Why Eating Bone Marrow Isn't Repulsive

That is, if you can get to it.

What: Roasted bone marrow Where: Smith, 332 15th Ave. E., 322-9420. CAPITOL HILL Cost: $8 Official tasting notes: When I was writing the Dec. 14 review of Quinn's Pub on Pike, which bills itself as a "gastropub" à la the Spotted Pig in New York, chef Scott Staples' bone-marrow-on-oxtail dish made me wonder if Linda Derschang also was using bone marrow to signal that she wants to apply the same label to Smith, her colonial-American-themed pub. In general, I love Linda's bars, but not for the food. At Smith, with my pints, I've had good bar snacks like the beet salad, deviled eggs, and sweet-potato fries with sage mayonnaise. Never bothered with anything more ambitious. Starting about the time that Quinn's was gearing to open and the word "gastropub" was popping up in all the food sections, Smith's menu got more and more hoof-and-mouth, and I've been wondering if the cooks were expressing a genuine fondness for British meat cookery or were just going for shock value. Duck tongues appeared for a while but didn't stay long. (And frankly, if I had a hankering for duck tongues, I'd order them at a good dim sum house, where the chefs would have some actual training in duck-tongue braising.) Buoyed by the deliciousness at Quinn's, I went back to Smith and ordered the roasted bone marrow. I've mostly eaten roasted veal— bone marrow at French bistros (Crémant serves it occasionally, and I'd recommend the experience). It's a luxurious indulgence that ranks a few small steps below foie gras on buttered bread. But not a visual one: With a knife, you scoop the grayish, gelatinous marrow out of a cross section of bone, spread it onto toast like melting butter, and bite into a gush of meaty fat. There's no way to make that sound as appealing as it is. The three bones I got at Smith, which came with Triscuits, a julienned-celery salad, and tiny spoons, were too damn small. We could barely get the spoons—or even the spoon handles—into the bones, and even though we scraped clean the insides of the bones and turned them upside down in the hopes that more marrow would leak out, we ended up with maybe a couple of teaspoons of the stuff. Plus, the salt in the Triscuits whomped what little flavor the marrow had. I admire the effort, but it was a waste of money. Unless you were just ordering it for the bragging rights. Consolation prizes: I also tucked into slices of beef tongue, breaded and pan-fried and served over braised escarole. Not only fancy but tasty, if you like tongue. Then, after a couple of rounds of Maritime's Jolly Roger Christmas Ale and the disappointment of the bone marrow, I gave up on Smith's gastro-worthiness and ordered up a mess of poutine—French fries, melted cheese curds, and gravy.

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