2010 Redux: Just Offal

Tongue Bone Marrow Petite Maison.jpg
Erica O'Neil
Hot tongue-on-tongue action. Veal tongue and crispy bone marrow from Petite Maison. 
In the spirit of tying up loose ends, we're recapping some of the best food-related finds of the year. We've already recapped the Best Books and Battle of the Dishes superstars, and now it's time for something a little offal.
Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. We're taking a quick look back at the Best of the Worst byproducts of butchering we've encountered this year. We tasted them so you don't have to and encountered some fabulous offal dishes in the valley, but we had to kiss a lot of frogs to get to 'em. A saying that may very well be literal with some of the mystery meat out there.

Here are the top five offal dishes in the Valley, vetted by us as funk-free and tasty. And if the grody blood and guts offal dishes are more your style, there's also a short list of the top five "I'd Rather Eat Ground Glass Than Do That Again" offal dishes at the end.

Foie Gras Creme Brulee Petite Maison.jpg
Erica O'Neil
Foie gras creme brulee.
Four delectable courses of scary offal meats served up by Chef James Porter with sophistication and class. Leave it to a charming French bistro to make offal meat melt-in-your-mouth delicious. We must have tried just about every part of the animal. Homemade head cheese made with pork snout, cheeks, ears, lips and lungs. Sweetbread and trotter crepinette topped with fried chicharrones. Sous vide veal tongue with crispy bone marrow. And the most delicious creme brulee we have ever savored. The secret ingredient? Foie gras. Hate us tomorrow, PETA, because this is too good to waste today.

SPAM- Flickr cookipediachef.jpg
Flickr- cookiepediachef
SPAM pizza. Mystery meat has never been so direct.
2. SPAM Mystery Meat Sliders from Maui Dog
We would never have predicted that mystery meat slathered in coconut and pineapple and topped with spicy chipotle aioli would have been so addictive. SPAM may be the butt of many jokes (heh, heh), but this noble haminal is raised to respectable heights at Maui Dog. Spicy Processed Ankle Meats nomiker be damned.

Oxtails Taste Caribbean.jpg
Erica O'Neil
Tender, flaky tail meat.
The most succulent, fall-off-the-bone tender shredded beef your mouth has ever made love to. You'll need to pick this tail meat straight off the vertebrae, but we promise that it will practically flake off into your waiting fork. 

Buche tastes just like thin cut pork, and is one of the best offal introductions for a newbie. The texture is right, the taste is fantastic, and the salsa is kicking. Hag maws are good eats, and it's a scientific fact that just about anything tastes better in taco form. 

It's still baffling, but we kept coming back to tongue as one of our favorite offal meats. Any time we're at a taco shop, we order up a lengua in addition to the more traditional fare. Tongue is like any other muscle on the cow, and provided it's well braised, it will melt in your mouth and tickle your tastebuds. 

Top Five "I'd Rather Eat Ground Glass Than Do That Again" Offal Meats:
The name should serve as a warning for this strange, sulfurous preserved egg. It's a devil-spawned, jellied rotten egg befouling perfectly good congee.

Pig blood soup Com Tam Thuan Kieu.jpg
Erica O'Neil
We dare you to belly up to this bloody disgusting soup.
When the guy asks you three times if "you're really sure you want to try this," and "it's really not good," and "what about something else?" Take him at this word.

An odd snot-like gelatinous texture and a major case of the jigglies made this stuff hard to even grasp with the chopsticks, let alone choke down.

Chicken feet, while graced with a bad ass name like Phoenix Claws, are the equivalent of eating soggy chicken skin and weird tendons. And they require you to spit out tiny little foot bones like a BB gun.

Unlike their crispy fried pork rind cousins, these chicharrones were odd strips of skin and fat that jiggled all the way down our throat. Stick to the crispy pork rinds for late night noshing and convenience store runs.

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