"After attempting to eat 31 animals in 31 days, I eat less meat now than I did before."
Scott Gold has channeled a lifetime passion for food into a writing career. His first book, The Shameless Carnivore, is a delightful and entertaining read, describing not only Scott's quest to eat thirty-one different animals in thirty-one days, but also his "tour de boeuf," a culinary journey from one end of a cow to the other. Scott is a quintessential Serious Eater, and we're happy he was able to take some time to answer a few of our questions.
How did growing up in New Orleans shape you into the food-lover you are today? New Orleans is one of those rare places in which everybody, from the sidewalk dancers to nationally famous restaurateurs, cares deeply about food. Wanting to eat well isn't seen as something pretentious or effete; it's just the way we live. I don't think I ever heard the word "foodie" until I left New Orleans; if you're a New Orleanian, it's assumed that you enjoy eating and drinking the tastier things in life. So when I began writing nonfiction, food was an obvious choice. It's good to write about what you love, and boy howdy, do I love food.
How did your book, The Shameless Carnivore, come to be? I was working in book publishing for a number of years, and a good friend of mine, an editor, came up with the idea during lunch with my (now) literary agent. They said, "Hey, someone should write a carnivore's polemic!" They dropped that one sentence pitch in my lap—knowing about my fondness for flesh—and I ran with it. As soon as I started working on the proposal, the passion just poured onto the page like gravy on a roast beef po-boy.
What did you learn about yourself or your eating habits while writing it? I tell this to people, but they rarely believe me: After attempting to eat 31 animals in 31 days, followed by every part, cut and organ of a cow (not to mention hunting and butchering), I actually eat less meat now than I did before. Seeing and participating in my meat—from a living, mooing, adorable calf to ribs and steaks in a cooler, or a squirrel in a tree that later became lunch—has made me take it that much more seriously. I also learned that, no matter how adventurous you are, don't order the bull penis platter. Just... don't. Trust me.
In addition to your book, where else can Serious Eaters read your delicious food writing? I write a column (on meat, of course) for the food section of The Faster Times, a fantastic online newspaper, and additionally on my own site. I also freelance for various publications, both on the web and in print; most recently I penned a story for Edible Brooklyn about a tour through the various Polish meat stores in Greenpoint.
What are your favorite meat or offal-centric dishes in the city? Like most decent, freedom-loving New Yorkers, I love a good Shackburger. That will always make me happy. Recently I've been having a torrid love affair with the trippa in umido at Testaccio Ristorante in Long Island City. It's hard to cook tripe well, much less to make it so damned delectable you have to keep yourself from licking the bowl (with varying degrees of success, on my part). If you know any tripe virgins that are squeamish about ingesting the lining of a cow's stomach, feed them this, and they'll be a convert. I adore what chef Ivan Beacco is doing with Roman cuisine there.
Not only do you have a love for all things meaty, you also have a love for all things bourbon. Any favorites? This is like asking a musician to choose a favorite note. That said, I have high-end favorites and fantastic-buy favorites. On the pricey side, it's difficult to beat A.H. Hirsch 16-year Reserve, which is bottled magic, as well as Pappy Van Winkle (from the 12 year to the 23, they're all stellar). But if you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars, there are still great options. A certain whiskey-loving butcher friend of mine noted once that W.L. Weller Special Reserve is "the best self-medicating bourbon on the market." I won't disagree with that. Especially when paired with good barbecue. And although it's not bourbon, a glass of Rittenhouse bonded 100 rye whiskey is a standard for me.
As a New Orleans native, where have you found the best Sazerac in the city? Just a few years ago, you couldn't find a decent Sazerac in New York to save your life. Bad ones still abound—someone told me the other day that a bartender made her one with grapefruit juice—but now it's getting better. They do a good job at the Jake Walk in Cobble Hill, and I thought that the Sazerac at Walter Foods in Williamsburg was quite fine. And, naturally, if you happen to wander into Char No. 4 on a Tuesday night, where I moonlight behind the bar, I'll make you a lovely Sazerac, indeed.
Where in NYC do you like to shop for meat? Two places, mainly: Now that they're fully open and operational, I usually go to the Meat Hook. Not only is it close to my apartment, I've been friends with Tom Mylan for a few years now, and he's always been a great source of not just meat, but of culinary information as well. Plus, he and Brent are up to stuff there that definitely falls on what I call the "evil side of delicious" (cheeseburger sausages, mein gott in himmel!).
But if I'm looking for more exotic fare like alligator, frog legs, kangaroo, obscure game birds, calf brains, what have you, I trek to the Village and hang out with Frank at Ottomanelli's. If it wasn't for him and his brothers, I don't think I could have found nearly enough animals to eat for my book.
What are your favorite local hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? The counter girl at Hanco's knows exactly how I like my banh mi on Tuesdays, which is pretty endearing. I'm also always good for a burger and a draught beer at Five Leaves, which is a block from my house; their grass-fed version with harissa mayo is a home run.
Best late-night eats? I went to a friend's party recently in Crown Heights, and because I was late I didn't have time to prepare any food to donate to the festivities. Later that evening, when everyone was well into their cups, I realized that I needed cash. The nearest ATM was at a nearby Crown Fried Chicken, so I thought it would be nice to bring some fried goodness back to my friends. I was greeted like a king returning victorious from a long, foreign campaign. I'm surprised they didn't hoist me into the air, triumphantly. Sometimes, on special, rare occasions, you simply have to suspend all of your vaunted notions about health and sustainability and just chow down on some damned CFC.
What is in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? There's pickles, rendered duck fat, bacon, red cole slaw, fourteen hundred bottles of hot sauce—aha! There appears to be several slices of Kraft American Singles in there. Whether or not that's food is debatable (honestly, if your food is real, why do you have to explicitly say "Real" on your packaging?), but every now and again I crave a grilled cheese sandwich like my mom made when I was growing up: Wheat bread and Kraft singles pressed onto a hot cast iron skillet with good butter. Sometimes I'll add yellow French's mustard, too. That's right, I said it.