In Which She Eats A Cow Tongue . . .

and lives to tell about it.

Okay, so I didn’t eat an entire cow tongue. I’m sure it was just a small portion, as far as cow tongues go. I also ate sweetbreads (which, I can attest, is neither sweet nor bread — I’m not entirely sure WHAT it is, but I know it is derived from some animal’s organ, and that is already more than I really care to know) and raw fish, which doesn’t sound nearly as exotic as it did before I tried the rest of it.

Now I appreciate fine cuisine and am probably a bit of a food snob (although I detest the word “foodie” and refuse to classify myself as such), and yet I’m not exactly what you’d call adventurous when it comes to my palate. I’m more of a filet mignon and cabernet kind of girl.

But when we dined last weekend at a local bistro with a rather adventurous Tasting Menu, and the rest of my dinner companions wanted to partake, I took a deep breath, retired my menu, and decided to join in. I knew what I was getting myself into; I had peeked at the menu options, and we had eaten there once before. Things like octopus, chicken livers and escargot populate the menu. There WAS a nice looking steak on the lineup that I was eyeing up, but when I decided to participate in the Tasting Menu, I knew I had to be willing to man up and to try everything. (They did ask us for any food allergies or aversions, so I made my gluten-free request. Other than that, it was no holds barred.)

“Everything” started with a potato chip and a dollop of arctic char. I wish I knew the proper name for the dish. It looked like this.

arctic char appetizer

I am not a big fan of sushi or raw meat of any kind, but I gamely popped one in my mouth. It was, in a word, DIVINE. Such a perfect blend of flavor . . . truly decadent.

I’m not sure what came next. It may have been the butternut squash soup.

First they placed bowls in front of us with a single chive and a lump of crab meat. Dork that I am, I thought that was it. Fortunately, before I dove in, they announced the soup, and I saw that a second waitress was behind the first with a soup toureen. She poured the squash soup into our bowls, right on top of the crab. It was so smooth and creamy — not a bit of texture of the squash in it. And then there was that delectable bite of crab meat at the bottom — like a treat for making it to the end of the course, not that that was any challenge.

butternut squash soup

As delicious as the soup was, I was more enamored with the bowl. I would love to have a set of those!

Then it was time for the beet and goat cheese salad . . . with cow tongue.

beet salad with cow tongue

Oh yes I did! I ate every. last. BITE. And yes, I am just a wee bit impressed with myself.

Honestly, it was DELICIOUS. I mean, truly divine. The combination of flavors was excellent, the texture was not off-putting in the least. If I hadn’t known what I was eating, I’d never have given it a second thought.

And the nice part is, after I ate COW TONGUE, I was game for ANYTHING. Which is a good thing, because after that came the veal sweetbreads.

I didn’t get a picture of this course, but it was very interesting. They were presented “buffalo-style” with blue cheese and a celery ribbon. The flavors were nice, but not spectacular, and the texture didn’t totally gross me out, but I knew it was something out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until I got home that I looked it up.

According to my trusty friend. The Google, sweetbreads are “made from the thymus or pancreas gland of a young calf” so . . . um . . . YEAH. Alrightythen. Let’s just say that was my least favorite part of the meal — even BEFORE I knew what it was.

After that we had a cucumber sorbet to clear our palates, and there may have been another course in there somewhere that I’m forgetting.

The main course was a braised short rib with caramelized onions, smoked potato veloute and baby leeks. It was so so so yum. Again, I was enjoying it too much to remember my camera.

Then finally it was time for DESSERT!

They brought us each a different dessert and instructed us to share, but only one was gluten free, so I ate half of that before passing it on. It was a blend of two of my favorite flavors . . . a bittersweet chocolate torte with salted caramel ice cream.

bittersweet chocolate torte with salted caramel ice cream

Honestly this dessert came up a bit short for me. And one of my dinner companions agreed. I mean, who can complain about chocolate and caramel? But I have had better — in Maine, as a matter of fact, at our little Greek restaurant find (yes, a Greek restaurant in Maine, of all places!) Still. For a girl who doesn’t get desserts at restaurants very often (it’s hard to find gluten free desserts) I was one happy camper. And also? The coffee was superb.

After all was said and done, I am SO glad I ventured out of my comfort zone and tried the Tasting Menu. I can get a steak any ol’ day, but it’s not very often that I get to try arctic char and veal sweebreads and cow tongue! (And I’m QUITE sure I would have had NONE of that if we’d ended up going to my husband’s college Homecoming in western PA, so I’m awfully glad our plans changed.)

So, what were YOU up to this weekend? Anything fun and exciting? Any new experiences to tell about? Do share!