We are so fortunate here at PARASOLE……
Our culinary and wine teams travel the world to learn, evolve, and bring all manner of culinary delights back to our family of restaurants. Recent trips have carried them to Argentina, New Zealand, Italy and Chile – and now this May to Bordeaux and Marseille.
Bordeaux is home to what is called “first growth wines” from five producers who were designated the best in France at the Paris exposition of 1855. What a time our folks will have.
Then it’s on to Marseille (and Bouillabaisse) with perhaps a stopover in Roquefort for a cheese tasting (see my posting of April 11th).
Southwest France has much to offer on the culinary front. When you think of Limoges, china comes to mind, but it’s also known as “the city of butchers,” with a reputation dating back to the Fifteenth Century when both sides of the winding, picturesque Rue de Boucherie were lined “cheek by jowl” (sorry for that) with butcher shops.
In the center of town lies the 15th century Chapel of Saint Aurelien, home to “La Vierge au Rognon” – a porcelain statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus…who is eating a kidney. My guess is that it was once customary to feed babies and little children nutrient-rich organ meat.
Today, Limoges makes the most of its traditional love of innards. Every October, in fact, a festival is held in celebration of organ meat, known to connoisseurs as OFFAL (and to everyone else as simply AWFUL).
Street vendors feed a procession of thousands of people, stuffing them with blood sausage…braised tripe (cow’s stomach lining)…sautéed kidneys with Dijon mustard sauce…sweetbreads (thymus glands) fried in deep heavy cast-iron pans – all the while tolerating visitors’ questions about what the hell they’re eating.
In medieval times, innards were widely consumed, of course, but not by the wealthy. They got the prime cuts while the lesser cuts (dare I say, “the guts”) went to everyone else. That’s still the case in many places where meat is scarce and expensive. People will make do with the protein at hand.
But the delights of innards have democratized their appeal – helped in part by chefs like Fergus Henderson of ST. JOHN restaurant in the meatpacking area of London known as Smithfield Market. His philosophy is, “If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”
And use the whole thing he does. We’ve dined at St. John a half dozen times or so, and while Joanne hates the place, I love it and have feasted on feet, glands, shanks, tripe, snouts and marrow bones. It was Fergus Henderson that inspired me to go primal and put marrow bones on MANNY’S menu.
Another acclaimed restaurant that soothes the soul with innards is ANIMAL on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. A couple of years ago I managed to drag Joanne (a good sport) kicking and screaming there for dinner. She was not pleased. I think she had a salad…and wine, a lot of wine. I, however, delighted in sampling pigs ears with red chilis, lime and a fried egg, deep fried beef tendons, and gorgeous little tripe tartines. I especially enjoyed the “amourettes” – sheep testicles braised in garlic, parsley and port wine.
The sheep is not pleased.