Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More than a vealin'

I ate veal heart last week. And, like Carrie White's mother remembering Carrie's father, I liked it. I liked it!

Mind you, I didn't know I was going to eat veal heart. The Schwa menu promised this darling vegetarian combo

cauliflower, coco [sic] nibs, curry

for the pasta course, but when mad genius Michael Carlson delivered the dish to our table, he charmingly blurted, "Yeah, I fucked up the menu. Pardon my French." (I am not being sarcastic. There aren't that many people whose profane blurts I find charming, but he is one of them.) What we got instead was

veal heart, huckleberries, taleggio, yuzu

Merely typing the word "veal" gives me a frisson. It's an old taboo for me; all I can think of when I contemplate the word is a bleating, liquid-eyed calf crammed into a minuscule pen, unable to move and thereby unable to develop muscle, so its flesh stays pale and pink and tender. I wouldn't buy veal, wouldn't cook veal heart on a dare; I lack the nerve to confront the more outré organs of even fully grown animals in the sanctity of my own kitchen. But, dammit, if Michael Carlson puts it in front of me, I am going to eat it. He says that his food costs hover around 60 percent (restaurants run by actual businesspeople aim for about half that), so I'm confident that he is not going to buy sad veal. I decided that the veal calf whose heart lay precisely diced in front of me had lived a full springtime life gamboling about in green fields, having its fuzzy forelock combed by some descendant of Fern Arable who simply couldn't find the right arachnid in time.

The veal heart was, of course, delicious. Tiny cubes of slightly chewy dark-red meat and wee, so-purple-they're-black huckleberries were strewn over a perfect coil of house-made pasta—it might have been a single yard-long noodle, actually—nestled into a golden pool of honey-yuzu gelée and stinkily molten Taleggio, all sprinkled with greens so small they might have been tenderly snipped from the head of a Chia Pet. And did I mention the VEAL HEART?

“We take what’s intimidating and make it palatable,” Michael Carlson told an interviewer. “We like to educate, to challenge. We want nervousness, anticipation, but most of all we want conversation, because that’s what makes a meal great.”

Melvin and I have been to Schwa twice now, and we're still talking about it.

The other courses last week:

[no menu description: Kumamoto oyster shooter, oatmeal, almond milk]

pine, mushroom, plantain

apple pie soup
cheddar, savory, chestnut

green curry, rootbeer

tiger fish
watermelon, red pepper

extra nom[no menu description: quail-egg ravioli]
corn, patron, cilantro

zucchini, garlic, borage

[no menu description: a hot little pretzel encasing molten salty cheese]

[no menu description: concord grape soup, black pepper ice cream, microbasil]

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