Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Offal Dinner For L'Ordre Mondial Des Gourmet Desgustateurs at Cowbell Restaurant.

Cowbell is a terrific local restaurant in the west Parkdale area of Queen Street, Toronto. The chef, Mark Cutrara butchers all of his meats himself and well knows the subtle anatomical areas that make for interesting and tasty eating. I consider chef Mark to be among the best chefs in Toronto. He especially shows his stuff when he is challenged to do a significant meal for small groups. His regular menu does not often get into the esoterics, except by special request. The Ordre Mondial is a small unusual group within the Chaine Des Rotisseurs, that loves to enjoy fine wine and cuisine, and when it comes to experiencing exotic cuisine, their attitude is "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead".

There has been a trend over the past 3 years towards including more and more offal on menus. This past week alone, I attended 2 events, this being one, where all of the dishes were offal and each event was well attended. This longstanding tradition of eating offal in both Asia and Europe is now very much making itself felt in what was formerly white bread, North American restaurant culture.

Proud chef Mark Cutrara, a focused chef with a wry sense of humour.

We began with rich tasting trout liver pate and house made red fife sour dough bread. This was accompanied by very fragrant fennel seeds and Maldon sea salt, which we were instructed to sprinkle over the pate after it was spread on the bread. The dense pate tasted more like liver than the expected "fishy" and was very good.

Jamaican beef cod soup, a rich and palate satisfying dashi broth concoction which also incorporated Carribean christophen, okra, carrot, cocoa, yellow yam, green banana, cinnamon, allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers and slices of garlic. The complex flavour was so pleasurable that I asked to take home any extra soup remaining (there was none!).

Pork chitlings, chopped liver, duck hearts, duck gizzards, kimchi mayo and pickles.

Smoked beef brain fritter with celery root and horseradish puree and parsley oil. This was the only dish I had trouble with. I used to eat brain but the hidden torpedo of Creutzfeld-Jacob has put me off for the last 8 years. Nevertheless, I experienced the dish.

Lamb's testicle and beef tongue with tomato ragu and pommes Anna was a delicious dish for me. The testicle was an experience a bit like eating a loosely textured sausage, kind of what it was, testicle and ground pork in a casing wrapped in caul fat. I just love tongue and this tongue was perfect, just the right thickness and not too thin, juicy and with a very tender texture. The slow cooked, rich flavoured tomato sauce had a mild but bright acidity that was the perfect balance for the unctuous meats.

Chocolate "pate" with boozy fruit and cookies. Perfect to finish this rich meal.

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