Brains for Dinner, Anyone?

Thanks to lunch last Friday at Bistro d’Oc (not to mention watching Anthony Bourdain suck marrow Monday night), I’m obsessing about offal.

This is all new for me, but apparently offal was all the rage in NYC a few years back, and is cropping up on more menus in DC. I think my first experience was veal tongue at Palena. Odd mouth feel, but rather good. Then various bits of lamb organs – heart, kidneys, liver – surreal to look at, but again, rather good. Followed by fried sweetbreads at PS7, orgasmically rich. That was where the tastebuds got addicted! And now last week’s unbelievably delectable lamb brains sauteed in lemon caper sauce at Bistro d’Oc…

I stumbled across former DC chef Chris Cosentino’s offal site (from Red Sage and Kinkead’s before we lost him to San Francisco) – check it out if you are at all curious about this facet of food. It’s very informative, with some squeamish pics.

Previously skeptical when people claimed that offal can be the best, I’m now wondering if my constant mental refrain “need more lamb brains more brains more” proves it.

Either that or I’ve become a zombie.

5 Comments so far

  1. Mike Licht (unregistered) on January 9th, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

    Bistro d’Oc certainly deserves a post of its own. What a great place; what great food. If you like a spirited, boisterous place, try to get there when it’s full of French-speaking hockey players (see Capitals schedule). If you like a quiet meal and get there during an NHL invasion, get a table upstairs. Don’t know about Languedoc food? Ask — they’re friendly.

  2. Don (unregistered) on January 10th, 2008 @ 10:27 am

    Enjoy the offal but skip the brains. The leading thinking is that the wasting disease Crutchfield-Jakobs is a human-acquired form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and that the transmission is from prions, a protein that isn’t altered by high-temperature cooking or even radiation (which has been proposed to cope with e coli issues).

    And prions appear in the brain and other nerve tissue such as ox tail.

    Organ meats are not an issue, however.

  3. Jenn L (unregistered) on January 10th, 2008 @ 11:26 am

    Ok, thanks for freaking me out, Don! What, no osso bucco either?!

    According to the CJD Foundation, there is no evidence that scrapie (the prion disease in sheep that is their equivalent of BSE, in existence for hundreds of years) "has ever jumped the species barrier" and infected humans with CJD. So my lamb brains are fine, and no one needs to picket poor Bistro d’Oc for serving them.

    Cattle brain is off menus due to BSE, yes, and I haven’t seen it anywhere.

    Also, the Foundation outlines several ways of CJD transmittal, noting three ways of getting it – sporadic, genetic, acquired (the last includes BSE, medical contamination, etc.). 85% of cases are sporadic.

    So not quite as cut and dry as "CJD is human BSE", but then this was just my initial research dive. Feel free to hit me with tons of medical rebuttal.

  4. Don (unregistered) on January 10th, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

    It’s not a slam dunk, thus why I was careful to say "leading thinking" not fact. Personally I’ve decided just to put aside eating all prion-carrying meats because I have completely lost faith in the food industry keeping me safe. Plus they’ve spent a lot of years feeding bits of different animals (and even the same species if animals) to each other, increasing the odds of this kind of thing spreading.

    At the risk of sounding too tin-foil-hat, I also have 0 faith in their implied conclusion that "sporadic" cases are unrelated. The onset of symptoms is somewhat slower, though they’re also mostly talking about young people still in puberty so who knows how that impacts a wasting disease?

    *shrug* Everyone has their own metrics for what risk is worth what reward and this is a highly uncertain risk. Personally I’m just going to go without.

  5. deborah (unregistered) on January 17th, 2008 @ 8:21 am

    Maybe or no you hav watched bit of Anthony Bourdain who admits to having a hygene isue to a extinct, Iamsuume you t juornalist and must conforts these isues. I came to your site while sufing and Iam doing the cyber ecvalint to drunk dialing mauh

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