Ansill: The Inaugural Feast

Originally posted September 14, 2008

I could pontificate like a thesaurus-sporting dillweed about what the Society of Gluttony is, but instead, I believe this anecdote sums it up:

I ordered a lamb osso bucco sandwich. For dessert.

As a bit of context, I will offer this: The Society of Gluttony is an elite squad of eaters who will meet once a month to dine at a restaurant where, quite frankly, our wives/fiancees/girlfriends/dietitians would generally frown upon, scrunch their brow, or possibly order some lame salad and/or chicken dish. The SoG had its first convocation at Ansill, a Queen Village restaurant which sports various parts of animals that lesser chefs might discard or run from altogether. This is not to say that Ansill is simply weird for the sake of being weird; rather, it’s a place where creativity reigns and deliciousness is found at every turn. Or hoof, if you will.

Our party was ten hearty eaters, so we were able to sample a comically large portion of the menu. In fact, there was a debate if we should simply ask our server for “one of everything” which was vetoed (rather unfortunately if you ask me) at the last minute. Since my last visit there, Ansill has upped their portions from smaller tapas sized plates to slightly more substantial dishes. This is probably easier on the wallet than before, but it might make sampling more offerings slightly more difficult if you are part of a smaller party. This did not apply to us.

We began with an onslaught of appetizers, which had two main highlights. One was a steak tartar, where a quail egg provided a rich drape for an indulgent pile of uncooked beef. The second was pig trotters, which was astutely described as a “pork crabcake” by one of my fellow Gluttoneers. If not for the name “trotters” we would not have had any idea we were downing a pig’s hooves.

Our main courses were really dominated by the aforementioned osso bucco sandwich, which might be one of the best dishes in Philadelphia. It’s got a meaty richness that gets better with every bite, including the final ones, where the slice of brioche bread has soaked up all of the juices and creates an intense taste that, well, might cause a man to order a second helping for dessert. We also had a special of a sliced cold beef that was pretty awesome, as well some pretty banging sweetbreads. There was also a pretty damn good cheese plate that balanced the ends the spectrum so that there were really smooth, great cheeses and those funky stank-bombs that more adventurous cheese lovers enjoy.

While we were attacking various animal parts at our table, we were treated to a wild-eyed, gravelly-voiced ball of energy who dramatically entered the restaurant holding a gigantic, over-sized banker’s check. It turned out to be David Ansill himself, who had just won $500 and a title at some regional cooking competition where his bold take on flavors was rewarded. It was a surreal cap on a fairly wild dinner. I would imagine surreality is fairly commonplace at Ansill. Fortunately, deliciousness is as well.

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