On Saturday, hundreds of guests assembled for cocktail hour and dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, a building accustomed to hosting some of society's most influential members. But Saturday's fare brought new meaning to the word "tastemaker"—men and women wrapped in lavish designer wear sampled not the usual array of lazily diced cheese cubes, but crisped cockroaches pierced with skewers and expertly cooked filet of muskrat. Was the snakehead fish too fishy or the goat eyes too eye-y? Wash it down with some mealworm champagne!
The Explorer's Club has been serving exotic eats to upscale diners since the 1930s, when a handful of the elite society's members came across a preserved woolly mammoth while hiking through Siberia. The meat was hauled back to New York and served to guests, and the tradition of off-beat epicurean adventures has endured ever since. Gene Rurka, who masterminds a new menu annually, this year delighted and terrified guests with a spread that included snakehead fish, alligator, cockroaches, lionhead fish, tarantula, mealworm champagne, goat, goat eyes, goat aftermath, ostrich and muskrat.
The actual dinner portion offered guests a reprieve from exotic animal parts, with a guacamole and tomato tart as an appetizer and steak and vegetables for the main course. Legendary physicist Stephen Hawking delivered a keynote speech via video, during which he vigorously extolled the importance of space exploration. ("Not leaving planet Earth would be like castaways on a desert island not trying to escape," he said.)
Attendees also had the opportunity to throw down in a live auction—a 7-day adventure to North Korea was had for $7,500 (a bargain!) and for $40,000, a napkin-sized Explorer's Club flag signed with the winning bidder's name will be placed on the moon.
Though membership to the Explorer's Club is by invitation only, the public is regularly allowed inside the club's historic Upper East Side walls for a weekly lecture series. Check the calendar of events here, and once inside, don't forget to say hello to the sperm whale penis.