Duck Liver Croque En Bouche with Strawberry Gastrigue
I have been a fan of Chris Cosentino for a little under a decade now. Ever since discovering his big congenial personality and passion for all things meat on the now defunct show Chef vs. City, on which he would run around with Chef Aaron Sanchez to reveal the zany culinary seams of cities across the US, I have been hankering to try one of his meals. Sure, I have been to Boccalone, his salami emporium in San Francisco’s Ferry Building for a cone of cured meats and enjoyed a cup of crispy pig ears before his PIGG disappeared from Los Angeles’ Umamicatessen. But I wanted a proper sit down dinner, not just some convenience pork parts.
Beef Heart Tartare with Grilled Bread and Greens
This is why Incanto was on my travel list for years—his Italian restaurant in San Francisco, which had an Instagram account I drooled over nightly featuring butchered delights and creativity surrounding meat that was unparalleled. Think homemade fettuccine with duck hearts and behind the scenes glimpses of hanging intestines and gleaming silver tables full of liver cornucopias and raw meat pies pre-oven. I loved the idea that the high end crowd sitting in the dining room, slurping up fancy wine and enjoying the fruits of the chef’s efforts had no idea of the real carnival happening behind the swishing door between them and the kitchen. It was as if Chris had found a place to play and was finally doing the things he loved the most.
Unfortunately Incanto closed before I had the chance to dine there. A new place in Noe Valley called Porcellino (or, piglet) opened where Chris served casual food like sandwiches and pastas to the neighborhood community and I wondered what was up. No more meat extravaganza? No more Top Chef style over the top dishes? No more photos of giant boar heads awaiting a steam bath to retrieve their glistening gelatinous innards?
Cornish Game Hen Tetrazzini with Fried Fideos, Mushrooms and Cream Sauce
Luckily, the intrepid Cute Gardener who does things like keep his eyes on the whereabouts of my favorite chefs for me learned that Chris had opened a new restaurant in SF’s SOMA district called Cockscomb and earlier this month we visited after a couple days of grueling hikes at Lassen Peak and Mount Shasta ready for reward in the form of a meat extravaganza.
What we found was a bustling joint marrying the best things about Cosentino: a casual, friendly down to earth attitude, no nonsense yet interesting food and ultra unctuous meat parts. The Chef himself manned the floor mingling with guests, throwing orders at cooks and servers across the bar, and glancing at cutting board platters of roving pin steaks as if he were finally at home in a place that fit.
Zampini of pork and fennel sausage, fried oysters, corn, tomato and shishito peppers
Although he clearly has it in him, I am not sure if Chris is a high-falutin elegant restaurant type of guy at heart or a fame seeking, celebrity chef although his gregariousness fits naturally in the limelight. I think he may have finally found his groove with Cockscomb.
I just hope his current patronage of hipsters and tech industry, disposable income young uns have the kinds of adventurous palates that will allow Chris to incorporate some of his more daring offal offerings (the kind his first wave of fans are known to follow him for) onto his menu in the long run.