Animal organs and extremities—collectively called offal—have traditionally elicited more “yucks” than “yums” among American diners. Recently, this perspective of the nasty bits is taking a turn from crass to curious, as more chefs are serving “everything but the squeal.”
Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, Boston
At Eastern Standard, a daily offal selection has been on the menu since day one. Owner Garrett Harker and chef Jamie Bissonnette both shared a passion for educating customers on the lesser-prized cuts. “The idea from the beginning was to have sweetbreads live comfortably… next to a cheeseburger; for people to choose between a grilled cheese or our ‘BTLT’—beef tongue, lettuce and tomato sandwich,” says Harker.
Incanto, San Francisco
Chef Chris Cosentino showcases his passion for classic Italian cuisine and whole animal utilization with eccentric entrails like grilled beef heart and calf brain as menu regulars. A five-course “fifth quarter” (all organs) tasting menu is also available with advance notice. Perhaps Incanto is most noted for its “head to tail dinner,” a visceral feast held annually at the restaurant. Chef Cosentino’s fascination of all things offal can be witnessed in gory detail at his Web site, offalgood.com.
Cochon, New Orleans
Cochon boasts an in-house boucherie, receiving whole pigs and letting nothing go to compost. With all the offal left over after break down, chef Donald Link and his team get to work on making it tasty. Frequent menu items include fried rabbit liver, pork cheeks, fried pig ear and ham hocks. Link also incorporates offal into artisanal meats and sausages such as boudin, andouille, tasso and headcheese, which are handcrafted on site by an expert salumi maker.