Wahoo, it’s Chinese New Year! Year of the Snake. Or is it the serpent? Are they the same year? Are they the same species? WTF.
No matter, it’s the Lunar New Year, which means plenty of excuses for cramming my mouth with things of the delicately fried, steamed and, most importantly, porky variety. In other words, it’s pretty much Christmas come early. Like, a really awesome piggy Christmas with chives and cilantro and hot chili oil. Ho, my friends.
In honor of what is inarguably one of the foodiest celebrations of the year, I thought now might be the perfect time to run a little recap of one of the most memorable meals I’ve had to date. That’s right, folks. It’s the Leg of Beast supper at Chris Cosentino’s Incanto in San Francisco.
(Note numero uno: yuuuuuge thanks go out to my cousins Lauren and Joel for treating me to this carnivore’s feast for Christmas. Nothing says love like painstakingly braised bovine. Note numero deux: No Nikon here. Joel snapped these pics with his fairly awesome iPhone5 under much “WAIT! Take a picture! A better picture! Add the candle? Take away the candle! Whatever, it’s fine…” direction from me. Sorry about that…)
Odds & Ends Board
Even though Lauren and Joel had pre-arranged for the (prix fixe) Leg of Beast menu, we snapped a pic of Chef Cosentino’s famous Odds & Ends board. Motivation to come back for an a la carte encore? You betcha.
“Cousins….cousins…there were never such devoted cousins…”
Housemade Breads and Focaccia
When you’re staring down two hours of unctuous, salty, animal-laden delicacies, bread seems almost wholly unnecessary. Right? Uhhh, who are you? Wrong! Bread is, at the least, a gauge of the quality to come. Is it moist, tender, crusty, crisp? Uniquely flavored? Unadorned or slathered in crackliciousness? In this case it’s simple, tender, and delightfully accompanied by a super salty, savory (and almost certainly anchovy-ie) tapenade.
Boccalone Antipasto Platter
First off: those heads of nutty, piquant roasted garlic? Set some aside to smear on your marrow crostini. That hunk of focaccia. That tender shred of beast. It’s totes delish. Second: this is one-stop shopping for all of Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone faves, and nothing disappoints. I was surprisingly drawn to the melt-in-your-mouth mortadella. Give me a platter of this, in itself, for supper
any every day of the week and I’d be as happy as a pig in mud. Where is that Geico commercial, by the way?
Heirloom Chicories, Balsamic & Pecorino Incanto
I love a bitter green. Lauren might be in love with bitter greens. This is exactly what you want to eat as a refreshingly verdant distraction from the slippery lipids you’re about to send down the hatch. Lightly dressed but with enough robust flavor and pungent, cheesy body to feel more like a side than a salad.
Nervetti, Cannelini Beans & Sage
Do you like tendon? I’ll pretend you’re all nodding your heads vigorously, fondly remembering that last clay pot meal you shared full of sticky brown gravy heavy with gelatinous gloss. So that’s nervetti, taken specifically from a veal shank. And here, it’s married with creamy beans that are bathed in a broth rich with that same tendon-tackiness. You know what I’m talkin’ bout. Topped with crispy fried sage — my favorite garnish for neutrally-hued Italian dishes — it’s comfort food through and through.
Goose-Fat Roasted Crucifers, Capers, Chili & Mint
Roasted veg is, like, all the rage. And for good reason — it’s brown and crisp and fruggin’ tasty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding a little salt, spice and perky herb flavor. Oh, and goose fat. You know, just so you feel like you’re really getting down with The 1900 House peeps. (Is it just me, or has reality TV gone down since then? Loved me some of that.)
Roasted Marrow Bones (God’s Butter – YOUGOTTHATRIGHT!!!) with Grilled Bread
You either like marrow or you don’t. If you like it, this is where the money is at, 100%. Silky as shiggity and lip-smacklingly addictive. Speaking of which, Bonne Bell totally missed the cash cow here, pun intended. I’d trade my go-to Dr. Pepper for a slick of Marrow Balm easy peasy. Roller-gloss, preferably, for maximum grease factor. Yep, I’d totally make out with me.
Braised Beef Shank with Boccalone Mustard & Fresh Horseradish (Boned, Biaaaa!)
I have surprisingly little to say about this. I mean, take a look at it. This is like Braveheart-meets-LOTR-meets-Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle EPIC. I will say, it’s made all the better dressed up with loads of that freshly Microplaned horseradish, a sprinkling of sea salt and a smear of the aforepictured roasted garlic, but it’s perfectly satisfying on its own. My biggest tip? Take my word for it and don’t feel compelled to polish it off. (Or do, and then prep for a night of hugging your hot water bottle close.) Contrary to what you may believe, you can take home leftovers.
Dark Chocolate Brownie, Vanilla Ice Cream & Almonds
The recommended dessert of the evening, so of course I went with the panna cotta (below). But supposedly this was as rich and satisfying as promised. Looking at it now, I probably should have tried it out for myself. I maybe just licked my Mac. No I didn’t. Yes I did. Ok, my tongue didn’t actually touch the screen, but I did mime it, just a little bit. And now you pictured me miming it, and you almost mimed it, too! You did! I knew it. Anyway, yep, I should have tried it, but for now I’ll have to take the fam’s word for it.
Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta & Citrus Crumble
The best panna cotta I ever had was at the now-closed La Tavola in Dublin, OH. For serious. It was sweet but not too sweet. Creamy but clean. Subtly bouncy, it hugged the back of the spoon ever so slightly before releasing with a soft “snick” upon carving each bite. There, it was topped with syrupy balsamic and fresh summer berries. Here, panna cotta of the same caliber is drizzled with a nearly savory verbena reduction, bright citrus supremes and a nutty crumble. Uh-may-may.
Fam Bam! (Godparents Brent & Dana; Joelie; Laur; Me.)
What a generous folk they are. Who else gifts their kin with meat? It kinda runs in the family, if you havent noticed. Also: yep, I’m teapotting, but it’s cropped, so you can’t see. Aaaaaand what good is teapotting, exactly, when you’re wearing a down jacket?
Because no dinner is complete without…
On the count of three, make your best “You’re about to eat a kilo of beef” face.
And Finally: Zombie Fam with Chef Chris Cosentino, Himself.
Wait, does the cap on Himself make him seem too godly? So be it, the man harnesses talent from the heavens. The meal was that good. Another kind of kooky note: the kitchen at Incanto is open, so the staff if easily visible, even from the street. Ask me if we saw a woman come in off the street — without eating, making a reservation, or even taking a business card — just to take a pic with him. Go ahead, ask. We sure did, and he obliged. How unexpected is that? I kind of admired her gall, actually. We sat in his restaurant for hours, praising course after course of a meal Laur had made reservations for weeks in advance, and we were still shy about asking to meet the chef. I suppose that will all have to change when I begin eating like a baller on a regular basis…
Such is life.
In sum: NOM. ANIMALS. HOT WATER BOTTLE. THANKS.
Love you guys.