As we prepare for our upcoming Off the Menu dinner, An Offal Evening at Basi [tickets here], it occurs to me that it’s worth taking a moment to write a little bit about the connection between the dinner and the sustainable food movement. I’ve had occasion to reflect on that question recently, during a trip to Montreal that included dinner at Au Pied de Cochon, perhaps the hottest restaurant in the city. Au Pied de Cochon’s menu includes tongue, organs, a two-person pig’s head dish—in short, offal, and lots of it—and at the moment it’s the most popular restaurant in the city: if you don’t call two weeks ahead of time for a reservation, you might as well not even bother.
I realized, as I was reflecting on my dinner, that the things that make Au Pied de Cochon wildly popular would probably translate unusually well into the Columbus food scene:
- It’s really good. This is the key, of course: if you get people by their tongues, their hearts and minds will follow. But part of the reason that it’s good follows from the next point:
- It’s really economical. The cuts of meat that they’re using are far less expensive than most, so they can afford preparations (a five-hour braise, a time-intensive demiglace) that might be prohibitive under other circumstances.
- It’s very sustainable. While they don’t exactly use every part of the pig or the duck, they use a lot more than just a pork chop or a duck breast. The more of each animal you can use, the fewer animals you need to sustain the same population—it’s as simple as that. And when you’re as good at using lots of different parts as these guys are, everybody wins.
I summed up the experience by saying to my server, “I love what you’re doing because you’re making sustainability cool.” Her eyes lit up and she agreed immediately: “We used to have the pig’s head dish on the menu, and nobody would eat it. Now, people call ahead to make sure that it’s available!”