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Get Out - Entertainment Magazine
Scottsdale/East Valley Tribune

 

Just try to eat it
If brain burritos and innards don't sound frightening, then you're tough
BY DONALD DOWNES

Guts. Nerve. Fortitude. Tenacity. Gumption. Fearlessness and a cast iron stomach.
For some all of these are needed to belly up to a table of, shall I say, delicacies - sushi, squid, maybe a slice of octopus tentacle. Others identify the qualities as being essential to ingest what the French have cleverly titled offal. They're variety meats - innards to you and me, liver and the lot. Still others say you need those things when staring face to plate with a two-pound slab of cow at a Western steakhouse.
 

Sushi and other slippery food
While it's true many diners are dismayed, nay even repulsed, by the thought of ingesting a morsel of food like fish in its raw state, gutsy guys relish the raw stuff, especially if there's an audience. There are three types of what is commonly known as sushi: Rolls or maki are comprised of fish or whatever and seasoned rice encased in a cylinder of seaweed paper (nori). Nigiri sushi are slices of usually raw fish draped across "fingers" of rice; sashimi are slices of raw fish only.


Sushi enjoyment is a step-by-step process. Once you've conquered the raw factor, just dive in. How about munching on octopus, eel and sea urchin. I know. I know. You say it's bait. Hey, toughen up! This is different. Before you know it, you'll be popping back sushi like a pro.

Speaking of slippery stuff, I tested my culinary character at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess - the Marquesa restaurant to be exact. I gleefully dined on a couple of spoonfuls of what looked to be spaghetti. It was good 'n garlicky and turned out to be angulas, baby eels. Executive chef Reed Groban says the angulas are offered by request at the restaurant and, of course, when baby eels are available. The pasta-with-eyes "delicacy" is not cheap.

Escargot is another treat that makes many squeamish. We're talking snails. Classically baked in their shells with gobs of garlic and butter, escargots are more of a texture thing. Folks, however, have commented that anything swimming in a pool of garlic butter would taste good. I agree. It did wonders for the eels. One of the escargot dealers in Scottsdale is Bravo Bistro.



Tim Hacker/GET OUT


Pickled eggs can be found 
at 7-Elevens across the Valley and are said to be a "favorite of construction crews." Go Figure. 

Appearing as if a science project gone awry, you've got to have a healthy dose of gumption to gum your way through a pickled egg or two - especially the white bulbous blobs suspended in purple pickled beet juice. Aaagh! While I've munched, gnawed and otherwise ingested many of Mother Nature's products - everything from antelope, bear and moose to eels, urchin and various "innards" - I am still not tough enough to pass a pickled egg over my palate. However, sources have reported that among the places to find such a product is The Ham Bone tavern in Mesa.

Are offals awful? 
It's a definitive yes and no. Tough dudes and dudettes would crawl for such delicacies as menudo, sweetbreads, liver, brains and various "sausages" constructed from such matter. Others find the thought of chowing on innards makes their innards crawl. There's a reason they're called innards. Should they not remain inside?

Take menudo - the Hispanic stewlike dish, not the pop group. It's made from tripe. In not-so-graphic terms, it's the lining of a beef's stomach. After a thorough and lengthy cleaning, the tripe is cut into small squares, combined with chiles, hominy and seasonings and cooked for hours, a necessary step to soften the rubbery tripe. At the table, menudo is individually doctored up with more chiles, chopped onions and lemon juice. Purportedly, one of the best bowls of menudo around can be found at the Matador Restaurant, in downtown Phoenix. Evidently, quite a crowd of "tough" folks shows up on Saturday and Sunday mornings for a dose of menudo. It's supposedly a dandy hangover remedy.
 

Sweetbreads are another delicacy - there's that word again. Oddly titled, sweetbreads are the thymus gland generally from veal and young beef. For those with fortitude, the fancy fare can be discovered at the Valley's finer dinner houses.
 

Feeling a little weak in the head? Fuel the matter in the cerebral cavity with real brain food - brains. You can get ahead with your afternoon's workload by feeding your head a brains burrito. Get yours at Three Amigos. It's a Mexican food cart on the southwest corner of Horn Street and Broadway Road in Mesa.


Tim Hacker/GET OUT
Elizabeth Garland ponders the probability of fitting an enormous porterhouse steak into her small being. Those with highly stretchable stomachs can ponder for themselves at Rustler's Rooste in Phoenix.

The "Herd" Museum - 
steakhouse gustatory gluttony 

He-man types can claim a slab o' beef, mondo steak at many of the Valley's Western steakeries - Rustler's Rooste, Rawhide, Pinnacle Peak Patio. Pretty much the norm, the "big eaters' plate" is a spread of two pounds of hot-off-the-grill red meat. It's a porterhouse steak and there's no doubt that if you can polish off the parade float of pure protein you'll be a slow moo-ving vehicle.

Raw power
If you're of sturdy stock and eat your steaks rare, chances are you've chowed tartare. For the record, beef tartare (a.k.a. steak tartare) is not a wad of raw hamburger meat fancied up with a few condiments. It is a fresh (freshness is foremost) hunk of beef steak that has been finely diced and dressed only moments before it arrives at the table. The practice of dining on raw chopped beef (tartare) dates back to Genghis Khan and his Mongolian hordes, the Tartars. 

Being tough-guy horsemen and on the move most of the time, it seems Genghis and the boys would tenderize meat by placing it under their saddles while pillaging and plundering. After sufficient bounce time, they would hack up the raw meat into small bits and munch away. The meat was accompanied by spoonfuls of "tartar" sauce, which was reputedly days-old mare's milk and some seasonings. It's amazing how time can refine.
 

Got game?
Got game? takes on a different meaning at some of the Valley's upscale eateries. "Wild Bunch" diners have discovered supping on wild game meats. Menus have featured such exotics as black buck antelope, red deer, elk, buffalo and wild boar. Those in need of a gnaw should make tracks to Different Pointe of View, The Pointe Hilton Resort Tapatio Cliffs, for smoked wild boar chops and a tenderloin of red tail venison. At Wright's, the Arizona Biltmore, you can hunt down grilled venison. The Boulders has buffalo and venison, as well as wild boar bacon bits in a spinach salad.

Ingesting unusual foodstuffs has been an interesting and questionable practice for centuries. Picture, if you will, the first to stare at a lobster and ask, "Is this dinner?" What's weird today may very well be mundane tomorrow.
 

Having guts to swallow guts, nerve to gnaw a hunk of cow or the fortitude to face raw creatures from the deep is often just a case of a mind over matter. So the matter doesn't blow your mind - should you gather the gumption to give it a go - remember: over the teeth, over the gums, look out stomach here it comes.
 

What's the worst that can happen?  Yep, a return trip. Been there, done that.

 

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