TRIPE! There it is...
You hate me.
You really, really hate me.
So, yeah. We hit the tripe milestone about 8.2 seconds after the oyster video went up. I said it once; I'll say it again: sadists. You're all sadists. (but I love you) It's been fun getting emails from Jeff at Share Our Strength with the $$ updates because they're written in a tone where I SWEAR I can hear him snickering and better-you-than-me-ing when we reach each level of giving. Even my mom is harassing me with phone calls of "So.... (sing-songy voice overlaid with a snort while choking back a guffaw) how were those oysters? (snort, snerk, cough, choke)"
I had a few options for where to eat tripe. There's a Mexican/Salvadoran place near my house that lists "Menudo: trip soup" on the menu. A chef friend offered to make it for me, Argentinean-style, in his restaurant in New York. Both were viable options. But, I'd read a review of the tripe at Bibiana here in DC (and someone reminded me of it in last week's comments), and since I hadn't been there yet, I thought I'd give it a go. I called ahead to make sure it would still be on the menu, and that there wasn't any gluten used in the preparation. The call went a little something like this:
:::::: ring...... ring :::::::
Voice: Thank you for calling Bibiana, this is Christian, how may I help you?
Me: Hi, Christian. My name is Carol Blymire, and I have a question for you.
Christian: Yes Carol, what can I do for you?
Me: Well, I lost a bet, so I have to eat some tripe, and I was wonder-
Me: -ing if there was any glu-
Me: -ten in the tripe dish you guys have on the menu.
Christian: AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHH!!!! I don't think I've ever heard of anyone making a bet based on the loser eating tripe. That's awesome.
Me: Yeah, I don't really think that's a sentence I ever expected to say, but here we are. I'm kind of not looking forward to this AT ALL, but I heard you guys have tripe that maybe doesn't really even taste like tripe, so.....
Christian: Ours is the best in the city. Chef makes it with roasted tomatoes, cheese... you'll love it. I promise.
Me: Do you have a fully stocked bar that I can take advantage of if I need it?
Christian: Of course. We'll line up whatever you need.
So, I told Christian about the blog and about what you all are doing to help Share Our Strength, and he hooked me up with a table the next day at lunch. I called my friends, Chris and Brandon, to invite them along (they were there for Oystertastrophe 2009) and prepared myself to challenge a significant food phobia: tripe.
If I could channel my inner Bernie Mac for just a second: America? I did not want to do this. I mean, I love that you all care about the kids, and hunger, but I didn't really realize how anxious this was making me. I've always been a pretty adventurous eater, America, but when I have a bad experience with something, I don't easily get over it, if at all. But knowing it was for a good cause made it something I knew I had to face.
Knowing I needed a little something to help make this a little easier, Christian Pendleton, the restaurant's GM (of the laughing-at-me phone call above), provided the liquid courage:
I ordered two small courses in advance (a tilefish crudo with turnips, red onion and mint; and, a little plate of sweetbreads with orange and fennel -- both were phenomenal), and then realized I had to address the steaming hot ("atomic" as it was described to me) bowl of tripe in front of me, crying out to be eaten. It had cooled enough that I couldn't put it off any longer.
Bottoms up -- and here we go:
Even though there were pieces in there that looked like segments of someone's gums with all the teeth pulled out (::::shudder::::), I think I'm gonna petition the Nobel Prize committee to bestow a special lifetime achievement award upon Chef Nicholas Stefanelli, because you guys? I think I kind of like tripe. I KNOW.
Now, this is not to mean that my lovely darling chef friends who read this blog should see this as a call to action to slip me an extra course of tripe when I dine in your restaurants. Nice try. DO NOT DO THAT.
Nicholas' tripe was cut into pretty small pieces, and done in a slow, long braise with tomatoes and herbs and a quite lovely amount of parmagiano-reggiano. He came out to say hello just before I ate it and offered some advice: "If you just close your eyes and don't think about what you're eating, it'll be fine."
When someone tells you NOT to think about something, you think about it even more, right? So, I took another minute or two to psyche myself up and thought about rainbows, unicorns, lollipops and Donny Osmond -- anything but a bovine alimentary canal.
The first few bites were actually really good. I followed them with a few sips of wine, and I think Chris and Brandon (and our waiter) thought I was done. But, I wasn't. I finished the whole dang bowl. Brandon had one bite, but I finished every last bit and sent an empty bowl back to the kitchen.
Mission accomplished. Mission accomplished, indeed. Bold, caps lock, hell yeah.
So, thank you to Chef, to Christian, and the entire team at Bibiana for making this week's visit a really special one. Can't wait to come back!
So, to recap:
- When we reach $1,000 in donations, I'll eat a handful of cilantro.
- At the $2,500 mark, I'll eat 6 raw oysters. [we're really close, and I'm really afraid]
- At the $5,000 milestone, I'll eat tripe soup. [click here for how awful this is gonna be]
- At the $6,500 milestone, I'll eat some celery. WITH NOTHING ELSE ON IT. [coming soon]
- Raise $8,000 (meeting last year's donations) and I'll tap dance in front of the White House. Yes, I own tap shoes, and no, I haven't used them since 1986.
- Think we can get to $10,000? If so, I'll eat a softshell crab with a side of durian.
- At $12,500, I'll videotape myself singing some really awful song at karaoke -- New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli, Celine Dion, Tone Loc...
- Reach $15,000, and I'll go work the line in a restaurant.
- If we go above $30,000, I'll sweeten the giveaway pot and take one lucky donor to Alinea for dinner sometime in 2010.
- And, if we reach $100,000 in donations to Share Our Strength, I'll not just change my name to Alinea Blymire, I'll take it one step further: I'll legally change my name to the different sized circles on the Alinea menu. Don't believe I'll do it? TRY ME. Prince ain't got nothin' on me.
So, throw a few bucks to Share Our Strength. I'll do the tap dancing, and not the barfing. PROMISE.