I’m not sure what makes one part of an animal more desirable than another, but there is definitely a “gross factor scale” associated with each. On a scale of 1-10, pork cheeks are about a 7 in my book, quite a few parts are raunchier; tongue, feet and, dare I say, testicles. Though eating cheeks isn’t amongst the most uncouth of things to put in my mouth, it reminds me way too much of the prominent dimples of my grandfather, the sweet smile of my one year old niece and a rosy blush strategically placed on women around the world to accent this feature.
Pushing past the visions in my head, I can’t resist ordering the ‘Fall Squash & Amaretto Tortelli with Apple Braised Pork Cheeks at Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega in Yountville. Come on, a mixture of apples, amaretto and tender cheeks can’t be all bad…can it? Would Michael really steer me wrong?
It discreetly arrived at the table as if it was any delectable pasta dish, slathered in jus. I ate the tortelli first, not sure what my logic was in this strategy? Possibly filling up with the good stuff first or was I saving the best for last? I Didn’t know the answer at this point. The pork cheeks were about the size of a larger silver dollar (yes…I am well aware that there is not such a thing as a “larger” silver dollar…stop nitpicking, I am trying to tell a story here) and have the texture of any sort of braised piece of meat, flakey and tender.
My first bite is always that “hold-your-breath-in-case-I-need-to-vomit” one, but there was not even the slightest bit of upchuck here. Actually, it kind of tasted like a really good, juicy and tender piece of meat. I tried another. Yep…holy crap…I like pork cheeks!