Dish blog: An offal experience

If the word penis offends, stop reading. Right now. Penis, specifically that of a bull, was the word and dish of the evening at the Blind Pig Supper Club’s “Offal Experience” last night. Even with all of the collective food experience in the room (and there was quite a lot of it), penis, said many, was just something they’d yet to try. Of course, there were many bawdy jokes hurled back and forth on the matter. “I’ve never had d**k in my mouth!” shouted the usually composed chef to my left during an unusually quiet moment while the crowd was raptly listening to chef Matt Dawes talk about veal brains and bull testicles. “That’s not what I heard!” someone countered. And away we went. 

The Blind Pig Supper Club is an occasional dining event, an instant, one-evening restaurant held in a secret location, and unusual foods items are part of the experience. Last night’s event, rather strangely, was held in the City Bakery on Biltmore, an atypical location to nosh on tripe and barbecued duck tongues. Somehow it worked, even when the noise level rose to a roar with Kovacs and the Polar Bear serenading us while the veal brains were being served. And major kudos should be given to Matt Dawes and Jeremy Hardcastle and their crew, who crafted an incredibly sumptuous feast out of some rather bizarre pieces.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, that penis was delicious — surprisingly so. Serving it on a ritz cracker with horseradish and dill was genius — and pretty funny. The texture of penis is difficult to describe, somewhat like what happens to calamari when it’s cooked to a rubbery texture and then back to soft again.

Bovine intimate parts were perhaps the most exotic of the pieces in an array of incredible canapes that many would view as macabre, but this roomful of carnivores — call us daring, open-minded or crazy — ate the experience up. Duck tongue on a toothpick? Yes, please. It was truly hard not to be reminded of biting into one’s own tongue while chewing on this one. “A duck’s heart is as big as its tongue!” one diner exclaimed before biting into tender duck heart with balsamic on crostini. Tripe with tapenade, fried pig ear in clever little cones with sauce gribiche and a small assortment of charcuterie rounded out the pre-dinner offerings.

The seven-course main event began with a boudin noir served with quince and chervil salad that had everyone’s attention immediately. Boudin noir is a classic French sausage made with — ready for this? — pig’s blood. Stop wincing. It’s delicious.

Course number two featured something I’ve never had before but have always wanted to try: cockscomb. They’re pretty mild in flavor and these were cooked to a perfect tenderness. They were served with bull “fries” (testicles) that were decidedly not tender. “That bull had cajones of steel,” remarked one diner who may or may not have been me. Did you catch the cheeky combo of cockscomb and testicles? Cute.

Pickled local beef tongue with beets and anchovy vinaigrette — what a wonderful combination.

Veal brains grenobloise with curried cauliflower and bone-marrow-cauliflower puree was a show-stopper. I may now strike brains off of my “things I don’t like to eat” list, leaving canned baked beans as the last remaining item I won’t eat unless forced. Thanks for that, Matt and Jeremy.

My favorite offering was the local ox heart, served rare with tiny clams, fumet, potato puree and persillade. It was a play on the phrase “warms the cockles of my heart.” It somewhat overshadowed the following dish of kidney, cheek and tail pie, served family style with salad (thank god! roughage!). Plenty of people went crazy over this one, however.

Dessert was an impressive finale of suet-steamed English Christmas-style pudding with prunes, chantilly cream, mincemeat, apple leather and apple gelee. No real meat to speak of, but note the use of mincemeat and fruit leather.

At this point, nearly everyone was gleefully shouting to their neighbors over Kovacs and the Polar Bear. Some were dancing, some were adding even more empty wine bottles to already impressive collections, some were even passing around jars of apple moonshine. Maybe it was the moonshine, maybe it was the penis, but the room was full of some of the most cheerfully delighted diners I’ve encountered.

There’s one more Blind Pig event scheduled for the year. For more information about that, click here.


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7 thoughts on “Dish blog: An offal experience

    • ironhead

      Eating offal is fun. It is also serious: We honor the animals who make the ultimate sacrifice by eating every bit of them we can.

  1. Cori

    City Bakery downtown is on Biltmore Ave not Broadway, and the dinner was amazing!

  2. Simcha

    Ironhead does not understand the concept of sacrifice. In sacrifice, either you kill someone to offer her to a god, or you are the one who sacrifices yourself on behalf of another.

    The economy and tastebuds are not deities worthy of killing another animal for, and since all animals who are slaughtered by humans have absolutely no say in any aspect of their lives from the time they are born, they are not sacrificing for your hedonistic pleasure.

    These animals suffer, they are tortured and they are killed. It’s needless and it’s cruel, no matter how funny you think it is or what kind of spin you put on it.

    I am amazed sometimes by how clueless and how cruel the people of Asheville can be.

    • ironhead

      We get our pork from Jamie and Amy at Hickory Nut Gap Farm. If those pigs are tortured, there is some kind of amazing cover-up going on. So skip the “suffer and torture” part, okay? Killing a pig on a farm (which if memory serves is not actually done at HNG) is noisy and messy and seen for the first time pretty horrible. But it’s all a matter of perspective: At the Mala-Mala game reserve in South Africa, I watched lions eat a live wildebeest. That was pretty horrible, too. But it’s “nature” so it’s okay, is that right? Or do we need to round up the lions and teach them to eat grains and roots?
      As much as we might wish otherwise, the natural world is a place where animals eat other animals, and we just happen to be the lucky ones at the top of the food chain. You want to protest against reality, that’s fine. I’m going to eat some bacon, and enjoy my luck.

    • bill smith

      Simcha-have you ever visited either Hickory Nut Gap, or the processing facility state law requires them to use?

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