Our first night in Umbria was quite the experience. We were all aglow after our amazing exploration of Civita. We checked into our fancy spa like agriturismo in the hills of Orvieto and got a little R&R. The hot tub was broken (i feel like most things are in italy) but we convinced them to crank up the “winter” indoor spa and steam room. This was, in a word, heaven. After the grime and rush of Rome, we were, finally, relaxed. We took a nap and walked down the driveway to the agri’s fancy restaurant, where we decided to go with the Meat Tasting Menu. How exciting! 4+ courses with custom wine pairings. Here is where it gets interesting.
I saw that the antipasti was “calf sweetbreads”. Huh…I’ve never heard of that, I thought. I asked Matt who said in an off hand manner, “oh that’s the little ultra tender center of the tenderloin.” Wow, count me in. So after the aspertivo, they set down our sweetbread plate with mushrooms, and I eagerly cut a small piece and popped it in. Hmph..this…does not taste like filet mignon. It’s… really irony tasting. It kind of made me sick. Matt clearly was coming to a conclusion and looked at me sheepishly. “I don’t think this is what I thought it was.” A small panic was rising in me. What the heck am I eating??
“Claire, don’t kill me, but…. I think this is calf testicles.” He was suppressing laughter.
“WHAAAT?!?!” I almost died and threw up, simultaneously.
We had had some wine already and were relaxed, so all of the sudden, the whole situation was immensely funny and even I couldn’t help but break down laughing. I laughed so hard I cried and every time the fancy waitress came, we would have tears streaming down our faces, to the chagrin of the other (fancy) diners.
The whole meal (catalogued below) was fantastic and we left guts busting, happy and relaxed. When we got back to the room, we did a little research ( thank God for Wikipedia) and discovered that while sweetbread is occasionally of the testicular nature, it is usually the brainstem/thymus. Awesome, we ate a baby cow’s immune system center OR brain, I thought. We are the ultimate monsters.
Beware the sweetbreads.
Appertivo – smoked salmon (champagne)
Antipasti – calf brainstem/sweetbread porcini mushroom (Cabernet franc)
Primi – rabbit ragu tagliatelle (cab-merlot)
Secondi – filet mignon with rosemary and porcini demi glaze and fingerling potato (merlot)
Pre pre-dolci – three pecorino cheeses and honey
Pre-dolci – little cookie cake things (sherry)
Dolci – orange torte, orange mousse, chocolate liquor ice cream