“Did you prefer the brain or the testicle?”
“I like the texture of the lung better than that of the liver.”
“The recipe has the word “blood” in it and they just gave us a spoon… I’m scared!”
These are the sorts of conversation overheard at the Chris Cosentino dinner at DNA this past Friday night. I admit that I had been (very) worried about this dinner. I am not a fan of offal but I knew this was not a dinner I wanted to miss. If I were going to taste offal at any point in my life, I was sure Chris Cosentino was the man I wanted cooking my meal. So I showed up ready for the “experience”. I wasn’t the only one since the restaurant was filled with chefs, bloggers and food critics. Anyone who had anything to do with food was at DNA that night..
I come from a culture where we eat offal but the “we” here doesn’t include me. It’s not the sort of thing I’ve ever liked, except for the occasional chicken liver and hearts sandwich drowned in lemon and garlic. The menu that was set on our table seemed pretty inoffensive for the most part: turf n’ surf, lamb pluck fra diavolo, chicken candy bowl, chocolate n’duja cones… but when our plates arrived, it was a completely different story. The dishes became increasingly difficult to swallow, literally.
Horse leg and heart tartare mixed with Lambertini oyster, fries cooked in horse fat, hay aioli, brioche
The first dish was the easiest, even though it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact I was eating raw horse heart. It tasted like a very tender beef tartare. The fries were super crispy and yummy. We made a sandwich out of all the elements, as recommended by our waiter and everything put together tasted much better than all the elements separately.
Apple-wood smoked eel, piglet blood mousse, peasant “pappa” (bread polenta), 2-hour chicken egg topped with piment de St Béatrice with smoked wild boar butter
The smoked eel, egg (cooked slowly for 2 hours) and bread polenta in the second dish were all good. I tried the blood mousse but couldn’t bring myself to eat it. Maybe if I didn’t know it was blood mousse, it would’ve gone down easier. In fact, the whole meal was a mind game, trying to get past the tricks your mind plays on you. You keep asking yourself, if I didn’t know what it was, would I eat it? Thinking back on it now, maybe we should’ve told the waiter to refrain from describing the dish until we were done eating it…
Lamb kidneys, liver, lung and heart with a Fresno chili rub with jalapeño & cayenne, celery root ashes with olive oil, mint purée
Some morsels in the 3rd dish were more palatable than others (I really don’t like the texture of liver) but I didn’t finish my plate because it all tasted a little gamey to me. A diner who had gone through the whole dinner already passed by our table on his way out of the restaurant and let out an evil laugh while telling us that the “best” was yet to come. Suffice it to say that I was a little worried, especially since the brief description of the dish was “Big brain, little brain”.
Half a veal brain seared in brown butter with preserved Meyer lemon, veal testicle with brainnaise (mayo made with brain), watercress, radish & shallot salad
You have to hand it to the chefs, they did have a wicked sense of humour. I personally preferred the “big brain” over the “little brain” but most of us only had a bite of each. The salad was delicious though, in case you were wondering ;)
Candy-coated cock’s comb, jelly bean coated duck testicle, vanilla ice cream with n’duja (roasted red pepper salami), chocolate ganache
Through the whole dinner I was telling myself that at least the dessert will be offal-free, it had to be right? How can you make dessert with offal? That was until Hugo (aka FoodCzar) stopped by our table and said “bonne chance avec le dessert!” What?? And as you can see from the picture and description above, this was no ordinary dessert. Duck testicle jellybean anyone? Candied cock’s comb? Hard. To. Swallow. But again, if I didn’t know it was a cock’s comb, I probably would’ve thought it was a fruit roll and maybe I would’ve eaten it but I couldn’t get away from the image in my mind of a wobbling, jiggly red cock’s comb.
By the end of dinner I felt like I needed a shot of vodka (or rubbing alcohol as Dustin said) to sterilize my insides. I am very happy I had this experience and I really do believe in the nose to tail philosophy but now I know that eating offal is really not my thing. However, if you would like to have some great offal in town, take heart (pun intended) because DNA’s chef Derek Dammann is the man for you. Enjoy!
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