that he wants all of this because he wants us to envy him, to dream of living his luxurious life.

However, by all indications, his idea of the good life is rather unappetizing. Tina Nguyen’s scathing Vanity Fair review of his eponymous restaurant (including his beloved taco bowl) was a potent window into just how little taste the man actually has. A now-infamous tweet from Politico-reporter-turned-Trump-lapdog Mike Allen, depicting the buffet at an invite-only Mar-a-Lago getaway for journalists, shows an aggressively milquetoast sandwich buffet. One commenter dubbed it "the shittiest buffet I have ever seen." The oddly glossy rolls confirm that.

Another quipped that, “You literally just traded journalistic credibility for a ham sandwich.” Toss in a bag of plain Lays potato chips, and that’s not far from the truth.

In addition to the slow death of American journalism, the whole scene is indicative of Trump’s lack of taste. He embodies the tired 1980s-era businessman’s idea of dining, the failed idea that a filet mignon, some format of potato, and out-of-season steamed vegetables constitutes a nice meal. That the lunch buffet at your leadership conference is lavish just because there’s prime rib. Judging from the reviews of Trump’s $199 packages of steak, however, he wouldn’t know good meat if you knocked his toupee off with it.

Indeed, Trump and his band of cronies want us to accept overcooked, overpriced steak and potatoes, both literally and metaphorically. They don’t want us to eat elderflower cured salmon, they probably don’t know what kumquat is (but they definitely don’t like it), and they sure as fuck aren’t down with art gallery after-parties.

“That piece of garbage takes chairs at restaurants that you and I would kill to be guests at, and then asks them to cook a Wagyu ribeye well done,” Wilcenski fumed, explaining why he and his crew chose to protest Trump specifically with fancy food. “It’s a lack of respect for art and local culture.”

I’ll be honest, it’s hard right now to sit down and write anything about Seattle dining scene other than, “Why the fuck do you care how the quail egg was cooked? Greedy white bigots are inciting racial violence and stripping the country of its assets right the fuck now! A woman’s right to choose is under assault and you’re really going to sit here and try to figure out where the cheapest happy hour nachos are?” But the Rough Draft crew’s whimsical, intellectual approach to cuisine always reminds me why food is worth thinking about. We are what we eat, they say, and I would agree that food is one of the best barometers of culture there is.

In that way, spending your money on the kind of meal that is a celebration of the values we hold dear—no matter how fancy or how humble—is a powerful rejection of Trumpian values.

Follow Rough Draft on Facebook and keep abreast of the group's next protest dinner.