deliciously offal


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This all started off very innocently. A simple tweet, about a simple dinner, that somehow turned into four and a half hours, fifteen courses, and what may amount to a most fascinating dinner that I was completely unprepared for.

The short of it: I crossed something off my life list (hello, #47).

The long of it:

I've been loving this book that a friend got me for my birthday - Ideas In Food. It resonates with how I think about food, for the most part, and it's really interesting from a food science, how-things-work sense.

I also love Atelier. I've been twice and still swear up and down that both of those experience were some of the best dining experience I've had (and may ever have, they were so fantastic).

So when the two combined (as in, the authors of Ideas In Food were going to cook a 6 course meal at Atelier), I was all over it. A perfect excuse to come to town and to round up some of my favourite people.

At the last minute, it became a 12-course meal. And the start time got pushed up to a moderately-insane 9:15pm.

And then we arrived.

The great thing about Atelier is that they never show you the menu - it's always a surprise, and usually it's delightful. Having had meals there before, I had an idea of how crazy a meat-inclusive menu might be, and not wanting to change the experience (and being fairly willing to eat the meat inclusive meals of the past), I didn't opt for a veggie version. But this time around the menu was on the table. And I was instantly scared.

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Did you count them all? I did. A mind-blowing fifteen courses (sixteen if you included the popcorn starter). And most of it included offal or other unusual meats. This was most definitely not what I expected, and it was also most definitely not something I could change now. Uh oh.

And so it began.

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Meyer Lemon Ice Cream. This was great. A little ashy, but still great. Also, salty (that's a lot of whitefish roe, that yellow blob). Overall good but not something I'd eat again.

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This looks so basic. Deep-fried something (yum!). Sauce (also yum!). Except the deep-fried something's were chicken hearts. The sauces (a coleslaw puree that would rival any southern style slaw and a tabasco-dandelion honey sauce) were exceptional. Overall I tackled this dish without feeling the least bit queasy AND it actually tasted good.

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Crispy duck tongue is astonishingly delicious. Sea urchin is mildly repulsive. But I tried them both.

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The soup looks totally innocuous (it was a delicious parsnip puree). But the fried bits? Why, they are sweetbreads (read: braaaaains).

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My mostly-vegetarian body loved this dish because it was all veggies, but the sweet potato was sweeeeeeeeet.

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This dish was destined to be pretty much everything I didn't like about food choices in china. Raw egg yolk, congee AND duck gizzards. Yes. But I tried it, too.

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I don't like squid (read: calamari) but I would willingly eat this squid dish over and over and over again. It included a papaya salad and culantro - the vietnamese version of a favourite herb.

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When the menu said "Halibut for Two" I totally thought they were kidding. Turns out they were not. This *whole* fish was eye-popping for most of us - at least at our table. There was some gasping when it arrived.

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Tripe. With Cabbage. This one was a challenge and went back to the kitchen with most of the tripe still intact.

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Beef tongue on smoked oatmal with Dr. Pepper sauce and watercress stems (which seemed like boring green onions, really). I had to talk myself down from imagining baby cows munching away in a field for this one.

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Elk loin, sunchoke hazelnut puree, green brier, and pickled milkweed pod. This was actually good, though I have to admit that I only ate around the edges. Pink meat and I do not go together.

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La Sauvagine, birch syrup, black garlic powder. All so very delicious. Now I need to hunt this cheese down in Montreal.

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Palm sugar ice cream with citrus cells (think frozen pulp bits) and grated shortbread with pop rocks. I loved this dish but it was HUGE and totally pushed me over the edge from full to bursting.

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The fifteenth and final course was a tube of chocolate pudding, and sweet cream granita (I swear that is not popcorn). Diners had to break the seal on the tube (cool!) and "created" our own pudding/granita combinations.

And that's it. Are you exhausted reading this? I was exhausted eating it. But it was one of those experiences that I couldn't say no to - especially not in the moment. I don't regret it, but I don't plan to repeat it again any time soon, either.

Special thanks to Lana, Emilie, Jen and Marnie for braving the menu with me. It would not have been the same without you all!