A few blocks away is Michelin-starred Restaurante Rodero. As one of the best restaurants in Pamplona, it’s a popular place for bull during San Fermin. To prepare it, owner/chef Koldo Rodero says he puts the bull meat in the freezer — not to store it, but to tenderize it. With the low temperature, “the muscle turns into meat,” says Rodero.
Then, he, too, turns to talk of testes, telling me that times have changed when it comes to bull consumption. In the past, spectators used to eat the animal at its freshest — in the bullring. “In the horse patio of the Pamplona bullring, the butchers’ guild cooked, during the bullfights, the bulls’ testicles,” says Rodero. “This custom disappeared after the onset of mad cow disease.”
Bar Restaurante Baserri, near the path that bulls and runners follow during San Fermin, serves the meat during the annual festival with a molecular gastronomy flair: fried, with poached vegetables and wine foam. Owner Roberto Monreal says that the bull-eating tradition dates back to ancient times, before we had certain pharmaceuticals. “In ancient Greece, as well as in Egypt, bull meat was eaten because they believed it transmitted strength and the virility of the animal,” he says. “Thus, they ate it mostly for this second belief.”
Thinking about it, it makes sense that the bull would be served during the Running of the Bulls. When else do you have 2,000 to 4,000 people — mostly men — galloping through the streets in a death match against six giant beasts? That takes huevos, for sure. Maybe bull meat is just the go-go juice they need.
Me, I think I’m happier traveling to Pamplona in the off-season. Sure, it may mean that I’ll never try stewed bull tail, frozen-grilled bull chop or fried bull with wine foam.
But you know what? The Vienna Beef Factory and Cafe is just around the corner from my apartment. They make a mean bull sausage there. It just happens to go by the name Chicago-style hot dog.
Silver is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Her Web site is www.thekatesilver.com.