of·fal (noun) 1. the parts of a butchered animal that are considered inedible by human beings; carrion.
2. the parts of a butchered animal removed in dressing; viscera.
3. refuse; rubbish; garbage.
Okay, so none of those definitions make the word seem any more appetizing. Perhaps you might wonder if there is any way that offal can be appetizing? After my dinner last night, I can say with absolute certainty that offal can be phenomenal. Sorry for the rhyme.
Two of our friends, Jeff and Erin, were willing to accept the challenge of a four course dinner at Petite Maison on Halloween that consisted predominantly of offal. I’ve posted about Petite Maison before, so I won’t go into too many details about the restaurant except to say that this was the first time I’ve had a chance to have the chef’s cooking (I’ve previously only been for a staff meal which is prepared by a guest chef). We got seated at one of the patio tables, which was nice because the nights lately have been perfect. The one choice we were given was whether we wanted to wine pairing with the meal or not. Jeff and I chose to have the wine pairing, while Erin decided to have sips off of Jeff’s (admirable since she was our DD). I’m not going to go into the wine pairings, because I’m sure I’ll screw them up. Suffice it to say that every wine paired with its course was perfect. It cut through the richness of each dish without being overpowering. I was thoroughly impressed.
The waiter indicated that not only all of the various parts of the head (thus the name head cheese) were used for this course, but also the heart and kidneys were used. Head cheese is interesting. You get the meatiness of the various parts, but then you get this delicious richness from all of the gelatin around each piece of meat. The Cumberland sauce had a nice sour note that played well with the grainy mustard when all combined onto the bread. That was one thing that we all noted. Each component of each dish was really nice on its own, but if you got a little bit of everything on your fork, the dish just sang.
I’m Southern. I might not live in the South anymore, but there’s a part of me that will always love Southern things. One of them is fried pork rinds. That’s what fried chicarones is, delicious crispy, fried pork rinds. This was served on a mustard cream sauce (I’m not going to attempt to misspell what the waiter called it and we joked about for the rest of the evening. It was some fancy French name that I can’t perfectly remember anymore). The trotter was remarkably meaty. I was expecting a lot more fat, but was definitely pleasantly surprised. The sweetbread was tender and delicious. Sean swears I’ve had sweetbread before. Now I can definitely say I have and am open to eating them again.
I don’t know what the fuss everyone has about tongue. Granted, this tongue was cooked sous vide which will take the toughest cut of meat and make it melt in your mouth. This tongue, though was fall apart tender with a richness that I rarely taste in any meat. The dish itself was like a pot roast style comfort food dish. The tongue was served on top of creamed potatoes and the foie gras jus was this wild mushroom gravy. If my system wasn’t already getting overloaded with rich foods, I could have easily devoured my whole plate of food. And the bone marrow. Wow. Jeff’s comment was that it was like a mozzarella cheese stick taken to a whole new plane. I agree.
The creme part of this dish wasn’t so much custard as a heavy mousse. The sugar on top was burned perfectly so that it was this intense caramel flavor that melted as you took each bit. The salt flakes on top kept the dish from being overly sweet. Sadly, by this point, though, all of us were in overload from amazingly rich food. I think Erin summed it up best for us.
Once again I was thoroughly pleased by Petite Maison. Everything from the ambience of the restaurant to the food was excellent. I look forward to another meal here.