Monday, August 27, 2012

eat your head: murray street's signature pig's head dish

"Do you want to eat a pig's head?" I asked my girl friend Karen.

"Sure!" she said. She didn't think I actually meant we were going to eat a pig's head. When she realized I was being literal, she asked, "Is this some kind of wedding tradition?" No, it wasn't. 

I was trying to gather up the least feeble-stomached of my friends to try the signature dishes at one of my favourite restaurant in Ottawa, Murray Street. If you look at their website or their restaurant sign, it's a symbol of a pig. Murray Street serves the whole Noah's Ark of delicious meat dishes, but the one thing I've always wanted to try was the humourously named "How To Get A Head". It is, as you may have guessed, a pig's head.  It's an appetizer dish that requires at least 48 hours' advance notice, and at eighty bucks, is best served for eight to ten people. It's a party centred around a pig!  So I had to find seven to nine friends.

the baby is grabbing his ears in confusion

The result was a random grouping of friends from different social circles, including my beloved Hello Kitty Supper Club, that all had one thing in common: to my question, "Do you want to eat a pig's head?" they had adventurously answered, "Yes."  My friend Katie also added, "Can I bring my baby?"  Yes, we said. So in total, there were ten of us, including baby Johnny.

Rob is trying to explain

Baby Johnny was fascinated by the pig's head. When the server presented it to us, baby Johnny kept staring in astonishment and pointing dramatically with both hands at the dish. Eventually as we started to dig in, he started to look a little put out, probably because he didn't have any teeth yet so he couldn't partake. Baby Johnny's older brother Oscar named the pig George. George was awesome.

Ever since I crashed a lamb roast party in Namibia and ate freshly band-sawed lamb, I wanted to try eating other heads as well. Goat's head (called smilies, because of the the way the goat seems to smile as it cooks on the spit) is a popular Namibian dish, and while I know a group of men who painstakingly constructed their own pig spit, cooked it for eight hours, and then dumped the whole pig on the counter and dug in with steak knives, eating the pork right off the counter, I hadn't been there.  It was a treat to come back to Canada and finally to try this Murray Street dish which is now rapidly becoming an Ottawa rite of passage.

So the flash on my camera reveals that why the restaurant is probably generally dimly lit

First of all, yes, it was delicious. We took our fair share of photos but in all of these photos we were just dying to dig in because it smelled so good.  It was garnished with boiled egg (in case you weren't getting enough of a protein fix), soft beets and green vegetables. The meat was incredibly tender and juicy, and I barely needed to use my knife.  There was, as one might expect a lot of fat on the meat, and as I chewed it, I had to control myself.  Don't enjoy it too much, I told myself. It's not good for you. Don't get addicted to fat.  Eating fat is kind of like, I don't know, having an incredibly attractive teacher or coworker. You don't want to let yourself enjoy it because you know you'll never stop and it'll end up bad news.

And no, there were no brains, which was a shame, but understandably is a lot riskier to serve.

can you spot the snout?

Don takes on the pig's ear

After the pig's head, we went our own seperate ways in terms of the main dish. Rob and I had the charcuterie which allows you to sample an array of fine meats and Quebec cheeses. Karen had the duck wings.  I also nibbled Karen's specialized poutine which was interestingly made with duck confit and spatzle instead of fries.  Others ordered the delicious smores-in-a-glass for dessert.  We all went home several pounds heavier. Thanks, Murray Street; now I have to re-alter my wedding dress.