an offal dinner

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.

First Course – Country Style Head Cheese with Grilled Rustic Bread, Cumberland Sauce and Spicy Mustard
IMG_2111.jpg

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.

Second Course – Trotter and Sweetbread Crepinette with Fried Chicarones
IMG_2112.jpg

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.

Third Course – Sous Vide Veal Tongue with Crispy Bone Marrow and Foie Gras Jus
IMG_2113.jpg

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.

Dessert – Sonoma Foie Gras Creme Brulee
IMG_2114.jpg

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.

IMG_2116.jpg

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.

South In Ur Mouth – our intro to staff meals

Last night we went to this small restaurant tucked just off of Scottsdale Road and Camelback. The area surrounding it is filled with all of the trendy Scottsdale bars. Petite Maison, though, is anything but trendy or a bar. Instead, it feels like your walking into a small little French villa and you’re being welcomed into someone’s home rather than a restaurant. There’s more seats outside on the patio than there are in the small dining room. The interior is paneled in wood, giving a warm glow to the room. The patio is surrounded by vines and small potted trees. You feel like you’re in a garden sitting out on the patio.

Petite Maison serves a late night staff meal where their normal staff gets a chance to sit down and eat after service and other guest chefs can come in and prepare the meal. The rest of us also get a chance to sit down and have a nice late night (10pm – midnight) meal. There’s usually only a couple different plates that are offered and their reasonably priced around $10 – $12 a plate. There’s also a drink offered, fondly dubbed the “red cup”.

Sean and I finally got a chance to get up to Petite Maison because a friend of ours, Tony Morales was preparing the staff meal that night, which he fondly dubbed “South In Ur Mouth”. So, no, I didn’t make the title of this post up. It’s his fault. In my constant quest of good Southern food that I didn’t have to spend the time making in my kitchen, whenever I hear Tony’s working in a kitchen, I try to be there. Last night’s meal was no exception to a delicious late night meal.

The two dishes that were served were Rock Shrimp with Smokey Cheese Grits and Fried Green Tomatoes with Catfish Hushpuppies and a red pepper remoulade. The red cup was called Orange Marmalade. Delicious is a tame word for the two dishes. Sean was kind enough to let me have the shrimp and grits in front of me since he understands my obsession with grits. I took my first bite with a small piece of perfectly fried shrimp in a light flour batter, surrounded with cheesy looking grits and I was in heaven. The grits were perfectly cooked. At first, we thought the cheese in them was smoked Gouda, which would be a good one to put into grits because of the creaminess you get, but Tony corrected us. It was a sharp smoked cheddar. Brilliant! You get the smokiness, but also a nice tanginess with the sharp cheddar. Needless to say, there were no grits left when the plate was taken away.

IMG_2102.jpg

The fried green tomatoes were coated with the standard cornmeal style coating, but it was thick enough to truly encase the tomato slice. The green tomatoes used were at just the right ripeness so that they were soft enough to eat, but still had that slightly bitter tang that unripe tomatoes have. When Sean shared one with me, at first I thought that the tomato was under-salted, but then when he shared some of the remoulade on his plate, it was exactly right. Everything came together perfectly. Now, on to the catfish hushpuppies. I should put a disclaimer here. I eat catfish. I was raised on fried catfish, so I’ve never had a problem eating it. Sean does not like catfish. He doesn’t like the muddiness you tend to get from it and thinks that when it’s cooked, it’s usually too dried out by the time it’s served. Sean ate the catfish hushpuppies. Not only did he eat them, I was lucky to get one off of his plate to try. He consumed them. The typical muddiness wasn’t there at all and the fish was moist and delicate. If I didn’t know better, I would have almost questioned whether that really was catfish.

IMG_2104.jpg

Now that I’ve had a chance to wax poetical about the food, let me mention the “red cup”. It was called an Orange Marmalade. I love orange marmalade. It’s kept in the fridge and it frequently finds its way onto my morning toast. This was like orange marmalade turned up to 11. It was fresh squeezed orange juice, vodka and lemon peel that had been sitting in Everclear (the remnants of making limoncello). It was deadly delicious. I consumed 2 before I realized that I was going to have to drive my car home and I wanted to make it home in one piece.

IMG_2099.jpg

Overall, the late night meal was a great experience. We also got the added bonus of meeting some of the foodie friends that we know through Twitter. We’re already discussing an opportunity to go back to Petite Maison to order off of their standard menu.