Bone Appetit

Article excerpt

Byline: Alexandra Peers; Alexandra Peers writes on food and culture in New York.

The peculiar appeal of a delicious new trend.

The food industry's latest fad keeps Peter Molinari busy in the basement with a huge, buzzing band saw, cross-cutting animal bones. "Some people are freaked out by it," says Molinari, manager of the meat department at New York's cavernous food department store, Eataly. "But there are definitely more people asking for marrow bone. A couple of years ago, they would buy it for their dogs. Now they buy it for themselves."

Marrow is the rich, spongy, bloody gelatin found inside animal (and human) bones. Densely flavored, chefs are increasingly using it as an ingredient in cooking and are also serving bones, split open and roasted, tableside. What does marrow taste like? "It's buttery, there's a hint of sweetness, slightly mineral," says superstar chef Eric Ripert, of New York's Le Bernardin. Eat it "with rock salt on toasted bread, and you are in heaven."

It's rare for such a grisly delicacy to go mainstream, but chalk it up to the trend-obsessed foodie's desire for the next new thing. "We had the pork belly phase, the sea urchin phase; we went through the bacon fad," explains Lee Brian Schrager, who, as founder and director of the New York and South Beach Wine and Food festivals, sees foods come and go. (Five chefs at last month's New York festival listed bone marrow on their menus, while others used it in the taco and burger competitions.)

It helps that marrow rolls up a few current dining trends into one package: it's served at of-the-moment gastropubs, endorsed by the popular farm-to-table movement, and it's a politically correct, but equally rich, alternative to foie gras. Some bars even encourage "marrow luging," or pouring liquor down the emptied bone, which ties it into the cocktail craze. Blame Anthony Bourdain, too. The TV host and sarcastically outspoken chef publicized the dish when he said he would choose it as his "death-row meal" in the cookbook The Last Supper. The endorsement got even more attention because Bourdain posed in the book naked, with a freakishly huge animal bone placed strategically over his anatomy.

A bit of culinary history is provided by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. "The people who made it popular are the Blue Ribbon people," he says. Twenty years ago, two brothers named Eric and Bruce Bromberg opened a restaurant in New York that served dinner until 4 a. …