So a local food blogger got the idea of putting on an event dedicated to eating the innards that we (in our culture) normally don't. She kicked the idea around with a number of local chefs, found that they really liked the idea, and thus was born "Have an Offal Day". As it turned out, the food blogger ended up getting a dozen of the most talented Sacramento-area chefs involved, each coming up with a dish that featured some sort of animal-based organ that doesn't show up on menus around here very often.
My pal Nilo and I arrived at the venue - a large room attached to one of the better local restaurants - at a little before 2:00. We got in right away, found the bar, picked up a couple of drinks, and sat down. We were joined at our 4-top by a younger Chinese couple, which made for some great conversation as they talked about the kind of food they had grown up on. There was a large table set up at one end of the room with what looked like a bowl of chicharrones and some taco fixings that included chunks of unbelievably tender meat in a tasty broth. (We later found out that the "chicharrones" were made from sturgeon skin.) This food appeared to be available for general snacking, beyond the dishes that the various chefs came up with. This amounted to serious overkill.
The different chefs' contributions were brought out one at a time. Servers took them from table to table, with little explanation as to what they were. After they'd finished service and everyone had time to taste, the chef would go to the microphone to explain the dish. The food was uniformly excellent, which was not surprising as the guys making it really are the best in the area. (It's not San Francisco or Chicago here, but we still manage to attract some chefs with some pretty serious chops.). There was quite a mixed group of attendees, with some older folks, some younger folks, some hipsters, some pretty conservative types. They held ticket sales down, so the room was never too crowded, the line at the bar was never too long, and everyone got more than enough to eat. To top it all off, you got to taste a dozen dishes from some very good chefs for a fee of $45. (Which I'd imagine will never happen here again.)
In the end, there was nothing served that I would consider particularly challenging in terms of flavor or texture. The dishes were generally well put together, complex, and well-balanced. Nothing was overly funky or gamy. To me, the most "interesting" of the plates involved a small piece of fried fish skin with a little blob of monkfish liver and a small piece of uni on top (I'm not a big uni fan). Even that was not at all difficult to get down the gullet. I don't know that I could pick a favorite, although a head cheese dish and a "deviled egg" stuffed with chicken liver mousse and topped with fried chicken skin were certainly candidates. Overall, a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon .
For anyone interested, here's a rundown of the dishes taken from the Facebook page for the event:
Coppa Di Testa
A cold, Italian inspired pork head cheese. Sliced thin, and garnished with olive oil, lemon zest, Calabrian chili, and pickled onions.
Samosas with lamb brain, cheek, and tongue with tamarind and cilantro chutneys.
Tripe & arugula salad in lemon honey vinaigrette with toasted sesame seeds & pork heart sausage.
Balls to the walls - deep fried duck testicles
Braised lamb tongue with beech mushrooms, Madeira wine and crispy sweetbreads.
Smoked duck heart sausage with watermelon pickle relish
24-hour corned duck gizzards with onion jam and pickled mustard seeds
Crispy fried duck tongues with "wild" mustard: wild seeds, wild pine nuts and wild elderberries.
Hard boiled egg with chicken liver mousse and crispy chicken skin, fried chicken feet
Sturgeon skin chicharron, monk fish liver, uni, cilantro powder
Beef skewers with beef tongue and heart and pickled veggies
Crispy sturgeon skin with sturgeon liver pearls and caviar
Ox tongue rillettes on cracker with beet microgreens and Berryessa beer mustard
Tostette with pastrami duck gizzards, aioli, and pickled duck hearts.
"People who love to eat are always the best people"
- Julia Child