Getting A Head: Will Noggins Be the Next Food Fad?
You can score a lamb head at any halal butcher.
Since the Age of Foodism began, we've been bombarded by freaky food fads, some of rather long duration. Pork belly has enjoyed an extended run, and pastel-frosted cupcakes never seem to decline in popularity, but we've also seen smaller crazes for bone marrow, sea urchin, sea-salt caramels, cod cheeks, frozen pops, small pizzas, ssams, crepes, and, of course, ramen. What's the next big fad? It could be animal heads.
At Fedora, the pig head is discreetly compressed into lozenges, fried, and served in a salad with gribiche sauce.
In the last few months at random points, I've found myself chowing down on various face parts and head preparations with increasing frequency. It started out with a cow cabeza ("head") taco from a truck at 89th and Roosevelt Avenue, and soon escalated to eating goat eyeballs at Taqueria Puebla in Staten Island.
But the action really heated up when two friends and I pulled apart a barbecued hog head at Fatty 'Cue in Williamsburg one Sunday evening -- and I realized with a start that I knew less about porcine anatomy than I thought. In fact, eating the head was by turns delicious, annoying, too fatty, and sometimes gross -- as when the point came for the brains to be scraped out of the inside of the skull, and the tongue to be extracted from the mouth. We also discovered that pigs have sinuses, too. Kachoo!
The entire goat head at Bite Club came attractively garnished with avocado slices.
The crispy pig head salad at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal was something of a harbinger.
In Montreal, at Au Pied de Cochon -- and soon thereafter in New York at M. Wells and then Fedora (both of which boast chefs who previously worked at the restaurant in Montreal) -- I found the animal's face parts scraped, formed into a lozenge, breaded, and deep-fried. Somewhat hilariously, this browned boxcar of oozy, oily, and solid parts was incorporated into a salad at all three places -- with the salad presumably serving as justification for the unctuous excesses of the flesh.
Even before M. Wells and Fedora had it, Cafe Breslin was serving a similar head-based dish called fried headcheese, offered with a drizzle of sauce and some stray greens.
At the underground dining establishment called Bite Club in Clinton Hill, I recently enjoyed an entire roast goat head, Mexican-style, but since it was served at the conclusion of the excellent meal, I wasn't able to finish the whole thing. But it left me wondering, Is animal head the next pork belly? And will we be seeing it again and again -- or parts thereof like ears, cheeks, brains, eyeballs, lips, and jowls -- in the near future?
At Fatty 'Cue, you really only get half the head, split down the middle.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.