My First Basque and Tongue
“Tastes like roast beef,” they told me, as I held the thinly sliced piece of pickled tongue up on my fork.
While visiting my boyfriend’s family in Bakersfield, California last weekend, I had a few notable firsts … my first visit to a Basque restaurant, and my first taste of beef tongue.
First, the Basque restaurant: I had no idea places like this exist! The restaurant felt like a Moose Lodge, but was actually an old historic hotel, with a small bar area up front and two thick wooden doors leading into the dining room, where three long wooden tables sat with place settings for over 100 people. As our party of 20 was seated at 7:00 p.m. sharp, along with the other hundred or so guests, I had the feeling we were traveling back into the Middle Ages.
Enter, beef tongue. Along with soup, salad, bleu cheese, bread and red wine, a platter of pickled beef tongue was placed on the table. Oh yes, I sampled it all. I had an audience as I made a big deal about eating the pickled tongue – it was my first time, after all. And, yes, it did, in fact, taste just like roast beef.
Then the dinner courses began arriving: oxtail with roasted root vegetables, spaghetti with marinara sauce, French fries, fried chicken; all served family-style and passed up and down the long straight tables. The meal was topped off with a scoop of strawberry ice cream. It was definitely the most random combination of food I’ve ever eaten in one sitting. It may have been the free-flowing wine, or the terrific company, but the meal was absolutely delicious, and certainly memorable.
I don’t know of any Basque restaurants in Sacramento, but if you do, please leave a recommendation.