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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This little piece of piggy went to Laura's plate

I guess you can say I’m making my way through the animal.

During a trip last November to Ann Arbor, I sampled goat jowl.

On Sunday, I devoured a pork cheek confit.

These aren’t cuts that normally find their way onto a plate. At least not in my house.

The two examples above are way, way, way out there for me.

I had the jowl at Grange Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant whose owner is devoted to serving up the entire animal. Brandon Johns wasn’t kidding over coffee in the morning when he said that he hoped our group was in the mood for goat later that night.

Silly me, I first thought of a gyro. I was quickly reminded that gyro meat usually involves lamb.


Johns’ menu has had what I’d call an exotic staple on the appetizer list since Grange opened — fried pigs head. Yes, it’s what you think.

During my visit, Johns lamented the fact that he’d love to take it off the menu when he does routine changes, but it’s so popular he wouldn’t dare.

While I admire his insistence on using the majority of the animals he purchases, he could have skipped the jowl.

What showed up on our plates amounted to a big pile of greasy goo.

But, I can say I tried it. I guess I wear it as a badge.

I added another last weekend with the cheek.

The fact that I knew pigs had cheeks before Sunday was based on the way they’re drawn in comic strips, with big round bumps that show up when they smile.

Who knew those bumps were a delicious cut of meat?

OK, the delicious part is probably due in part to a restaurant in Vermilion called The Blind Perch.

The restaurant, which just opened to the public this week, was the “critic’s choice” winner at Sunday’s Generous Helpings fundraiser for Second Harvest Food Bank, which covers four northwest Ohio counties.

I’m proud to say that as one of those “critics,” I gave them a perfect score for their dish, which featured a fork-tender pork medallion atop a roasted cauliflower risotto.

Those who know me should be rather surprised I dug into either of the dishes I just mentioned.

Especially when you consider the fact that there are so many foods whose presence I just try to ignore.

Like onions.

Like peppers.

Like garlic.

The childhood “no” moved into young adult “no, thank you” and has merged easily into “oh, no way.”

I like to explain it thusly:

“I can pick out a tiny sliver of an (insert onion, pepper, garlic) in any dish.”

When I’m done eating, you’ll often see little piles on the edges of the plate, ready for the trash can.

Yes, at 47 years old, I still spit out onions and make a little disapproving face.

At this point in life, it’s just not worth the fight.

“It adds so much to the flavor.”

That might be, but it also tastes disgusting and has an odd texture.

Luckily for me, Blind Perch’s dish on Sunday wasn’t laden with onions or peppers.

I’m sure it would have vastly cut down on the joy.

But, for now, I’ll just be happy to sit back and wait for the next chance to venture in to uncharted animal territory.

Who knows, maybe there’s some marrow someplace with my name on it.


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