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On Tuesday March 4, I’m hosting an evening with gut man Chris Cosentino, the wizard of vicera at Astor Center in New York.  I didn’t know the guy before the next iron chef America contest but he was always a jolt of energy when he entered the room, and I’ll never forget his excellent tripe dessert.  Since then, I’ve got to know him as an excellent chef, family man and most recently a craftsman of superb dry-cured meats, one more reason the bay area is one of America’s culinary epicenters.

I admire Cosentino’s affection for offal, aka variety meats. I like to eat variety meats, yes, but more, I appreciate the craftsmanship of the chef who takes what is usually discarded, and with knowledge and skill and care turns something nasty into the sublime.  That to me is in part what being a great chef means.Chef_chris_cosentino

If you’re in the New York area on that first Tuesday in March I hope you’ll join me and Chris for an offal tasting, featuring venison liver crudo (yes, that sounds a little scary, doesn’t it), beef heart tartare and candied coxcombs.

Chris is also doing an offal Q&A the previous Sunday, March 2.  Any chefs wanting to get more into offal and take advantage of Cosentino’s experience, that’s the chance.

Offal photos are by Michael Harlan Turkell.

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40 Wonderful responses to “Head to Tail Dinner in Manhattan”

  • Lauren

    Is there any way to get one of those “I Love Offal” buttons without buying a ticket to the dinner?

    “To force people to pay $250 dollars to eat your candied coxcombs is not only ironic, but a form of culinary bullying”

    So people are being “forced” to buy these tickets, are they? What seems bullying to me is your shrill, self-righteous attitude.

  • luis

    Sarah, somebody had to say it and you did. Bully for you. My fam has deep roots in Spain and they have a rich repertoire of cooking some of these things. Tasty stuff…honestly very flavorfull stuff, but I am not sure this should be a recurrent eating experience. Certainly if you work hard for your money you should should spend it wisely. Cocks combs is NOT that!

  • Sarah

    In days of yore, when families typically ate off of one or two prized animals for the entire year, it made sense that no part of the animal go to waste. I don’t believe that there is anything unhealthy about eating organ meats occasionally, and depending on the organ, a healthy and delicious move as well. But this whole idea of building meals around offal, meals which showcase organs from 6-10 different animals is the exact antithesis to why these off cast parts were eaten in the first place. THEY WERE EATEN OUT OF NECESSITY BY PEOPLE WHO COULD NOT AFFORD TO LET ANYTHING GO TO WASTE. To force people to pay $250 dollars to eat your candied coxcombs is not only ironic, but a form of culinary bullying. I am a native New Yorker, a chef, and a sustainable agriculture enthusiast…and thank goodness, not silly enough to fork over the kind of money that could buy my family a quarter of a grass fed steer, with all of those fun organs as well…So enjoy your constipation and whatever other incurable brain or blood disease you will be contracting after Chef Cosentino’s meal.

  • Natasja

    As someone mentioned earlier, here in Spain we eat a lot of variety meats. Cock’s combs are a particular favorite of mine, can someone tell me how the one’s in the photo are prepared?

  • luis

    High end restaurant salads are special. You know the type of salad you get at great restaurants. It’s nothing other than what you are familiar with and can buy at the Publix.
    But they serve them at the right temp, crisp, fresh, with the right dressing made in the premises. All of a sudden you are eating salad and loving every single bite. The clean crispness of them… Unbeatable. But will folks actually pay for a quality salad or just expect it to be part of the meal. Give me a great salad and I will pay for it. Throw in the bitter innards and I will have something to feed the ducks with.

  • DrBehavior

    Offal food being raised to the level of gourmet feast at phenomenally high prices is almost a cruel irony. The ‘concoctions’ we used to have to eat and really enjoyed as kids growing up in homes of modest means has now been transformed into something akin to ‘nectar of the gods’ at prices only the very wealthy and very snobby can afford. Oh well :(

  • Dervin

    I agree with Jim, there’s something more than “foodies” expanding their horizons and more like a one-up contest eventually sucking the fun out of cooking and making it serious business (this excludes those that actually make their living from cooking).

    Like sending 5 year olds to soccer sleep away camps where they receive training that would make the East Germans cringe, we are in danger of doing this to cooking. The beauty of Bourdain and Ruhlman is their refusal to cheerlead this oneupmanship that happens whenever upper middle-class white people get interested in something.

    The beauty of Cosentino’s cooking is he’s able to take the cheapest cuts of the animal, the parts that the nobility just gave away to the peasants, and turn them into something today’s nobility is willing to pay $250 to now consume. (and for the record, that is almost double what the median US family lives on per day).

  • Bob delGrosso

    Dick/Claudia

    Part of the problem of being as smart as I am is that the nearly constant requests by family, friends and increasingly the public for answers to questions both within and outside of the range of my expertise makes it very difficult for me to travel.

    In any case, not to worry. Chef Cosentino has already contacted me and I have agreed to feed him answers via hidden microphones in the temples of his glasses. (There is more than one reason why the frames are so thick. See?) In other words, it’s business as usual.

  • Dick Black

    Ah shucks Bob, the group needs you in a situation like this. Please ty to clear your calendar. What happens if someone asks Cosentino a question and he doesn’t know the answer, who will be around to answer it then ?

    Whadya say Bob ?

  • Claudia

    Yeah, Bob, whaddaya say? Come up for the Q&A – you aren’t working the farm on Sundays!

  • Bookman

    Unless my eyes deceived me, Cosentino got a spot on History Channel’s “Modern Marvels: The Pig”, on the topic of offal.

    Given the way the specialty channels recycle their shows, I’m pretty sure it will be re-run, so fans might want to watch for it to come ’round again.

    HTH

  • luis

    Love tofu ken. The firm variety which can be sauteed with anything and will take on any flavor it comes in contact with. Tofu is a vegetable thing…tripe….is not!.
    My grandmother was from Galicia Spain and Grandpa was from Asturias Spain. Lots of family from Spain around. Believe me they can teach Cosentino a thing or two about tripe and other delectable dishes. I guess I make fun of it but ocassionally if its done right… Not my type of eating experience though. There are millions of dishes I’d rather have than take this fork in the road.
    Cook something weird and unsual and get some notice. Get in there and fight the fight to stand out for best ceasar salad and risk living anonymous as a super chef. I love a great ceasar salad and I don’t care for tripe.

  • Ken

    Years ago, my late Chinese grandmother in rural N. California asked for, and graciously received deer brains by her kindly neighbors and local hunters. She would tell me, “Chinese will eat anything, haha”. She cut it into non-descript chunks and made an herbal, medicinal soup that tasted wonderful. My siblings however, ran for cover when she appeared with it – delivering it to us in a clear glass mason jar.

    I ate this dish years before I ate something called “tofu” — so when I first tried tofu I remember thinking, “Mmm…tastes like deer brains”. True story.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Dick Black

    I’ll go if Mr. Ruhlman is paying. Otherwise, I’m
    going to have to settle for making my own deer liver crudo next time I have a deer to butcher (Which might be tomorrow for all I know.).

    Michael

    What kind of coffee is going to be served: percolated or dripped?

  • Ted

    Back in the ’70s in South Texas Menudo CookOffs, there would be tripitas. Pieces of honeycomb tripe cut into shapes (hearts, diamonds, etc) by hand..

    these would then be used for the menudo..

    “Breakfast of Champions”.

    “Pa’ un crudo, come menudo”

    (For a hangover, eat menudo)

    Ted

  • luis

    Jim, exactly my feelings man. What a disfunctional bunch we have become. Get enough of a good thing and now explore the virtues of that which is just wrong by default. The cool in us when you analyze it probe it, taste it..try it, is just NOT THAT COOL. Elevate yourself around the food universe and one day after all the height and elevation you reach a place NO ONE IS COOL ENOUGH to visit… the colon!. Not only reach it but feed it to your costumers and charge them up the… right again coloon…. for it.

  • ntsc

    Folks, guess where sausage casings come from?

    Offal isn’t ‘new’ it has simply been ignored for a long time. I use liver, have made and like scrapple, and like headcheese. Took a course that involved sweetbreads, which a lot of the other students wouldn’t try.

  • Claudia

    Too bad I’ll have to miss the dinner, but the Q&A sounds almost as much fun! Any other NYC foodies?

  • JMW

    I really appreciate that when I go to Incanto, I actually see Cosentino there working alongside everyone else. Bourdain makes fun of ‘foodies’ because allegedly we think that the Big Name guys are actually cooking for us — but in Cosentino’s restaurant, that’s actually the case (or close to it).

    On the topic of offal — I think it’s a natural extension of California cuisine. The bay area chefs are obsessive about sourcing from great local suppliers, and it seems like a natural extension of that to use everything from the animal. It’s also a direct counter-balance to the commercial suppliers who likely grind up the offal (along with whatever is on the floor) and put it into marketable processed food products.

  • luis

    tripe? no dogs in this fight folks… this is all yours….. pardon me while I toss my cookies…. only other chef that had that influence over my digestive tract was that chef we must never mention… BOURDAIN!!!!!!

  • Jim

    I get a kick out of how offal has become the new badge of honor in the foodie world. It seems if you want to be taken serious in the food blog world you have to profess your love for something like colon tartare. You people are really funny.

  • Frances Davey

    I recall when a local woman found a fried chicken head in her order of McDonald’s fried chicken. They were talking lawsuit. At the time, columnist Dave Barry said it looked an awful lot like Strom Thurmond.

    That’s the very first thing that came to mind when I saw the picture of the cock’s comb dish. And I’m only sharing this because I think Dave Barry’s comment was priceless.

  • Elayne Riggs

    “The price is a little steep but I think it would be worth it.” Only in a universe where $250 is pocket change.

    Wow, $250 would buy me like five sushi dinners.

  • Big Red

    Sorry I’ll miss it. I will be in Cleveland…no really! Actually Sandusky at a shot gun wedding for a cousin in law or some other relation of my husband.

    But the thought makes me long for a good Haggis and a whiskey…

  • NoseToTailAtHome.com

    I’m a big fan of Mr. Cosentino. Anyone that calls dibs on tripe in a huge contest while other “preferred” cuts of meat were still up for grabs has my admiration.

  • Danielle

    Sounds fun! I wish I could make it.

    Incidentally, where do you buy cock’s combs? I really want to get some to work with.

  • The Foodist

    The price is a little steep but I think it would be worth it.

    It takes a special kind of person and chef to look at this stuff and say “I want to be an expert at this”, you have to give it to Chris for that.

    Id love the chance to pick his brain.

  • Darcie

    If only I could go to NY. However, it’s not in the budget for this year.

    I grew up eating offal since my grandparents had a farm, and they were not about to waste anything. I didn’t like all of it, but really liked chicken hearts. The only thing I don’t remember ever eating was tongue. Maybe they peeled and disguised it before it got to the plate. I need to ask my grandmother.

    Even though we ate offal on the farm, I am sure that Chef Cosentino’s creations will be much, much tastier.

  • Amelia

    Boy is this a great site or what. It’s simple, informative and engaging. I love the photos, its so professional.

    I love all sorts of meat too. In Singapore, we Chinese eat almost any body part of an animal. I love pig intestines braised in a dark soya sauce. It’s delicious. We call it ‘Kuay Chap’. :D

    Amelia