Cibo Trattoria celebrates the "odd bits" with weekly nose-to-tail dinner
You may be surprised to know that pig’s blood gelato tastes surprisingly non-bloody. Maybe that’s because I was trying the icy rust-coloured dessert for the first time after a three-course meal starring offal as its unapologetic star—or maybe it’s because I’m part vampire—but the gelato was sweet and velvety, with just the right amount of acidity to cleanse the palette.
On June 5, I attended a media preview of a new weekly menu scheduled to run at Cibo Trattoria (900 Seymour Street) every Tuesday until the end of September. Nose to tail typically involves eating the whole beast, or as Cibo executive chef Neil Taylor called it, “celebrating the odd bits”. The Italian restaurant’s nose-to-tail menu ($32) features three courses with a choice of two dishes at each course. It also changes weekly based on what Chef Taylor is able to source from local farms, including Lostock Farms in the Fraser Valley and Two Rivers Meats in Pemberton Meadows.
Coppa di testa is a traditional Italian head cheese.
On that night’s menu was a choice between roasted bone marrow “St. John” or coppa di testa to start. I had a chance to sample both dishes at each course. The bone marrow is a nod to London’s St. John Bar and Restaurant’s signature dish, and was accompanied by thick slices of grilled housemade sourdough bread, coarse salt, and greens. Coppa di testa is a traditional Italian head cheese, which isn’t actually cheese but a cold cut made from the parts of an animal’s head. For me, the head cheese had the most pungent smell and taste of all the dishes that night. Just a few thinly cut slices served alongside spicy pickled garden vegetables, a large dollop of strong mustard, and the same grilled sourdough was enough to forcibly awaken the palette for what was to come.
Stracci verde with squab livers and hearts.
Next was a choice between stracci verde, a green flat noodle tossed with devilled squab livers and hearts, pancetta, marsala wine, and mascarpone cheese; or fresh spaghetti with honeycomb tripe, tomato, chili, cloves, pecorino, and mint. The squab livers and hearts sourced from Lostock Farms actually added a deep earthy flavour to the creamy and rich pasta dish. Spaghetti with tripe, I am told, is a traditional Roman-style dish. The tripe pieces were particularly tender from being soaked for three days prior to being boiled and tossed with the pasta.
Crispy lamb’s tongue with lentils and salsa verde.
The secondi course came with a choice between grilled ox heart served with rapini (a type of broccoli), porcini mushrooms, and bone marrow salsa; or crispy lamb’s tongue with red wine lentils and salsa verde. The ox heart was described to us as being similar to a rich steak, and was served as thick but tender slices, medium rare. Meanwhile, the lamb’s tongue, which was poached and then seared, was salty with a crispy exterior and a chewy texture inside. The salsa verde—made up of parsley, garlic, capers, and anchovies—provided plenty of sauce to, quite literally, lick the plate clean.
Grilled ox heart with rapini, porcini, and bone marrow salsa.
A meal comprised of offal isn’t the least bit light. By the end of the second course, you start to feel a heaviness and warmth sink in. That’s why the pig’s blood gelato—which is blended with chocolate and orange, and topped with a spoonful of mascarpone—was a nice way to “cool down” at the end of the meal, while keeping with the night’s theme. I must admit, I approached the final plate gingerly with my spoon (you would too if you saw your dessert sitting in an oozing coppery-red pool), but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The strong taste of iron one usually associates with blood is balanced by the sweetness of chocolate and bitterness of orange. Of course, feeling as close as I ever had to a vampire during dinner only added to the fun.
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