Eating Braised Pork Cheeks at Michael Chiarellos

Braised Pork Cheeks with RavioliI’m not sure what makes one part of an animal more desirable than another, but there is definitely a “gross factor scale” associated with each. On a scale of 1-10 pork cheeks are about a 7 in my book, quite a few offal parts are raunchier; tongue, feet and, dare I say, testicles.

Though eating pork cheeks isn’t amongst the most uncouth of things to put in my mouth, it reminds me way too much of the prominent dimples of my grandfather, the sweet smile of my one year old niece and a rosy blush strategically placed on women around the world to accent this feature.

Pushing past the visions in my head, I can’t resist ordering the ‘Fall Squash & Amaretto Tortelli with Apple Braised Pork Cheeks at Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega in Yountville.

Come on, a mixture of apples, amaretto and tender pork cheeks can’t be all bad…can it? Would Michael really steer me wrong?

It discreetly arrived at the table as if it was any delectable pasta dish, slathered in jus. I ate the tortelli first, not sure what my logic was in this strategy? Possibly filling up with the good stuff first or was I saving the best for last? I Didn’t know the answer at this point. The pork cheeks were about the size of a larger silver dollar (yes…I am well aware that there is not such a thing as a “larger” silver dollar…stop nitpicking, I am trying to tell a story here) and have the texture of any sort of braised piece of meat, flakey and tender.

My first bite is always that “hold-your-breath-in-case-I-need-to-vomit” one, but there was not even the slightest bit of upchuck here. Actually, it kind of tasted like a really good, juicy and tender piece of meat. I tried another. Yep…holy crap…I like pork cheeks!

Have you ever eaten cheeks?

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2018-12-20T16:50:30+00:00January 24th, 2011|Categories: FOOD, QUIRKY|Tags: , , |


  1. Jessica January 24, 2011 at 8:46 am - Reply

    I could imagine they would be pretty tender.  It always amazes me what dishes can come from parts of an animal-I don't think I'd even think about the cheeks.  And I laughed when you said you held your breath.  I do that too when trying something new, anticipating that I may have to spit it out but then being pleasantly surprised when I don't!

  2. Miranda January 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    I love your posts on these dishes! You make me want to be more adventurous in my eating!

  3. Ingrid January 28, 2011 at 4:53 am - Reply

    I'm from the Philippines and some Filipino dishes use EVERY part of the hog – from snout to tail.  Pork cheeks are tasty, soft and somewhat gelatinous. 🙂

    • Annette Renee White January 28, 2011 at 10:37 am - Reply

      I am going to have to take a trip to the Phillipines because I am sure that there are many unique items for me to try there!

  4. A Pigs Tail & Lobster Gnocchi at the Ritz Carlton December 29, 2012 at 12:06 am - Reply

    […] menu and I looked no further. It was a part of the pig I hadn't eaten yet. Piggy ears and pork cheeks…Yes. Pigs tails? Very […]

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