As stated before, we try to avoid contrived food holidays like they’re a salmonella-tainted slab of tempeh. But today’s designation as National Escargot Day has us a little intrigued. Not so much that it’s a day devoted to the celebration of the snail, but the fact that for some reason this year it’s turned into this huge thing. We’ve been around Philly’s restaurant rows more than a few times, and in years past there’s been some observances of escargot on this day, but not like this. For places like Bibou, Bistrot La Minette and the rest of the French set, sure, it’s a no-brainer. But how about Roman trattoria Amis or all American and loco-for-locavorism Southwark?
“When we have them on the menu, we sell a lot,” Brad Spence, who is devoting tonight’s “Beast of Amis” menu to snails, told Grub Street. “There’s hardcore people out there that do the bigger ones and eat the whole thing, but I think when they’re done right — they’ve got that great earthy flavor — even more timid eaters really get into them.”
His three course tasting presents snails skewered with pork jowl for a spiedini antipasti; a spring garlic ravioli with snail brown butter; and beef al mattone with snails and salsa verde. Spence and his bar staff have even come up with an escargot cocktail. It’s Bluecoat Gin and Pernod garnished with a pickled snail. All that’s missing, really, is a snail dessert.
But Southwark had one on its Escargot Day menu last night. Snails were served there with cinnamon toast, and Valley Shepard crema de blue. Over at Matyson, Ben Puchowitz is serving a snail tasting menu, that includes an escargot coconut curry with Vietnamese sausage, carrost, and peanuts, while Lacroix’s Jon Cichon is doing a decadent escargot cassoulet with morel mushrooms, runner bean, and lobster.
Aside from the snails themselves, there’s a common thread tying all these special menu additions together. And it’s the Potironne Company, the Larkspur, Colorado-based purveyor of wild Burgundy snails (Helix Pomatia Linne), and its founder Douglas “Snailman” Dussault. He’s this country’s top supplier of escargot. Thomas Keller, Marc Vetri, Ken Oringer: You name the restaurant and chef, and if they’re serving snails, they’re more than likely supplied by his company. There’s no harm nor foul incurred, but he’s the brilliant mastermind behind National Escargot Day. If you follow his Twitter feed, you’ll see he’s been in Philly all week, bouncing around, singing the praises of his precious snails at restaurants participating in the faux holiday.