“You don’t want to know what I ate for lunch,” I said to her with barely contained glee. “You really, really don’t.” “That’s right, I don’t,” she said. “So stop trying to tell me.”
I’d come from lunch at M. Wells Dinette, the quirky Long Island City eatery helmed by Canadian farm boy Hugue Dufour whom she is fond of calling my boyfriend. Truth be told I have a total crush on Dufour and his extreme nose-to-tail comfort food. And there was plenty of it on the menu that afternoon. “What’s coxcomb and balls,” my buddy asked about a $21 main. “It’s cock’s comb and duck balls,” the waiter said offering no further details. “Meatballs?,” I queried.” “Nope, testicles.,” he deadpanned. “I’ve never seen one come out yet,” the waiter said encouraging us to order it. I excused myself to wash my hands leaving my buddy the biologist to consider the menu.
“What’s up with the cock’s comb and balls?” I asked one of the line cooks who was leaving the WC. “Oh you should get it, it’s in a veal stock with mushrooms, and beans under a gigantic dome of puff pastry,” she enthused.
And so we did but first an appetizer of pork tongue. It was decided that the rather phallic sounding main would work best as a midcourse in our offal bonanza. The tongue was followed by veal brain grenoblaise ($13), creamy clouds of cerebellum graced with a lemony sauce, along with a hefty slice of Dufour’s kitchen sink meat pie ($15).
Soon the waiter brought over a gigantic tureen, covered with a burnished cap of pastry and emitting some wondrously scented steam. While it wasn’t quite dome like it was nonetheless impressive.
Breaking into the pastry shell revealed a pot pie as envisioned by an eccentric farmstead chef: jagged, wobbly bits of cock’s comb; gigante beans; plenty of fancy mushrooms; and some decidedly larger “beans” that turned out to be the duck testicles.
“Somehow I thought they’d be smaller,” I remarked to my friend of the duck gonads as we dug into the haute and homey potage. “They’re internal you know,” he said between bites. In addition to the offal there were plenty of other goodies, including earthy tasting sunchokes. It was great fun to dip the buttery pastry into the rich soup. The testicles themselves were quite pleasant, neither rubbery nor gamey. Had they’d been served sliced I would not have been able identify them as anything other than pleasant poultry. And the cockscomb was gelatinous, though really possessed of no intrinsic flavor. Eating cockscomb always reminds me of my father recounting how he and his elder sister would fight for the cockscomb in the chicken soup. I have a feeling the old man would’ve liked this dish.
I’ve eaten at M. Wells Dinette plenty of times since it opened, even more so since Hurricane Sandy, but this poultry offal double-header is the first real game changer to come out of his museum cafeteria kitchen at MoMA PS1. I would be remiss if I did not point out that Dufour no longer serves this dish. Fear not offal lovers I am quite sure that the restlessly creative Québécois chef has other tricks up his sleeve, perhaps ortolan or Trojan pig. I’m holding out for the latter.
M. Wells Dinette, MoMA PS1, 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800