Monday, April 18, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

On a recent trip to the Quebec province in Canada, I had the pleasure of dining at the Best Western Drummondville restaurant. Now I realize that one does not often combine "pleasure", "dining" and "Best Western" in the same sentence, but on this evening I had no other dining options and decided to make the best of it. Their dinner menu was well-rounded and consisted of the usual entrees - salmon, sirloin, Longe de Flatan (Halibut), pasta and chicken dishes. All entrees included your choice of soup, salad and dessert. My lucky day had become my lucky night! For my first course, I decided on the Salad of mixed greens, roasted nuts and sizzling sweetbreads (as decribed right there on the menu in French and English.) I've never been opposed to a nut or two in my salad and the rest sounded edible, but just to be sure, I asked the waitress, "what is sweetbread?" (using my best French-accented English, so she'd understand me better.) The waitress searched her English vocabulary for just the right explanation and came up with, "eh, it is a meat, roasted and hot," accompanied by a hand gesture meant to assure my comprehension. After all, who could oppose a little meat, roasted and hot in their salad? My salad arrived shortly after the bread and butter were served. Still uncertain what the sweetbreads were, I decided to start with the roasted nut and some greens. As it turns out, they were hazelnuts, roasted almost black. Nice and crunchy. Next, I turned my attention to the sweetbreads, sizzling there on the plate, daring me to slice one. At first bite, it was relatively mild-flavored (no, it did not taste like chicken). The slightly fatty sweetbread, combined with the salad greens and nutty taste of the roasted hazelnuts turned out to be quite good. Add a little salt and pepper to cut the oiliness of the sweetbreads, and it was an interesting combo. A good first course at the old Best Western. I thought perhaps I was on a roll! And then my main entree arrived. The Halibut, or Longe de Flatan, served over veggies and rice, surrounded by an orange puddle of flavorless squash puree. I might have enjoyed it more if the fish itself hadn't looked like it came right out of a flash-frozen plastic pack. The purple claws striking out just below the fish unnerved me just a bit as well (though it turns out they were only purple onions). The puree was absolutely flavorless, and if the consistency had been the same as the fish, you would not be able to tell the two apart. To be honest, the puree was not absolutely flavorless, every third taste or so generated a hint of cinnamon, which helped divert my thoughts that it had been poured right out of a Gerber's jar of baby food. The best part of the entree was the yellow pepper, perfectly steamed and sliced. The wine I chose for the evening was a house cabernet, equally unremarkable. So my evening that had started out with such promise (dessert included at no extra charge), had taken a terrible turn after that cold, sodden halibut arrrived. So let's take a second look at those sweetbreads, because at least they generated some flavor and some culinary drama. But really. What the heck are they? According to Wikipedia, Sweetbreads are culinary names for the thymus (throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) or the pancreas (heart, belly or stomach sweetbread), generally of a calf or lamb. Various other glands are called sweetbreads when used as foods and may include cheek, ear, tongue, heart or testicles. So, take a closer look at those sweetbreads. You tell me, what the heck did I eat? (no wait, I'm going to stick with my original policy of don't ask don't tell.)


  1. I threw-up a little after reading what it was!!!

    Mark Fellure

  2. Oh my. While that salead looked really good the thought of what was in it is totally freaking me out. Note to self: Never order sweet breads. Ick.