- Burke and Wells Jun 5, 2002 10:19 AM
[NOTE: I wanted to explore my recent restaurant encounter with a sausage that smelled and tasted of excrement. Please note there is a profane word in this article, but I found it almost unavoidable--it's used not to inflame, but to describe. If I need to recast this article to avoid the word, I'll be happy to do so. --Peter Wells]
Burke and I sifted through our Paris food bible, Patricia Wells's The Food Lover's Guide to Paris, the best and most reliable guide we've found. It almost never leads us astray, so without hesitation we made reservations at a nice Lyonaisse place near the Arab Institute in the 5th. Lyonaisse cuisine is hearty, earthy, filling, precisely what we love about our mainstay, Cartet--see my recent review of Cartet.
At this place (which shall remain nameless) we enjoyed a fantastic cold salad buffet--ten individual bowls heaping with Lyonaisse specialty salads like lentils, red cabbage, museau of beef, lardons of bacon, a killer mushroom salad in a tomato sauce, many more. Delicious! For his main course, Burke ordered the boudin (blood sausage), another unusual European comestible we've both come to love. I ordered the Andouillette.
I know that Andouillette is chitterling sausage--pig intestines bunched and folded together and stuffed into sausage casing (which is itself nothing but intestine), grilled or boiled as you would any sausage. I love it. We've both ordered it several times in other places, enjoyed the layered texture, the pleasant chewiness, the gelatinous flavor. Burke and I have no fear of barnyard foods: some cheeses we've come to love flood the room with awful stench but taste delicious. This time my sausage arrived in a lake buttery white wine sauce beside a mountain of potatoes Lyonaisse (thinly sliced with cheese and cream, cooked in an earthenware dish in the oven until heavenly). It was plump, moist, perfectly cooked and tasted strongly of excrement. I don't actually know what excrement taste like, but the smell was powerful and clear. I found myself sitting in a nice restaurant, deep into a meal, with delicious potatoes and this turd-flavored sausage steaming up at me from a warm plate.
"So how's yours?"
"Delicious! The boudin are beautifully cooked. These aren't potatoes beside it, they're sauteed apples, a perfect compliment. How's yours?"
"Mine tastes like shit."
"Potatoes are delicious, but this Andouillette tastes like shit."
"No, I mean it tastes like shit. LIKE shit. Here."
Then I sliced off a slender wedge and fed it to Burke. Cruel? Perhaps. I had to do it; I had to know I wasn't imagining this astounding aroma and flavor. I covered his piece in sauce, but the distinction came through.
"Oh my God, it does taste like shit."
Horror and amusement gripped us both. It was impossible not to laugh. We cracked up, we whispered countless jokes to eachother, we washed our mouths out with water and wine. But then what?
I'll confess what I did and then try to explain my reasoning. I ate half of it--I choked down half of that massive tripe sausage, drenching it in sauce and chasing it with potatoes. I was also careful to leave half the potatoes, delicious as they were.
Why? Because if I signaled for Madame to send it back, she would ask, "What's wrong, sir?" I couln't have brought myself to say it. How do you tell someone that they have served you a turd? It's not like an underdone steak or an improperly seared salmon. I don't think there is a polite way to say it. Even if I managed, I foresaw only two possible outcomes:
1) Either she will inform me this is a "barnyard flavor" prized by those who truly appreciate Andouillette, that I'm displaying a terrible lack of sophistication, that sending it back just proves once again Americans don't know how to eat; or,
2) She will realize she served an excrement-filled sausage to a customer. I had fantasies, horrible visions of the look on her face, the terror, the revultion, her carrying the thing to the kitchen, the chef bursting into the dining room to fall on his knees apologizing, the French authorities closing them down, tears from their faces, disaster.
I was so sure the outcome would be #2 I was trembling. So I found a third choice. The sausage was already almost half done (my first bite was a big one, I took a second to verify, and a slice went to Burke), two more bites would bring it to half. So I ate two more bites, to Burke's astonishment. Now leaving half of anything is a problem in a restaurant like this. As expected, Madame came up to our table.
"Monsieur does not like?"
"Oh no, Madame, I simply filled up on your delicious all-you-can-eat salads! The fault is mine. Now I'm so full it's either finish this plate or save room for dessert, and I must try your desserts."
I wasn't lying, I truly did need dessert--something heavy to blot out the taste of the Andouillette. Madame understood, felt complimented, even smiled; face was saved, we enjoyed a nice dessert, finished our wine, had coffee and left.
Did I do the right thing? I don't know. One the menu this Andouillette was listed with the coveted AAAAA rating, a must for quality (and government controlled) tripe sausages. Perhaps I could have done the restaurant a favor, showed them they needed to inquire into this producer and get that 5A rating reevaluated or switch suppliers. Perhaps I doomed some future customer to food poisoning. Perhaps I put myself at risk by taking those last bites (I'm happy to report I felt no ill effects, nor did Burke, but it was a risk at the time all the same).
I feel this episode highlights one of those fracture points between cultures. I suspect a native French, a gormet perhaps, would have known instantly if this sausage was bad or merely strong on a highly-prized flavor and aroma element. As Burke said later, "If there is a level of gormet where you learn to eat shit and appreciate it, I don't want to go there." Agreed, but then, we're from North America. I saved face, theirs and/or ours, at a price, thankfully not a high one. Was this right? I'm not sure. If it happened again, would I react the same way?
I won't soon order Andouillette again, that's for sure. The experience put me off it, hopefully not off tripe entirely. I wonder what other people would have done, if there were other alternatives: could I have sent it back and simply said "I don't like it," have them bring me something else; should I use this site as a forum to decry the restaurant, put its name in bold letters and urge the world to avoid it?
These are the subtle dangers of aggressive food experimentation, but considering how much joy it's brought Burke and I so far, the risk is worth it.
A Burke and Wells essay
An amazing post. Part Emperor's New Clothes and part blessed contrast to recent posts on the LA Board in which posters expressed dismay and disgust that they were not compensated when waiters spilled some water on their clothes. Still, don't you owe it to us to advise of the name of the place?
i applaud your instincts to avoid embarassing yourself and "Madame." In my run-ins with Andouilette it always has been, should be and is prized for the goute de merde; i've always found it a bit strong for my taste --although kind of neat with a strong grainy mustard followed by a nice peppery cornas or a higher acid Vacquerey (sp?).
i suspect their supplier is in no risk of losing the 5A rating.
by the way, i didn't follow the references to tripe? did you get tripe (cow/calf stomach lining) as well?
re: kirk wallace
No confusion on your part, Kirk! I was so busy wrestling with my gastronomic and moral demons that I confused CHITERLINGS with TRIPE.
I have no problem with tripe, love it, in fact. Pardon the error--I'll fix it if I recast the story for another part of Chowhounds. Thanks for knocking some sense into me!
An offal dilemma, to be sure. I have a feeling that you couldn't wait to scat back to your apartment. But the upshot is you have a great story to dine out on for the rest of your life. (I just hope you didn't try their Cow Pie dessert?). As Caesar was hear to mutter "E. coli Brutus?" ;-D
Your adventures continue!
I think you handled the situation as well as one could. Personally, I don't see the need to mention the restaurant. As some wise, old philosopher said, S--- happens! pat
I never could bring myself to eat chitlin's because of the un-Godly (and unmistakable) stench emanating from the kitchen in which they were prepared. Thank you for removing any shred of doubt I may have harbored in this regard. Some things you really are better off not sampling.
The most entertaining post on this site for a long time.
You have realised the truth. Andouilette is a disgusting food that if it didn't have a fancy French name and was fed to you outside of France you wouldn't look twice at and probably would have serious doubts about feeding to your dog.
I would have given it back to Madam and if she queried it asked her to eat it.
re: Tony Finch
I agree -- most entertaining post in a long while.
I've never had andouilette, but was curious and so did a little search. Note, in the following link, the following sentences: "First the intestines must be thoroughly cleaned and scraped of all fat. Then they are soaked in cold water for 24 hours." Is it possible that these steps were not taken in your case, B&W, or might it be the case instead that the thorough cleansing does not remove the odor?
re: Tony Finch
Imagine her response...
" A taste? Mais non monsieur. We French are know for the love of many foods. But that sausage , to me tastes like...well...merde" I can imagine the insane side splitting laughter from our beloved Gary and Peter. So sorry France is treating you shitty. Feel free to groan now.
Merde, alors! Maybe the pig's last meal was durian (see nitty gritty of prior posts in ChowNews).
I am in utter hysterics over this post!!!! I have been roaring for the better part of the day, and bursting into fits of innapropriate giggles for the rest!!
I don't believe an ettiquette manual has yet been written that would address the particular situation of being served doody!!
This brought back some hideous memories of eating sausages in Yugoslavia (dating myself) that, I swear to God, were stuffed with sawdust. When I excused myself to go dispose of the offending items in what can only generously be termed "the Bathroom" (really a plywood lean to in a field behind the restaurant) I was amused to see the heaping pile of sawdust packed sausages right next to the toilet -- apparently many others had opted to sneak them out back in their napkins, rather than risking offending the chef.
You are a good sport and a gentleman!!!
My father,and some friends got historically sick eating anduoille sausage in France some years back,and I heard the story repeated for years.It rated as one of the worst food experiences in his life,so although I'm an adventurous eater;after his,and your experience.....no thanks.yow.
Very funny. I had a similar experience on the A10 on my way to Tours last year. We stopped at one of the many restaurants on the highway after visiting one of the great castles in the area. Lunch time. The restaurant was one of those grab-a-tray-and-order-what-you-want-deals. I pointed to and ordered an Andouillete which looked like a nice sausage. I took it to my table with other stuff and took a bite. Ugh. Really, really disgusting. I am certainly not a finicky eater but I could not swallow that and needed a napkin to discreetly, well, not so discreetly remove the "food" from my mouth. I pushed the plate to one side and continued eating the other stuff. I kept looking at the offensive sausage and finally decided that the smell was too much and took the plate to the trash can. After I came home I searched around the net and found similar experiences. Chuck Taggart has a very funny essay in his Gumbo Pages (see link below).
I've eaten andouillette twice. The first time it was actually quite good (obviously, or I never would have ordered it again), served with a very tart reduction of some acidy white wine (it really cut the shit, so to speak). The second time it was just as offal as everyone says AND it looked like an enormous schwantz (sp?) AND when I cut into it, all the squiggly intestines stuffed inside sprang out all over the plate. Tellement dégueulasse*.
*Dégueulasse is politely defined in my Larousse as "disgusting, filthy, yucky", but any Frog** will tell you that it really means "gross enough to make you want to puke".
**I call my French friends Frogs all the time, and they take no offense, but it's possible someone will. I mean no offense; I use it as a term of endearment.
I laughed out loud when I read your post. A very similar thing happened to me when I was in France two years ago. At a cafe in Brittany, I thought I would be adventurous and order the andouillette. Big mistake! As soon as it came to the table I could smell that I had made the wrong choice. My friend sitting across from me could also smell it. I tried it, hoping that maybe it would taste at least okay, but the flavor only matched the smell. I wasn't sure what to do, because I didn't want to be rude or a dumb American. So I tried to eat the potatoes and tomatoes that had come with it (which was hard to do because at that point they tasted just like the meat). And then pushed what was left around my plate so it would look like I had eaten most of it. Then I just prayed that my friend would hurry up and finish her meal so the waitress would take away the plates.
I was never sure if that was what it was supposed to taste like or if I had just picked the wrong restaurant to try it at. After reading your post, I tend to think the former and don't think I'll be giving it another try.
I love andouillette. Grilled, boiled, plain, sauced, hot, cold - you name it. I've had homemade from a Lyonnaise friend's mom's to the generic Leader Price brand from Franprix. At fancy Parisian bistros to funky places where I can't even remember the name of the town much less the dive-y joint. I know my andouillette.
So having said that, every once in a while, one can run across some stinkers - literally speaking - and the French know that.
I think you could have said something discretely. And perhaps still can. A phone call - or a note if you're more comfortable. You boys have sophisticated palates and good manners, I'm sure you'll know what to say.
As someone who grew up in the restaurant business, I can tell you that restaurant owners just don't try everything everyday. I wonder if they make their own or get it from someone else?
In any case, one bad andouillette don't spoil the whole bunch girl - to paraphrase the Jackson 5. Or was that the Osmonds?
And here's a link to the French Andouillette Brotherhood - and "The Marvelous World of the Andouillette".
I recall one French food guru, when describing andouillette at the Pied au Couchon, suggested that is a dish "best left to the unique French palate". If you have ever smelled chit'lins boiling...you know what to expect. I'm quite surprised that you ever ate them and liked them.
My two least favorite foods of France are Andouillette and boudin noir, and tripe is a close third.
I experienced Adouillette a long time ago, 1973, I think, at the Restaurant Marche (please put an accent ague on that final e) on the pretty place Carnot in Beaune. The Marche wore one Michelin macaron at that time and was expected to get another the next year.
A wine negotiant there, Roland Remoissonet, had entertained my wife and me memorably a couple years before that, taking us on his big boat to cruise up the river Saone (circonflex that there o for me, will ya?) from his house in Chalon to a little roadside restaurant where he gave us "frogs with garlic," as he put it.
Anyway, next time we were in Beaune we invited him to lunch with us at Marche, and there we met. He told me that M Croix's andouillette was the finest he'd ever had, and so I ordered it. The thing came, about the size of the head on a nine pound sledgehammer, with much the same killing power. It lay there, ecru in its puddle of yellow pus, and the ammoniac, urinary, fecal nose almost dropped me over.
But I manfully cut me a hunk and popped it in. My God, what a horror. "Doesn't that smell wonderful?" said my friend, the important wine guy. "Excellent," I whimpered, after a very long slug of Savigny-les-Beaune. Not having a sufficient sense of self-worth at that time, I saw no way out but to eat it all. And I did. I drank a lot of wine and ate most of a pan of potatoes Anna, but there was not enough Savigny-les-Beaune nor enough buttery potatoes in all the world to wash away that foulness.
Now, M Remoissonet was a fun guy back then, with a decidedly earthy sense of humor, and I've always wondered if he laughed away the rest of the afternoon, having played a great trick on the American buck-private gastronome.
I still think of it as my worst restaurant meal ever.
I tell you all this, not to play can-you-top-this, but because I'd like to see this thread spun out. What was your worst restaurant meal, worst on account of the food, not by reason of the company?
re: Maurice Naughton
Your story somehow reminds me of a friend who went to visit some in-laws who operated a cattle ranch. The first night, after supper around a campfire, the wranglers were discussing what they would do the next day. Several offered that they thought they'd "do some A-I." Finally, it came time for my friend to say what he would do on the morrow. Not wanting to appear the tenderfoot he clearly was, he shouted that he too would do some A-I. A little later he chanced to ask one of the wranglers just what this A-I was. It was then he was loudly informed that A-I was artificial insemination, performed of course using one's hand.
I love andouillettes, I get them from a store in CA.
Of course, chitterlings are eaten in England as well and one can find them in supermarkets all over the states, so, I guess, the french are not alone in this excremental taste.
Incidentely, chitterlings are not tripe, but what can one expect from food writers whon cannot spell "gourmet" correctly, and in another article,about France write about "bon rentree" which should spell bonne rentree.
re: mc michael
I think I read somewhere that the andouilettes available in this country are not related to the ones found in France, and are derived from a sausage by the same name developed in New Orleans.
Anybody had them in NOLA and can comment if this is true?
re: Michel Kleinbaum
Well, it seemed he had the right idea at one point and then slipped into tripe..these things happen. I know a good cook who unfortunately got terribly confused about beurre manie but we did not correct him lest he be embarassed..he came around a few weeks later and was grateful for the non-rebuke.
"Gormet" strikes me as a typo and, as to the French grammar, & spelling , well I think the guys are still learning so I cut 'em some slack. Besides they are probably getting an earful from the natives whenever an error is committed. [Oddly enough, the French have been accomodating of my language efforts. Never had a problem. I'm awfully rusty now, though, so a night in PAris might be brutal. Well, this is how we learn.......]
I think that the reason why some had a different reaction to liking andouillette one time and not the next is because there are 5 or 6 different types, andouillette de Troyes is pure pork and mostly made of chitterlings, andouillette de Lyon is all veal except for the casing, several others are a mix of porc and veal. All use other parts of the animal, the throat for example.
Andouille is something else alltogether .
I think the reaction to bad spelling has more to do with how things are said than with ones patience with beginners.
re: michel kleinbaum
"Andouille is something else alltogether .
I think the reaction to bad spelling has more to do with how things are said than with ones patience with beginners."
I guess that would explain why you misspelled the word 'altogether' ?
Really, Michel, criticising someone's spelling on a food bulletin board is a bit rich... :-) It also undermines the potential power of your commentary, which I am sure was not what you intended, as we are all interested in what you have to say, not in how it's spelled !
re: Michel Kleinbaum
Michel, our cardinal rule here on Chowhound is: review food, NOT your fellow posters.
Chowhound is a spelling/grammar rebuke-free-zone. Our community is more interested in the passionate ardency of the hound, rather than the diligence of his/her spelling. This goes for your postings, as well, which - though imperfectly spelled and phrased - are quite welcome, aside from this one highly inappropriate snarl.
Burke & Wells, This is one of the funniest food reviews that I have read! Thank you for giving me a needed belly-laugh today!
Pay no heed to the spelling and grammar pedantics! Carry on! I want to read more!