Pig Cheek, friend or foe?

I always love an impromptu dinner out with friends. Who would have thought walking into a pizza joint, named Za, would pose such a daunting palate extravaganza? After a long day of work and school, beers and pizza sounded easy, plus a nice way to end the day.

I quickly realized I was at ‘more that just a pizza joint’.  The first tip off was the beer menu, extensive local offerings, with names like, Clown Shoes Eagle Claw Fist, Smutty Nose, and Tramp Stamp. Where was I and can I have a taste of all of those please?!

We quickly gravitated towards a slender, cardboard insert, labeled, charcuterie.  Yum, my fav, I love a good meat smorgasbord! But wait, Buffalo Chicken Feet? Pig Cheek? Foie Gras Custard? Jellied Pig Belly? Duck Rillette?  Where are the basic meats and sausages? I’m in a pizza place still, right?

I love trying new things, so I was quickly on board to get a few of these interesting $5 apps.  At that price you are doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t try something new!  We went with the Pig Cheek and Duck Rillette.  I,  being a lover of all things pork, felt it was a no brainer to order the Pig’s Cheek. Done and done. Eric, suggested the Duck. I thought, “eh, ok.. but a rillette…hmm? what the heck”.  Our charcuterie promptly arrived, at first sight we were not stunned, the cheek looked like raw bacon and upon first bite we were both reaching for our napkins. This. is. not. something. I. do. I do not spit things out, I do not reject any delicacy, but this, this was not good.

I felt sad, how could an animal who produces such tasty meats, roasts, chops, BACON?! offer something so unappealing!  It was extremely chewy, salty, and texturally not in good company. Being a culinary student, I feel defeated when I am not able to enjoy something new. I know I don’t have to like everything, but to be so unpleasantly surprised, I started to question my foodie future…. OK, snap out of it!  It was pig cheek, afterall.   The Duck Rillette, redeemed my palate slightly but it too, was not amazing.  It was plated in such a way that strongly resembled cat food, just plain weird.   Ten dollars and endless jokes later, we were happy we tried some new things, but ready to move on from our charcuterie foodie trip.  

Pizza Please!


4 responses

  1. >I, too, am not a fan of Za's charcuterie menu. I went a while ago and sampled the foie gras custard (bland and mushy texture), as well as the bbq pig heart crostini (too much smoke flavor – it tasted like chemicals). Their pizzas, however, have an amazing crust and are quite tasty!

  2. >Many of the items that you mentioned were the 'leftover' bits. Americans commonly stopped eating this stuff in the years after WWII, when postwar affluence made it so that many didn't have to. No more wartime shortages, no more Depression era poverty? Then why eat offal? So Americans stopped. Which is kind of a tragedy. I've had great versions of both of the dishes that were disappointments to you. The trick is in cooking them properly. And with most offal, it just takes long slow periods of cooking, sometimes which can seem like forever. But it's worth it. I'd recommend calve's liver Lyonnais. That's a pretty good starter for offal. And then go from there. xo

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