I Ate Crispy Pig Ears at the New Grove Restaurant

October 13, 2011 · 17 comments

You Real Foodies will love this story!  Especially you die-hard Weston A. Pricers who love to eat liver and other pieces and parts, and who like it when none of an animal goes to waste.  Yeah, well I’m not always a big girl about eating some of that stuff…until Chef Pat.  Remember when I told you a while back about Chef Pat from Bistro Bella Vita?  (Read about my chick night at Bistro Bella Vita and about when I first got to know Pat:  A dreamy dinner out with duck fat appetizers.)

It all started when Kent & I went to Bistro a couple weeks ago with Bob & Sonia.  I asked if they might have any duck fat for French fries and the guy in charge, Brad, said, “Not right now, but if you let me know when you’ll be in again we can make it happen.”  Isn’t that cool?!  So I knew I was going to be at Green Well (another one of their restaurants) that next week and I shot him an email and asked if there was any chance…

That’s where this email exchange begins that I’ll share with you:

Brad: 

“Kelly, do you know when you are going to Green Well on Saturday? Pat is going to prepare them at our new location across the street (Grove) and deliver them to you at Green Well.  He will be there all day prepping for a busy evening and would love to help you out. Please give us a heads up on when you would be coming and let us do the rest…”

Kelly:

Oh my gosh, no way!!! Thank you anyway, but you make so many amazing meals, I will find something on the menu that I will love as always!! Just thought if there was duck fat around I’d take advantage, but no way will I have you go to all that trouble.  Thanks anyway for being so sweet!  :)

Brad had copied Chef Pat, who emailed me back:

Kelly, it really is not a problem.  It’s also a great excuse for you to stop by and check out Grove.  Just let me know what time your planning on and it would my pleasure to bring some fries over to Green Well, or you can stop by Grove and have a quick snack before lunch… You just let me know what you want to do.  You would be impressed by the stock pile of natural fats I have amassed in just under two weeks.  Talk to you soon…. Pat

Kelly:

I feel like a spoiled princess though and I’m sure you have a thousand other things to do that day, especially with the Grove opening, how exciting!  (You must be relieved to finally have it open, I know you guys have been working on this for months and months.)  You’re really speaking my language with all that ‘natural fats’ talk, but thank you anyway on the fries, I’m on the Essence email list now, so when I see something about duck fat come up there, I’ll bug you about it again.  :)

My sister and I will have my kids with us, but I’d love to just pop in and see Grove, though, if it’s OK to bring the kids in for a few minutes, and I want to hear more about the fats of course!  We’ll just say a quick hi and then we’ll go eat an early lunch at the GW before we do Art Prize for the afternoon.  We’ll probably be there around 11 or 12, so if you’re not there yet we’ll catch you next time.

Thanks again for being so sweet, Pat!

Pat:

I will be there, please stop in with the kids.  I WOULD LOVE TO SHOW YOU THE SPACE, I think you will like it.  See ya Saturday!

Is that cool or what?!  Wait ’til you hear this next part!

So we got to their new restaurant, Grove, around noon and the place doesn’t even open until dinner.  It’s gorgeous, classy and quaint inside with some neat decor, just like their other two restaurants.  Don’t you love these lamps?

We were greeted by Rob, the restaurant manager:

He said that Pat was almost done with our fries, and he had us take a seat in the bar to enjoy some house pickled veggies.  (These were super flavorful and even the kids loved them.)
Then Pat appeared with the most tasty duck fat fries ever, and I didn’t have to worry about the oil and what affect it might have on me, since duck fat is a traditional fat – it was dreamy!  He also served them with a couple yummy dipping sauces:  a homemade spicy ketchup and a homemade aioli (garlic mayo).  Doesn’t this picture make you just want to plant your face into the bowl?

We got talking about one of my favorite local farms, Creswick, so just as we were wondering how we were going to still be hungry for our lunch across the street, Pat brought out Creswick pork belly confit with Michigan 3-bean salad & mole verde.  Our six year old said, “Wow, that’s seriously the best pork I’ve ever had.”  He really said that, and he was right!

So then Pat wanted us to try some head cheese from Creswick.  This is where my sister stepped off the tasting train.  I’d had head cheese before though and thought it just tasted like sausage.  Pat’s was even better – his tasted more like a delicious slow-cooked pork roast.  He said the guys in the back thought I’d also want to try the crispy pig ears.  Yep, you read that right.  I wasn’t too hip on this, but my sister was out for sure and before the kids knew what it was, they all tried one.  That left two for me…  They weren’t bad, they just taste like a fried food, but the ear was a bit chewy.  Can you believe I was a big girl and did it?

So this is Creswick pork head cheese with crispy pig ears, house made mustard & pickled green tomatoes:

Here’s Pat in the back by his big pots of fat.  They don’t use fryers!

Can you believe how cool Pat and all of them at the Essence restaurants are?  (These amazing people also gave a generous donation to our local Weston A. Price chapter last spring, so they really are awesome.)

What’s great about all this is that they are committed to sourcing their food sustainably, and at Grove especially, they want to specialize in not wasting any part of the animal.  (Look at this link I found:  An A to Z of offal – A guide to what is known in Italy as the ‘fifth quarter’.)

So what do you think Real Foodies?  Have you ever eaten crispy pig ear or something equally as interesting?  How did you like it?

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  • { 17 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Margaret Auld-Louie October 13, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Wow, I wish we had a restaurant like that, here! Every time I ask a restaurant what they use for frying, the answer is “soy oil”.

    Reply

    2 clickclackgorilla October 13, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Wow would I love to have a restaurant like that nearby. Reading this made me drool. :)

    Reply

    3 Mary October 13, 2011 at 6:26 am

    I guess I need to have a date night with my husband! :P I think the last time we went out to eat was in April (yikes!). I’ve never been to any of those 3 restaurants, but I hear good things about them. Good to know we have a few good options in the area. Love that they use real ingredients. Those fries look amazing! I think I’d even try pig’s ears there :)

    Reply

    4 KitchenKop October 13, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Hi Mary,
    Keep in mind that they don’t always have duck fat there, so be sure to ask before you order something fried. But they do always have lots of fresh ingredients, homemade stocks, locally sourced foods, etc. :)

    Reply

    5 Mary October 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Good to know. I’m always too scared to eat out since I’m doing GAPS. But maybe I could actually eat something there! A restaurant where I could order soup…that sounds great :)

    Reply

    6 Susie October 13, 2011 at 7:19 am

    I love the sweetbreads presented with baba ganoush and pita bread at Ric Orlando’s NEW WORLD BISTRO BAR in Albany, NY. (http://newworldbistrobar.com/)

    He’s also a chef who sources locally—in fact, he’s one of the founders of a nearby farmer’s market.

    I am just a customer—not an owner or an investor, just a loyal fan of good food!

    Reply

    7 Linda October 13, 2011 at 9:35 am

    No, I have never had pig’s ears, but my dog had. lol. I know they were nothing like you ate.How lucky for you to have these wonderful restaurants near you. We have one in beautiful downtown Culpeper that we love. Actually two that I know of, but one is more formal & I think more expensive. Unfortunately our favorite was damaged in the earthquake we had in August and hasn’t reopened yet. Our 26th wedding anniversary was yesterday and we wanted to go there.

    Reply

    8 Bethany October 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Dude, I am so glad I live in GR…how awesome !!! I am totally going to visit those places…I have been to the Green Well once and it was the best food I have ever had eating out.

    Thanks for the review !!!

    Reply

    9 France @ Beyond The Peel October 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Kelly, That really is so great. I love restaurants that pride themselves on the quality of food they provide their patrons and honor the animal by not wasting!. Great post kelly. I hope it inspires readers to find a restaurant like this in our communities.

    Reply

    10 Paula October 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Looks wonderful!
    You tell Pat that cleaning the hood over the stove in that restaurant is going to be a breeze. A little soap and water with a soft cloth is all it takes when you cook with real fats.

    I bet the cleaning industry would have a fit if everyone stopped using processed oils.

    Reply

    11 Jen @ BigBinder October 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    SO COOL!! I didn’t know they were that awesome, I’m so glad you are highlighting Grand Rapids restaurants and finding them to your liking! Have you had the duck nachos at Brewery Vivant? I think you may have but I can’t remember… I don’t know if they use duck fat for other things, or just the little crispy thingys but that shows up a few places on the menu too.

    Reply

    12 KitchenKop October 13, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Yes, those are SO good! And I had liver there that really truly was YUMMY! :)

    Reply

    13 carrie October 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Totally cool! I am trying to have a more sustainable approach toward eating animals…it means nose to tail. Not just that $10 steak.

    I, too, have learned about crispy pig ears:

    http://tinyurl.com/3bfj2fm

    Good on ya!

    Reply

    14 Soli @ I Believe In Butter October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Ooooooh. I had pork belly for the first time back in August but have yet to find pig ears on the menu anywhere near where I live. Maybe when I make my California trip I can finally hit a place around SF which would have them.

    I LOVE trying out new foods like this.

    Reply

    15 Annette | Bucket List Journey October 17, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I just ate pigs ears too! It wasn’t awful offal ;)

    Reply

    16 Lorna April 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    We raise our own pasture pork but have never tastes pork ears. I wonder if we can get some from our butcher next time. I’ve had brain and kidney but wasn’t real wild about those at a restaurant in S.F. Ca.
    Do you have a recipe for pork ears?

    Reply

    17 KitchenKop April 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Can’t say as I do! Try Google. :)

    If you master it, let me know and you’re welcome to guest post the recipe here!

    Kelly

    Reply

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