pig head

You’ve probably heard about the current food trend of “head to tail” eating, but have you sat down to dine on pig head for dinner?

Currently at The Gorbals restaurant you can order a half-cut, roasted pig head for $52. The dish takes 60-90 minutes to cook, so you probably want to save this indulgence for a long, lingering dinner with friends. In the meantime, nosh on confit of cow tongue, roast neck of lamb, fried chicken gizzards or sturgeon battered in squid ink

You might think this menu is from a restaurant located in Kathmandu or maybe Timbuktu, but these exotic offerings are actually on the menu in downtown Los Angeles, where The Gorbals is located.

Other restaurants getting in on the act are Momofuku’s Má Pêche in New York City (oxtail soup and meat tongue pie), Incanto in San Francisco (leg of beef and tripe bruschetta) and Animal in LA (buffalo-style pig tails and veal brains). Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro in Lafayette offers fried rabbit livers as well as a special “Pig Head Prepared 5 Ways” dinner, a chef’s special that serves five courses of pork melon, each paired with local microbrews.

The recent economic downturn has caused a spike not only in fatty comfort foods (deep-fried macaroni and cheese, anyone?) but also in head to tail eating, which makes use of the whole animal, from the bone marrow and the blood to the organs and even the skin. No chef has served up claws and fur just yet, but with dishes like candied cockscombs and pickled pig ears popping up on restaurant menus around the nation, you just have to wonder if duck feather martinis and toasted hoof points are next.

In reality, head to tail eating has a long history in many cultures and ethnic traditions – just ask your grandmother about giblet gravy or chicken gizzards, and prepare for a story. Head to tail eating is more sustainable and environmentally-friendly; like the Native American tribes who didn’t let one part of the buffalo go to waste, this manner of eating is a feel-good ritual for those wishing to waste less as consumers. But does it taste good? Do people actually enjoy eating a half-cut, roasted pig head for dinner? Will this head to tail trend last, or is it a passing fad that people will try once just to say they’ve done so? Are people ordering pig head for the flavor, or for the shock value?

“They love it,” says the host at The Gorbals. “People make it a special event and order ahead of time.” This is especially true on the weekends, when the restaurant sells three to five half-cut roasted pig heads each night. With a half-cut head, there’s only one eyeball, which is considered to be a prime meat delicacy in some cultures – and some tables fight over who gets to dine on eye of swine. There’s no fighting the head to tail food trend, however, so keep an eye on your next meal – it might just have its eye on you!

image: Visentico / Sento