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May 24, 2005 12:16 PM

Incanto "Head to Tail" dinner

  • r

Not only was the dinner inspired by Fergus Henderson, the man himself was at a nearby table, as was Bruce Aidells. We ate:

Crispy fried pig ears - cold salty chewy snack, flavor of pork cracklings with the texture of dried squid; really good with Murgo Brut, a unique Sicilian sparkling wine made from nerello mascalese

Shaved tripe salad with shaved fennel, parsley & lemon - delicate, delicious, wonderful contrasting textures

Liver & kidney pie with pickled ramps - chunky country-style pate, the pickled ramps were a nice contrast to the rich meat

Pig's brain bruschetta - another wonderful contrast between the soft, rich brains (taste a bit like very rich scrambled eggs) and the smoky, crunchy toast

Grilled lamb heart with sweet pea & fava bean mash & mint-horseradish salsa - one of the best dishes I've had anywhere, ever; the subtle sweetness of the vegetable puree was a great foil for the intense lamb flavor

Pork testa & grilled liver with salsa verde & chitterlings with rosemary potatoes & aioli - "testa" was basically pork fat confit, it and the rare liver were great with the salsa verde; chitterlings were so thin and crisp they almost seemed like crackers

Chocolate blood pudding with cherries - lovely panna cotta, tasted like Mexican chocolate, I wouldn't have guessed there was blood in it

Overall I'd say that you wouldn't have had to be a huge innards lover to enjoy this meal. Only the "pie" and the grilled liver had intense organ-y flavors.

Chef Chris Cosentino told us the USDA made Prather Ranch start "bleaching" its tripe so he bought all 110 pounds of "unbleached" they had in stock. Also said the pudding was about 3 parts blood to 4 parts cream.

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  1. r
    Robert Lauriston

    Cosentino also told us he's got a bunch of odd parts left over, so there will be some special items on the menu this week. Pig's tail, anyone?

    13 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston


      This was a fascinating and great post. Thanks so much. It helps me to reconsider my food boundries and maybe someday I'll be as adventurous an eater as you.

      It is like so many of the posts about some of the less mainstream Chinese dishes. If I read what is appealing and delicous about something, I can use that when faced with a new food I might otherwise stay away from.

      Thanks again.

      1. re: Krys

        I agree with Krys. This is a fascinating and beautifully-written piece.

        Our tastes in food are so strange. I, for example love liver and tongue and tripe in menudo (and not a la mode de Caen)and kidneys in steak and kidney pie, but the idea of eating blood and brains makes me quiver with horror. The shaved tripe sounded like something I could eat, since it was so well-disguised.

        Also, if something is ground up it's sometimes okay. It never crosses my mind to think about what's in the various salsicie and salumni and salchichas and saussisons I love so well.

        Eating bunnies is also a-okay and I lust after the bunny pate at Cafe Rouge Meat Market. But headcheese? Aieeeeeeeee, run away, run away.

        Anyway, great report.

        1. re: oakjoan

          I've been trying to broaden my horizons and eat more "parts." I have to say I'm drawing the line at brains, though: I just can't get over the squick factor on them.

          I have to say, though, that despite my efforts I really don't enjoy many organ meats.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I've been wondering where to try a brain/"sesos" taco to start with.

            1. re: sydthekyd
              Robert Lauriston

              El Tonayense taco trucks.

              Brains are fairly similar to scrambled chicken embryos.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Okay, now I'M squicked, thanks!

                1. re: sydthekyd

                  I suggest starting with the lamb brain curry at Shalimar in the Tenderloin. It has the innocuous texture and appearance of chopped tofu, just tastier.

                  1. re: nja

                    oh yum! How'd I miss this? Thanks for the note for my list...

                    1. re: bernalgirl

                      Iirc, it's called brain masala on the menu.

            2. re: Ruth Lafler

              My favorite place for offal tacos is the window on 21st (east of Folsom). Taco Loco has good buche too.

              Just don't think too much about it : )

              1. re: Windy

                Buche taco - what is that?

                1. re: sydthekyd

                  Buche is the smooth muscle of pork intestine and stomach.

            3. re: oakjoan

              LOL -- I'm picky about these things too. I generally love tongue, sweetbreads, liver, marrow, oxtails (not sure about pigs, though I love their little trotters), and bl-bl-blood. Don't care for kidneys, though I haven't touched 'em since, oh probably the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew). Had calves' brains once and they did seem to be delicious, but I couldn't quite get past the squick factor. And to this day I haven't knowingly had tripe, hearts, gizzards, or naughty bits of any critters.

              But, as others have said, a meal like this one might cause me to re-consider...