Let Them Eat Tongue! Ox Tongue & Escargot at L'Epicerie Café & Market. Culver City, CA.
Chef got your tongue?
It's Bastille Day. Remember the last time you stormed a fortress/prison? Hard work right? Burned a lot of calories along with those torches, right? I don't have to tell you after a brutal day of uprising against tyranny that you work up a pretty good appetite. So how about a taste of meat that tastes you right back?
Ox tongue (or langue in the French tongue) simmered for 4 hours becomes so tender even Abe Vigoda could gnaw it without his pop-in teeth. It's one of the simple, rustic yet luxurious plates cooked fresh daily at L'Epicerie Café & Market. The classic tongue dish enjoyed all over France is an item that Executive Chef Sébastien Archambault feels passionate about sharing with his guests at L'Epicerie (which literally means "the grocery" in French).
Line cook turned langue cook.
A melange of restaurant, coffee & pastry shop, wine store and Euro convenience store, L'Epicerie is a unique Culver City establishment and the latest addition to the ever expanding food universe in the area.
The tapas are really popular especially during happy hour. The two choices that spoke to me were the ox tongue and snails. Chef Archambault was cool enough to give me a quick cooking course on how to cook these special L'Epicerie's dishes: Beef Tongue Sauce Diable and Escargot á la Perigourdine.
Prepping aromatics for a tastier tongue.
The first part of cooking beef tongue is the longest with a simmering time of 4 hours. In the pot with the enormous tongue are a few aromatics like rosemary, fresh bay leaves, white onion, baby carrots, peppercorns, cloves and anise.
Making a devilish diable sauce.
After the slow and low cooking is complete, the ox tongue's outer membrane is peeled off the meat like a banana. Then, the hunk of flesh is thinly sliced and ready to add into a bubbling diable sauce — a robust wine sauce designed to complement the delicate tongue.
Bite your tongue!
Eating tongue tends to repel those who've never tasted it. The tongue by Chef Archambault is exquisite in its delicate flavor which is why it was necessary to punch it up with a diable sauce; the tongue's texture is velvety and fork tender.
If you close your eyes and eat, you'll simply enjoy the extraordinary gentleness of the beef and its bold seasonings. Moreover, the petite heirloom potatoes sharing the plate bring a nice contrast and are exceptionally tasty sprinkled with freshly cracked sea salt, adding a crystalline crunch.
Mise en snail.
When I was a kid, if I wasn't dissolving snails with a container of salt, I was smashing them under my shoes. Nowadays I'm a bit more humane as I thank them before I devour them.
Chef Archambault was born in Lubbock, Texas but raised in the former French province of Perigord. You'll notice at L'Epicerie his affinity for the rustic which is rooted in his upbringing.
Escargot á la Perigourdine is another simple dish cooked with a few fresh ingredients, but eating it will take you far away from here. As a child, snails for me were the ultimate in weird food. I just couldn't imagine putting those shelled and slimy garden aliens into my mouth. "How do you even eat them?," I puzzled. As an adult, I seek out and appreciate escargot whenever it's available at a restaurant.
Using snails imported from France, Chef Archambault begins his escargot plate by quickly composing a brown sauce which includes white wine and butter. He also adds some petite heirloom potatoes and wilts a few spinach leaves.
Escargot to my belly!
The finished product is delicious with snails that are pleasingly pliable and subtle with earthy flavor. The sauce is salty and a little piquant from the dried pepper flakes.
These dishes are just two of the few interesting and satisfying items available as small tapas plates or entrées.
In honor of Bastille Day, L'Epicerie will have a generous ALL DAY Happy Hour with a special offering of French Cocktails and Small Plates available for $4 each on July 14th. Get over there! You can't be a real revolutionary on an empty stomach! VIVA LA LANGUE!!
9900 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232