The fact is, there are hundreds of memorable meals served every week in New York City.
Some of them are memorable because of the guests and some because of the food. Some are memorable mostly because of the amount of food ingested by the guests--I'm thinking of the "No-holds-barred eating contest which comes off in the summer of 1936" as described by Damon Runyon in his short story, "A Piece of Pie".
Some are memorable because one or another of the guests become "dead meat" in the course of the meal. Chicago and parts of North Jersey do that kind of thing better than we do, but there always are stories about Umberto's Clam Bar, and other locations downtown.
One downtown location held a memorable dinner last week. Here's the story.
The location was The Astor Center. This used to be a liquor store until someone got the hot idea that, since the store was acting as a de facto clearing house of foodie information and lore, not to mention wine tasting and discussions of all things oenophiliac, they might as well rebuild the place as a combination of dining rooms, lecture kitchens, small spaces and library, to host events of interest to the food and wine community. (Read more about it here)
They also hired Lesley Townsend, an experienced and charming impresario, to act as Director of the center.
One of Ms. Townsend's first big spectaculars was held last week. It was a dinner cooked by Chris Cosantino, the San Francisco chef who was such a great competitor in The Next Iron Chef, entirely from offal. (For the Chef's Offal-centric blog, click here)
"Offal" is taken to mean the parts of the animal which are not usually served to paying customers, the idea being that most people will happily trot home with rib, steaks, and even the rump of an animal, but will make squeaky (and possibly gagging) noises when confronted with the liver, the lights, the brains, glands or trotters.
Granted, it's a little more difficult to cook with those ingredients, but even a fine beef steak--sometimes, especially a fine beef steak--profits by a little more preparation than just introducing it to the fire and hoping for the best. Also, offal is offally low in price, if you can get hold of it.
Then there's another point, which Chef Cosantino and Michael Ruhlman (who was at the Astor Center as a sort of master of ceremonies, quizzing the Chef and introducing the various animal parts) have been writing about for most of the last year.
It is this: that, since killing an animal for food is, if not completely reprehensible, at least an act of violence against nature, it is even worse to commit this act and only take about a third of what the animal offers. Still worse, in fact, because this would seem to indicate that at least three times as many animals would have to be killed to feed the same amount of people.
Consentino feels passionately that the full use of a pig, sheep or steer (or any other edible beast) is the best way of honoring its life. He's all in favor of humane farming and slaughtering techniques, too.
I tend to agree with all of this because I am a helpless omnivore and I know I'm going to go on eating all different parts of all different animals for as long as my teeth still work, and this is the only way I'll get out of it if God happens to be a sheep. And hey. YOU don't know.
But we're going to get matey with a packet of sweetbreads just as soon as Adam's Fairacre Farm get arrange to get it to us. Because God might or might not be a sheep, but we like to play it on the safe side.