Happily noshing on three square meals a day is a ritual that — for the lucky majority — has evolved from a matter of sheer survival into one of great pleasure. With no more randomly charging wooly mammoths to fight off or (for the most part) food insecurity to contend with, modern society has become far more selective and dare say, even picky about what we choose to put on our plates. Consequently, when it comes to consuming animal protein, we regularly relegate what we deem to be the less desirable parts to the pet food industry, sausages or worse, the garbage pail, failing to recognize as Japanese and Korean diners do that it’s often the offal bits that are good to the last slurp and believed to be a collagen-packed fountain of youth, to boot! Buck up, recycling enthusiasts — a new restaurant trend is emerging in which these nasty bits are transformed into gourmet offerings fit for even the most discerning crows, hyenas and vultures.
Bloody Good Sicilian Spleen Cuisine
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The last time I checked, the role of the spleen — essential to the lymphatic system of all vertebrate creatures — is to store/filter blood as well as generate lymphocytes which ensure that the immune system is up to snuff and firing on all cylinders. Since that specific organ is given quite a workout throughout its life, it stands to reason that consuming it, even simmered in lard as Brooklyn-based Ferdinando’s Focacceria serves it, might not be enough to mask its rather gristly, artery-laden, tough to masticate nature. According to one critic, consuming a classic vastedda cow spleen sandwich — despite being nestled within a protective sesame bun buffer along with an ample dollop of ricotta — does nothing to mask the sheer taste of blood that the organ was once responsible for processing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Perhaps the masses might find spleen crostini a bit more palatable?
Eye Spy Some Deep Fried…Well, You Get The Picture.
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Windows to the soul they may be, but these peepers are made for eatin’, particularly when they’re prepared the way that Ford’s Filling Station in California makes them. Transforming piggy orbs into poppable morsels of sheer addiction is no easy feat when you’re dealing with squirm-inducing eyeballs, and yet the restaurant achieves the unthinkable by stuffing the center of each with smoked ham hock, lightly breading the exterior and plunging the whole she-bang into oil so it crisps up while still retaining its chewy, chicken-y interior. For significantly less out-of-pocket expense, you can be the proud owner of DIY tuna eyeballs — easily found in most major Japanese grocery stores for mere dollars. If the thought of noshing on a compact ‘packet’ of severed muscles and fat doesn’t turn you off, the best way to make the culinary experience slightly more palatable is to plunge one or many balls into rapidly boiling water, season to taste and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon on top.
South Of The Border ‘Swimmers’ Fishing For Tea & Sympathy?
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Good golly Miss Molly, this is all kinds of wrong, and yet for some bold diners, consuming cod sperm sac is oh-so-right when they’re looking for a little va-va-voom in the bedroom. With its thick, soft, slippery Japanese mayonnaise consistency, it’s somewhat understandable how humans equate “Shirako” (or “white children”) with enhanced virility, but what on EARTH makes anyone willingly want to swallow tadpoles-to-be that never actually were? Die hard food freaks insist that sampling this select male fish genetalia is one of those sensual textural experiences that you just have to dive into at least once in your life. With its purportedly delicate taste and buttery mouth feel (all contained within one convenient sweetbread-like package), sometimes you’ve just gotta…run in the other direction?!?
Cockledoodle Doo, These Gelatinous Combs Are For You!
(Images via: NY Mag, Offal Good, Yaokui, Marissa V.)
What do you get when you cross the vibrant red, fleshy caruncle of a male domestic rooster with a chef’s saute pan? One royally pissed off cock, and with good reason — getting his showy pride and joy carved unceremoniously from his head is just about as bad as a lion submitting to a hair cut…you just don’t go there. And yet plenty of chefs from Barcelona, Tuscany and now the U.S. — including Mario Batali’s Casa Mono — have definitely gone there, creating braised offerings that garner all of the snootiest foodies their bragging rights. Amusingly, the cock’s crowning glory has a funky sort of spongy texture to it, which doesn’t actually seem so desirable after all. The real jewel is locked deep within since combs contain a jackpot reserve of the purest form of hyaluronic acid, which is now being tapped as a natural pain relieving agent that enhances the natural shock-absorbing abilities of human joints. Cockledoodle doo to you too, bub!
Pssst! Your Dinner Can Hear Your Stomach Churning…
(Images via: Serious Eats, LA Weekly, Hip Suburban White Guy, Drs Foster Smith)
Out of the mouths of dogs and onto the plates of serious gourmet food devotees, it’s positively astounding just how many foodies squeal with delight at the sheer mention of the words ‘crispy pig ear salad’. However, let’s get real for a minute. What’s so luxurious about a slab of impossibly chewy cartilage ensconced between a mere suggestion of flesh and an all-encompassing rubbery epidermis exterior? Well, even an old shoe could potentially become palatable if it were stewed for an ungodly amount of time and then plunged into volcanically hot oil..but I digress. Recycling piggy ears is a necessary evil if one is going to respect the ultimate sacrifice that the animal has made, and with everyone from LA’s Church & State and Lazy Ox Canteen to NYC’s Spotted Pig and Paris’ Bristol celebrating porcine ear cuisine, sooner or later, you’re just going to have to give it a crunch or a good long chew, depending on its preparation.
Schwinging Onto Your Plate, Penis (To Some) Is Just Great!
(Images via: Weird Asia News, Interesting Stuff From India, Telegraph, My Interesting Files, Funny Photos)
Just because it’s used to facilitate procreation doesn’t mean that it’s not suitable for mastication, at least that’s what China’s raw, steamed, boiled and roasted penis-themed restaurant is trying to convince the public. Somehow, the Guo-Li-Zhuang eatery does a brisk business offering all manner of members south of the border, including but certainly NOT limited to those of the water buffalo (which is squid-like in texture), bull, pig, snake, dog, seal, yak, horse and goat as well as eau de deer penis (which is said to be equal parts bitter and sour). In many cases, consuming phallic edibles are believed to enhance one’s virility, imparting the diner who dares to go there with energy as well as fantastic skin tone — whether they’re able to resist the urge to toss their cookies is another story altogether.
No Offal Is Off Limits At NYC’s St. Anselm
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Recycling is the name of the game at this new carnivore lover’s refuge. There are so many eyebrow furrowing concoctions on their menu that the adventurous diner might possibly be forced to take two chill pills prior to making a sound culinary decision. Sampling their head cheese (typically made with assorted rough cut pieces of the heads of sheep, calves, cows and/or pigs suspended in aspic gelatin) seems just about as pedestrian as nibbling on their oxtail chili or neck bones a la Venetian, but rest assured there are far more daring tastes to explore. Foodies might prefer venturing into veal heart jerky territory, dabbling in a little beer battered deep fried calf brain or crunching on three types of deep-fried skin. Any Andrew Zimmern-style gorgers in the house might be positively elated to indulge in the bone marrow bread pudding instead or the ground up deep fried pork organs stuffed in natural organ casings (otherwise known as butcher’s faggots), fried gizzard confit or naturally the pierogies stuffed with foie gras. Better keep a defibrillator within arm’s reach.
A Gourmet Taste Sensation of Particularly Heady Proportions
(Images via: Chinophile, Weird Food, The Traveling Hungry Boy, Robert Scales)
There are certain things in life that are seriously hard to stomach and eating the head of a recognizable creature ranks all the way at the tippy-top of the list. To be fair, it seems just as rough a concept to process as gnawing on an elbow or a beak since you can’t escape the reality of what you are dining on. Nevertheless, it is done…that IS how head cheese was born, after all. Creating a meat-packed luncheon loaf glued together with gelatin proved to be a very practical way of using up the ‘nasty bits’ (as did grinding it all up and creating ‘sausages’) but as our society became more persnickety, such culinary experiences were reserved for die hard, old world food preservationists. Still, there are some who to this day dispense with the pleasantries of assorted animal noggin-studded loaves in favor of the real deal, preferring instead to roast whole heads fully in tact and devour with reckless abandon.
Playing Mind Games With Your Palate
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The living dead may be fond of greedily slurping the cerebral matter out of their unwitting prey but they’re missing a huge part of the culinary pleasure by going raw. From the deep fried, breaded brain sandwiches served up at Evansville, Indiana’s Hilltop Inn to the Seso cow brain tacos at Reseda, California’s Carnitas Michocanas and San Francisco-based Incanto‘s delicately braised chanterelle mushroom-caper-lemon calf’s brains, the grey stuff’s got it going on! Beyond the Halloween-like imagery, those with iron stomachs and adrenaline-pumped dining skills insist that consuming brains — when prepared properly — tend to yield gently on the tongue, delivering a milky, silky, fatty foie gras like experience that you’re not likely to forget. If cerebral chomping is your kind of thang, um…congratulations?
Spherical Rubbery Treats, Undoubtedly Tough For Men To Eat!
(Images via: Bento’s Wine Review, Obalesque, Pizza Rules, Asian Food Grocer, Anissas)
Okay, I’m of the female persuasion and even I find this to be a thoroughly revolting culinary offering…even worse than penis, although I can’t quite explain why…perhaps it’s the mystery that lurks within?!? In any event, whether you refer to them as Criadillas, lamb eggs, cowboy caviar, Taboyaki, spring roe, Montana tendergroins or prairie oysters, these dangling organs which bestow the oomph to many a male creature are mercilessly lopped off and then either pan-fried, boiled or breaded and deep fried. Is it really novel to nosh on someone else’s nether region ‘nads, even while under the influence of the palpably ballsy environment of the latest greatest testicle festival? If you have a thing for jawing critter-derived rubber bands infused with the impossibly salty stench of testosterone gone cold, then have at it! In this case, starvation truly sounds like a divine option.