Très Cheek

Photo by Chef Danielle Olivieri at Osteria Restaurant, Philadelphia

Ma oui…of course I am talking about the newest and hottest culinary trend…beef, veal, lamb and pig cheeks! It seems the rest of the world has caught on to what some have known for a long time. One of the best parts of butchery is the precious, sweet, and if cooked correctly, juiciest pieces of meat you will ever eat. In earlier times, autumn was a time when peasants butchered whole animals and used every part from nose to tail; they could not afford to waste a scrap. Cheeks are a tough and lean cut of meat; it is the facial muscle of a cow, pig or lamb. Braising and other slow cooking methods are best. It is similar to stewing meat without the grizzle and tough pieces. Think of the texture of meat when it falls away from the bone, that’s how tender these morsels taste.

This culinary trend has made a new resurgence; it started last year while dining with one of my staff members, Chef Danielle at Marc Vetri’s restaurant, Osteria. We ordered the special that evening “roasted pig’s head.” When it arrived we did have quite a few people stare at us as we dove into what we thought was “culinary hog heaven.” The aroma of rosemary was so inviting, the meat was moist and juicy and the best morsels were of course, the cheeks. Happily there were two cheeks, so we did not fight over them.

Cheeks are now appearing on many of menus from brasseries and whiskey bars to posh restaurants in center city and the burbs. Last week the adventure continued while having dinner with my husband, one of the pickiest eaters I have ever encountered. My goal that night was to get him to try beef cheeks…so I picked Stateside on East Passyunk Avenue in Philadelphia. I know Chef George Sabatino makes the best beer braised beef cheeks, and it would be the greatest chance of my hubby trying them. SUCCESS, he actually liked it and ate two whole bites…wow, I was impressed.

Are you interested in experiencing the cuisine of East Passyunk Avenue? Let us help you create a lasting culinary experience, your adventure begins here.