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Am I the only Hound that doesn't get this trendy passion for offal and off cuts? (moved from Ontario board)

With places like the Black Hoof occupying the top ten of Toronto's desirable places to eat these days - I just have to wonder why?? I grew up in a poor country where eating offal was a badge of shame because it was so cheap. And the taste of offal was disgusting. I have always hated offal for that reason. How does a restuarant such as Black Hoof charge what it does for fried pig ears? And you line up in the freezing cold for that? And pay mega bucks? Has everybody lost their minds???
I guess there really IS a sucker born every day!

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The Black Hoof
928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

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  1. Overpriced? Yes.
    Taste of offal is disgusting? Hell no.

    1 Reply
    1. re: radiopolitic

      I pay for food that I think tastes good.

      Simple as that.

    2. 口感 aka mouthfeel is an adjective used frequently in Chinese cooking. Being that I was surrounded by this during my formative years, offal was eaten because it was tasty and good. There was no shame in eating tripe or tendon. If treated properly, it's no different of an ingredient than anything else.

      I find N. Americans'' main phobia about food stems from 口感. They have a very narrow range of acceptable textures. Squid is already pushing it, so god forbid stomach lining.

      Yes I like Black Hoof, but it wasn't like I only started eating offal after the "trend" picked up. It's been a lifelong infatuation. Plus you can find way more offal at a typical Cantonese restaurant than what Black Hoof offers. They're not pushing the envelop as hard as you'd think, this is Toronto afterall. They know their marketplace, sneak a few items in but the rest of the menu is safer.

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      The Black Hoof
      928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

      6 Replies
      1. re: aser

        Thanks Aser - I have many friends of Chinese origin, and when we eat out in Chniatown I have to avert my face when the chicken feet are presented! It's just a cultural difference I know. As I said I came from a poor background, and in fact my first job was in a slaughterhouse. Tripe was draped on a birdcage like device where the "mountain range" piece was sectioned off and frozen for export to Japan where it was considered a delicacy. I love the idea of "mouthfeel" - in fact I grew up loving lamb kidneys crisply fried in their own lard until I realized what they were! I'm sure I'd be arrested for even asking a butcher for lamb kidneys.
        I'm not condemming offall eaters - just this fad for high decible joints that charge a lot of money for cooked entrails - when I could use the same money to enjoy impeccibly fresh fish at Chiado or Zucca.

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        Chiado
        864 College Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1A3, CA

        Zucca
        2150 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 2A8, CA

        1. re: KitchenVoodoo

          I think the whole beast thing is part of the environmental/local/sustainable trend. Chiado's fish is probably none of those things.
          I also wonder if people's cooking skills have increased such that cuts that require a lot of work are more impressive than stuff we all do at home.
          I understand where you are coming from too however. My mother loves offal (always has) but she won't eat lamb much because it reminds her of awful 'mutton' she had growing up. She would also DIE if I ever got into the urban chicken farm thing because she was humiliated that her parents raised chickens when she was growing up.

        2. re: aser

          "I find N. Americans'' main phobia about food stems from 口感. They have a very narrow range of acceptable textures. Squid is already pushing it, so god forbid stomach lining."

          This is a relatively modern phenomena born, most likely, from a wealthier and wealthier society.

          Remember, dishes like Tripe and Trotters were an absolute staple in America. Philadelphia Pepper Pot (with Tripe) was George Washington's favorite meal and a favorite in many parts of the country, not least of those Philadelphia.

          1. re: DougRisk

            They still are in many places. Chitlins and various preparations of pig's feet are popular all over the South, and are traditional.

            For me, enjoying offal really depends on the cut and the preparation. I love chitlins, but dislike Mexican-style tripas. I love buche, but dislike pancita.

          2. re: aser

            口感 is definitely the whole package in measuring textures with quality and taste with Chinese food and in fact I would extend that to what the Chinese use to measure quality in other cuisines (Japanese or foreign).

            There's always been a trend of upscaling peasant and street food. Except nobody has successfully upscaled Chinese and Taiwanese offal dishes and made it into a trend :-).

            1. re: aser

              Aser said: "I find N. Americans' main phobia about food stems from 口感. They have a very narrow range of acceptable textures."

              Well texture, yes, but also anything that reminds the diner that what they are eating came from what used to be a living, breathing animal, or that is associated with body parts that are considered dirty.

              So eyes, feet, tails, tongues, brains, testicles -- these things are all out of the question for the typical American. Even the thought of putting them in the mouth upsets people, whether or not they've ever tasted them before.

            2. No, you aren't the only one. I have a specific place for those things. The garbage container.

              1. I think people are crazy for wasting a lot of the edible stuff such as offal and off-cuts. In many cases, IMO, they're tastier than the popular western cuts. Livers, heads, tongues, sweetbreads, feet, tails, brains, hearts, etc, from all species, delicious stuff. My only aversion is beef and calve liver. I will never get over the taste. I find it criminal that I have to pull nails and teeth just to find a store that sells a less-than handful of these delicious items.

                7 Replies
                1. re: bigmackdaddy

                  Right on. Also, I wince anytime I hear someone talk about "sustainability" and then see there faces turn when you bring up things like Tripe or Kidneys.

                  Not only do we end up throwing away* a good portion of the animal, but often enough, it's most nutritious cuts.

                  * Actually, they usually find there way to Pet Food plants and "ethnic" markets.

                  1. re: DougRisk

                    Yeah, this post had me hankering for Chinese stewed pig stomach, so I reheated some for breakfast. Wonderful stuff.

                    I actually may have found two places in NYC that will supply with the "discards". Dickson's Meats in Chelsea Market, and Wild Edibles in Grand Central Station. In Philadelphia I always bring back a half gallon of raw milk from Fair Food Farmstand. I will consider it a complete triumph once I get the famous tripe sandwich from the place in the Italian Market.

                    1. re: bigmackdaddy

                      Yeah, I live in Penn and it is one of the better places for getting Raw Milk. I consider myself fortunate.

                  2. re: bigmackdaddy

                    There's nothing crazy about it. I grew up in the South in a family that didn't have much money. We ate this "trendy" stuff all the time, because at that time it was the cheapest meat products available. I never liked it then, and believe me, I've eaten a LOT of it, cooked in just about every way imaginable. Once I got in a position where I didn't have to eat it anymore, I didn't, and I refuse to eat it to this day.

                    1. re: cigarmedic4

                      AMEN to that "cigarmedic"! The minute I realized that "black pudding" was made from pigs blood, chunks of pig fat, and filler, stuffed into pig's intestinal tubes..... I was disgusted.
                      I predict this offal love-in will either die out - or worse, it will be like what happened to the amazing sushi bars that opened in North American cities in the very early 80's - it will crop up as a dumbed down cousin on every corner. $2 tripe snacks anyone?

                      1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                        There is a guy in the central covered outdoor market in Florence who has been selling tripe sandwiches for over 30 years, both he and the sandwiches are great, and if you prefer not to try them, great, more for me. Boudin noir is a whole different subject, yum.

                        1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                          So before you realized what black pudding was, you enjoyed it? Sometimes a little ignorance is all one needs to enjoy something one wouldn't dare try.

                          My sister HATES beef tongue. She is also rather ditzy, so when we went out for dinner together, I ordered the beef tongue (4 slices served in a delicious horseradish sauce), and had her try a bite - she had forgotten what I ordered, even tho at the point of my ordering, her comment was "gross." Well, wouldn't you know it - she loved it.

                          I then reminded her that she had just eaten tongue, and that clearly it was something delicious if you could put your hang-ups aside.

                          OTOH - more for me '-)

                      1. re: tommy

                        +1. There's a thin but important line between something that is a trend—moving in a general direction—and something that is trendy. I first wrote about the reappearance of offal in kitchens 6 years ago, and it's only grown and grown, I think in relation to Americans' increased appreciation for trying new things (at least some Americans in some places) and awareness of waste issues. Could be more cyclical than trendy.

                        Like others, I don't care for all such cuts, but a lot of them are wonderfully textured/flavorful to me—heart, sweetbreads, brain—and as for the price, it depends on where you eat them and how they're prepared. Oxtail & beef tongue in broth with pumpkin fritto & maitake mushrooms at The Breslin: expensive. Tacos de lengua at a hole in the wall: cheap.

                        1. re: tatamagouche

                          Oxtails - yes! I came into the thread just to complain about the danged price of oxtails!! I love oxtails, but the price has gone skyhigh in recent years. (I was just looking at some at the local supermarket yesterday -- almost $9/pound, with not that much meat on 'em.) They used to be cheap comfort food.

                          1. re: racer x

                            Oxtails are so damn expensive these days. I order mine from American Grass Fed Beef (currently $5/lb) where it's listed under dog food. Apparently they haven't jumped on the offal bandwagon yet. I'm glad because I fear that prices will start going up once they do.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              Dog food?! That's hilarious.

                              I just took a look at their website. It looks like it's "human quality," grass-fed, organic beef (although I didn't see them use the term "organic"), but, as you said, the ox tails are only listed under dog food and, ludicrously (from the standpoint of human food), as a part of the "BARF diet."

                              1. re: racer x

                                (psst...that's Bones And Raw Food -- some subscribe to feeding dogs only what they would eat in the wild)

                                1. re: racer x

                                  It is organic though they aren't certified. Considering that oxtails are about $4.70/lb at my usual Chinese butcher shop, the American Grass Fed Beef ones are an absolute steal. And because they are leaner (grass-fed beef), I don't really have to skim the fat when I cook them -- though I'm sure some people will find that to be a minus.

                        2. As with everything, demand sets the price in the marketplace and so long as people are demanding challenging and adventurous dining experiences, you'll see the price of atypical cuts continue to rise. One could be annoyed with trend-followers and their effect on food prices or one can respect the newfound appreciation for eating more sustainably and omniverously. I tend to lean toward the latter, although when I see the price of tripe rising to unaffordable heights, I do indulge a little bit in the former.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JungMann

                            Wouldn't that be un-offal-able?

                            It has more to do with foodie bragging rights. I'm so cool that I can appreciate ox eyes ... only as long as the right chef with the right pedigree serves it up at an exhorbitant price and a fou-fou presentation. Candied cock's comb anyone? No ...seriously ... I know a joint that served that.

                            Some people really like the taste and texture of various cuts of offal and I'm not talking about them.

                          2. In their humorous cooking dictionary, Henry Beard and Roy McKie summed up my feeling toward much of offal in their definition of tongue: Dish considered a delicacy by some which actually crosses the line between "cut of beef" and "piece of dead cow."

                            1. Things are trendy because they were rare or non existant in the N. American restaurant scene and a smart chef brought it, whatever it is, to the fore with smart dishes. The whole pig revolution with pork bellys and charcuterie is/was a trend.

                              Much of that "horrible" stuff was still there in sausage (or as sausage casing) or maybe dirty rice. How 'bout pate?
                              Now it is out on its own. Pickled pigs feet, tounge, brains, all parts that can be made into delicious dishes.

                              Lobster was once food only for poor people, as was crawfish.

                              1. Where I came from, offal was freaking *expensive* because it was in limited supply, people understood the nature of meat, and they knew how to cook it.

                                Post-war North Americans have lost this link (meat is available on styrofoam trays, fish comes already breaded in boxes) and have been conditioned for "soft" and "bland" by commercialization and industrialization. Anything that's not that generally goes to "ethnic markets" and pet food as others have already mentioned , and "breakfast sausages". And pre-made patties.

                                Want "sucker born every day"? The $20+ plates of spaghetti al pomodoro.

                                1. Just went on Black Hoof's website and read the menu. Far less offal, and more interesting presentations than almost anywhere else than specializes in the odd and goofy. Along with the new smoked meat guy, this is my new go to in Toronto when l next visit. Read the menu of Fergus Henderson's places or Ribouldingue in central Paris and compare offerings.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    Hope you have great dining experiences when you next visit Toronto - do check the Chowhound Ontario website for what's new and happening and what suits your tastes.

                                  2. Pork cheeks.
                                    Beef cheeks.

                                    'nuff said.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      What a cheeky response! :-) I love guanciale when I can get it.

                                      When I go out for dim sum, I usually order the chicken feet/dragon's claws. Almost always, I happily get to eat the whole dish myself, since no one else at my table dares try them.

                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                        I almost fell over -- we took my mom to a resto here in France and the special of the day was joue de boeuf (in the summer, which was a little weird)...she liked it so much she specifically asked me to make it when she and my dad came back the next year.

                                        Slow-cooked, it's one of the greatest secrets in the whole store.

                                        All those who wince at offal? Don't ever go to a butcher shop in France...you won't eat for days)

                                        (I haven't had an opportunity to try chicken feet yet...but I'm pretty fearless about trying new things, so I will when I have the chance!)

                                        I have to confess, though, that I'm still nonplussed at blood sausage -- and I've eaten it in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, all over the UK, France, and Germany....and I still don't like it. But nobody can say I didn't give it a fair chance.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Try Spain: Morcilla de Burgos was a revelation.

                                          1. re: wattacetti

                                            Morcilla is certainly a different taste (and texture) to the black puddings we generally make in northern Europe. Can't say I prefer it to local stuff.

                                    2. LOL, glad I'm not the only one who noticed this. I am mostly a carnivore but I'll be damned if I am eating tripe.

                                      I am perfectly happy with cheap cuts of meat, I love slow cooking stuff but I want to eat the muscle of a cow not it's intestines.