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Offal Day event brings nose-to-tail dining to Sacramento

"No guts, no glory" was the theme of the day at last Sunday, Aug. 18’s "Have an Offal Day" event hosted by Mulvaney’s B&L Next Door. Catherine Enfield, founder of the Sacramento Food Film Festival and creator of the blog Munchie Musings, invited a dozen or so chefs to create dishes celebrating offal – the term for all those "other" parts of an animal that many people overlook, including organs, feet, tongues, ears, skin, etc. And celebrate they did!

James Beard award-winning author Hank Shaw (left) with Chef Michael Tuohy (right).
It’s not easy to capture a serious photo when you put a group of chefs together in one room.
Chef Ravin Patel shares a laugh with event producer Catherine Enfield.

The sold-out event featured recipes as unique as the chefs who created them, and the themes varied widely. There were offal twists on relatively familiar foods, such as hard-boiled eggs with chicken liver mousse and lamb samosas (lamb brain, cheek and tongue) with tamarind and cilantro chutneys.

Offal comfort food made an appearance in the form of duck pastrami "tostettes" (made with duck gizzards, aioli and pickled duck hearts); braised lamb (tongue) with beech mushrooms, Madeira wine and crispy sweetbreads; and smoked sausages (also made with duck heart).

Some of the chefs offered upscale riffs on offal, including rillette (made with ox tongue); sturgeon skin chicharron with monk fish liver, uni, and cilantro powder; and crispy sturgeon skin with sturgeon liver pearls and caviar.

Guests tasted the dishes blindly, knowing only the type of animal from which the dish was created (such as duck, lamb or fish), but not the specific ingredients (liver, tongue, brain, etc.). After each round of service, the chef would reveal the specifics of his dish to the diners. Many people were surprised that a few of their favorite dishes were made from some of the more unusual bits of offal, including duck tongues (crispy fried and served with wild mustard) and duck testicles (humorously dubbed "balls to the wall," deep fried and skewered on a miniature brick wall for service).

Guests and chefs alike had a great time. Perhaps best of all, the diners enjoyed a varied, delicious meal and learned to love (at least a little) some new and unusual foods. You can see the complete gallery of photos from the event by clicking here.

Dawn Balzarano is a local freelance food photographer, blogging at Kitchen Travels.

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