Archive for the ‘Lamb’ Category

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – CIRCA

CIRCA – CHEF ERIK HOPFINGER @ SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009

At the inaugural SF Chefs. Food. Wine. weekend, Chef Erik Hopfinger of CIRCA participated in both Thursday’s opening night party and Friday’s Grand Tasting Tent, which was a magnificent array of food and wines spanning a 3.5 hour lunch. Hopfinger created a great dish for each SF Chefs. Food. Wine event.

THE GRADE: EXCELLENT (for both dishes)

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

MOROCCAN CRUSTED LAMB CHOP W/MINT CHIMICHURRI

For opening night’s “RISING STAR CHEFS” party, Hopfinger offered beautifully grilled lamb chops. Herb-crusted, Moroccan-style lamb chops with pomegranate reduction and a wollop of mint chimuchurri on top, this was an excellent dish and one of the best of the opening party. I could have eaten a dozen of them.

Moroccan-style lamb chop w/mint chimichurri from CIRCA.

Moroccan-style lamb chop w/mint chimichurri from CIRCA.

TACO CHIP w/GUACAMOLE & SALSA
Chef Erik Hopfinger’s second solid offering at SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 was a tiny taco chip laden with a fantastic guacamole and salsa. The tomato and red onion salsa was chopped much more finely than salsa fresca, sitting delicately on the chip among a creamy nibs of guacamole. The bite was light, creamy, wonderfully fresh and vibrant. It basically felt like a beautiful late afternoon in Mexico on a plate, something of a transformative taste that rolled memories of sun, salty skin, and summer into your mouth with complete contentment. Another great little dish that demanded a second helping.

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger's magic little tacos and salsa

CIRCA Chef Erik Hopfinger’s magic little tacos and salsa

Spring Lamb Dinner

Spring Lamb Dinner

What a phenomenal dinner. Coco500 (Chef Mike Morrison and company) recently put on a 4-course lamb dinner, paired with wines from A Donkey & Goat winery. Every dish was fantastic, and each portion of lamb perfectly cooked, smartly seasoned, and sweetly plated. The flavor combinations were subtle, letting the meat be the rightful star.

Course 1: Grilled Lamb Heart

Lamb heart is phenomenal, and should be all over America. Lamb heat has great flavor: primarily with a slightly sweet steak flavor, but it also reveals a more subtle tone of foie gras’ phermone-go-wild fatty passion and a tiny tang of earthy liver. It’s also full of Omega-3, so go get ‘em.
Grilled Lamb Heart Salad with cheese & wild fennel pollen

Course 2: Lamb Shoulder Cavatelli

Each portion of this dish–lamb, spring beans, house-made cavatelli pasta–is roughly the same size, making each bite a flavor balance. Soft, juicy, crunchy, chewy, meaty, cheesy work a mouth into bliss; this is an excellent pasta. The peppery pecorino gives a light heat to round it out. I could have eaten a few bowls of this.

Note: Coco500 often has a great meaty pasta or two on their menu, but not always the cavatelli (e.g., lamb shoulder pappardelle). The pasta’s house-made; good stuff.
Lamb Shoulder Cavatelli

Course 3: Lamb Mixed Grill

Another really remarkable dish that displays the horizon-wide range of flavors from various parts of the lamb. The generous cut of lamb loin was bright pink and sweetly juicy; the spicy lamb sausage (mostly shoulder, but some trotters and a bit of liver ground in for texture and flavor) was excellent, as was the lamb roulade (roll). White beans toned down the wallops of various lamb bites well.
Mixed Lamb Grill (showing loin and white beans)

Mixed Lamb Grill (showing spicy lamb sausage and lamb roulade)
Course 4: Cheese Platter

A perfect conclusion to a great meal. Ewe cheese, honey, dates, sliced apple, and nutty bread. The cheese had medium texture with a pale yellow milkiness and just enough edge to work well with the other components of the dessert platter. The honey was fantastic. Worked great with the Roussanne. Ewe Cheese - Dessert Platter

Spring Lamb Dinner Wines: A Donkey and Goat

Big thanks to Tracey and Jared of A Donkey and Goat for such smart pairings with Chef Mike Morrison’s lamb dishes. Their wines were well-balanced and easy to drink; I look forward to seeing more of what they’re doing at their young yineyard (since 2003). They’re based over in Berkeley and have a seasonal newsletter and blogs available from their site.

A Donkey and Goat: WIne Pairings for Lamb

Course 1: A Donkey and Goat – Grenache Rose´

This wine goes in the Rose´ Renaissance that seems to be happening all over this year. A nice light flavor with a cheery, cherry nose, this wine flirted well with the rich lamb heart opening act. Not too sweet but softly floral (more like dried flowers) and fruity enough to tease the palate open.

Course 2: A Donkey and Goat – Four Thirteen

The name ‘four thirteen’ represents the four varietals in this red blend wine, and denotes the number of varietals (13) required to make Chateneuf du Pape. With the cavatelli, this was superb. I’d love to have this again, with anything. Even getting a third of a Chateneuf du Pape is pretty high up there, like a national grape-hood of bishops.

Course 3: A Donkey and Goat – Syrah (Fenaughty Vineyard)

Hearty meat, hearty wine, and I heart Syrah wines big time. This Rhone blend is strong but not bulging with testosterone from the gym; it really worked well with the lamb sausage and the thick, juicy lamb loin (which was like the little lamb version of prime rib). A bit of pepper after blackberries, a solid player with a nice, long finish.

Course 4: A Donkey and Goat – Tamarindo (Roussanne, El Dorado)

The Roussanne was a perfect touch to end the meal. Great sipping with this, against the platter of honey, dates, ewe cheese, thin apple slices, and nutty bread. A crisp, clean white with citrus and pear notes, just sweet enough but miles from cloying.

Whew; what an awesome dinner!

The Grade: Awesome / Exceptional

(my highest grade)

The Damage: $65

(4-course dinner) + $30 for wine pairings

The Skinny: Coco500

500 Brannan Street (at 4th Street), SF CA 941107
Phone: (415) 543-2222
Hours: Mon – Thurs: 11:30 am to 10 pm
Friday: 11:30 am to 11 pm
Saturday: 5:30 pm to 11 pm
Closed Sundays

Website: http://www.coco500.com

Grilled Lamb Heart (Coco 500, SF)

Lamb Heart  - Grilled Lamb Heart Salad

Grilled Lamb Heart Salad, Coco 500 (SF)

Unless you grow up in a culture that appreciates the many wonderful parts of animals and how to prepare and cook them properly, you might cringe a bit when reading a menu that offers lamb heart. But in the hands of Coco 500 Chef Mike Morrison, this is one of the best lamb dishes you might ever eat.

The heart slices are layered across the long, narrow plate and delicately decorated with arugula, generous smatterings of super-soft cheese, and a sprinkling of fennel pollen.  The fennel pollen is wondrously subtle and plays out as one of those rare, unique ingredients that can integrate various tones and flavors into a harmonious dish.

But the heart is the, uh, heart of the dish.  It is awesome and should be on more menus., if only more people would put their adventure mouth on when dining out.

Grilling Lamb Heart – Flatiron

An entire lamb heart itself is brined, sliced into thirds, flatiron-grilled to a lovely warm rare, and has a fantastic flavor with simple sea salt, ground pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Lamb heart tastes much like a steak-foie gras hybrid with an earthy hint of liver. The meat has wonderful tones, is absurdly tender, and would be a conversation starter for anyone who can get out of their own prejudices to try it. The foie gras taste is less rich and overwhelming, and the liver is there ever so slightly; heart’s just a great meat. 

Lamb Hearts - Seared by Flatiron - Coco 500 (SF)

The Grade: Awesome / Exceptional (my highest grade)

The Skinny: Coco 500  - 500 Brannan St, San Francisco CA

Phone: (415) 543-2222

Website: http://www.coco500.com

Chef: Michael Morrison

Coco500 on Urbanspoon

Lamb Shank (Zare at Fly Trap, SF)

Lamb Shank

Lamb Shank, Zare at Fly Trap, SF

Lamb Shank, Zare at Fly Trap, SF

The Dish: Lamb Shank

As big as your fist, Zare at Fly Trap serves a beautiful lamb shank. It’s the proverbial-cliche ‘fall off the bone’ lamb meat, propped up around its prominent bone like a rugged rock formation in a wild landscape of flageolet beans, white beans, and jus. The meat is wonderfully tender but subtle on the tongue. Green & yellow flageolets give the waxy snap-crisp against the soft meat, and you’ll need about 5 or 6 slices of sourdough to soak up the jus. A peeled, slightly stewed tomato, quartered fingerling potatoes, and white beans add nice textures, but hints of preserved lime in the jus inject a subtle brightness to the very light dish.

The Persian kicker that knocks this up a notch is called torshi, which is a picked vegetable tapenade you can either spoon into the jus or smear over the lamb. (I used my entire portion and requested another.) For a lamb shank, Zare at Fly Trap serves a pretty subtle one and the torshi, for me, made the difference. The pickling flavors brought the entire plate into a harmony that was at once natural and unfamiliar (because I’ve never had torshi before).. it’s an example of what makes Zare at Fly Trap unique: the subtle fusion of Persian flavors into familar food to generate surprise and delight.

Torshi (Persian pickled veggie tapenade)

Torshi (Persian pickled veggie tapenade)

Described on the menu: lamb shank abgusht (with flageolet beans, fingerling potatoes, preserved lime, torshi)

The Spot: Zare at Fly Trap, San Francisco

Neat spot in SOMA, on Folsom near 2nd Street, with a narrow urban garden hidden behind a steel gate as its entrance that makes it feel like a little secret. Orange-red walls, a very smart cocktail list and very cool bartenders, comfy seats to eat at the bar and two communal tables to cater to soloists and walk-ins.  Dozens of prints of old architectural and floral drawings cover the walls, imbuing a bit of quirky classicism to the place. The cuisine is a bit of classic and New American with strong Persian / Mediterranean influences, so familiar dishes (baked chicken, pork chop) come with Persian flavors that aren’t known to most palates. Zare is named for chef/owner Hoss Zare, a self-trained chef who began his cooking career at The Fly Trap in 1989 and, after numerous chef jobs over the years, returned to reinvigorate Fly Trap with a flavor of his own.

The Grade: Excellent

The Damage: $24

The Skinny: Zare at Fly Trap 606 Folsom St. (at Second Street), San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: (415) 243-0580
Website: http://www.zareflytrap.com

Hours: Kitchen: Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Happy Hour: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed on Sunday

 

Zare at Fly Trap: an urban dining oasis

Zare at Fly Trap: an urban dining oasis

Zare at Fly Trap on Urbanspoon

Roasted Lamb Neck (Incanto, SF)

Roasted Lamb Neck

The Dish: Roasted Lamb Neck

(Incanto, SF) Roasted lamb neck with spring veggies and horseradish aioli.

What a fun dish to eat…the waiter came over and instructed the fork flaying technique that pulls the soft meat apart from the bone. It’s a very tasty treat, among the unusual suspects that Chef Chris Cosentino will dole out when the mood and the seasonal availability strikes him. One of the great things about Incanto in SF is that you’ll get great Italian classics and, if you’re feeling adventurous, will always have an odd option on the menu to challenge you as well.

Step 1: Admire this unusual dish from Incanto. Savor the aroma. Be the hunter. Ready the fork. 

Roasted Lamb Neck, Incanto restaurant, SF CA

Roasted Lamb Neck, Incanto restaurant, SF CA

Step 2: Flay the fork points and dig into the meat. Mix with spring veggies for perfect bites.

Roasted Lamb Neck, step 2: Flay open with fork spears

Roasted Lamb Neck, step 2: Flay open with fork spears

Step 3: Continue De-Forkation 

Roasted Lamb Neck: deforkation of the meat

Roasted Lamb Neck: deforkation of the meat

Step 3: Admire the Carcass / Remains

 

Ah, Neck Bone. Roasted Lamb Neck Bone!

Ah, Neck Bone. Roasted Lamb Neck Bone!

The Grade: Excellent

The Skinny: Incanto

1550 Church Street, San Francisco CA 

Phone: (415) 641-4500

Website: http://www.incanto.biz/

Hours: 5_30 – 10pm, Wednesday through Saturday; 5_30 = 9:30pm Sunday and Monday evenings. 10 am – 2pm Sunday brunch. Closed Tuesdays.

Incanto on Urbanspoon

LAMB CHOP

LAMB CHOP

THE DISH: LAMB CHOP BASQUAISE

The juicy, hearty lamb chop here is befriended by a lamb shoulder portion on one side and lamb loin on the other, across a bumpy tuft of gigante beans and a smattering of basil oil and what they call “zikiro” vinaigrette. Piperade offers three distinct lamb sections with great color, texture, and flavor in the dish they call “Lamb Basquaise Chop.” Gigante beans in oil give a great mild flavor and counterbalance to the richness of the lamb, and the vinaigrette provides an eye-popping verdant swirl around the plate rim to make a striking presentation.

Lamb Chop (with Lamb Shoulder & Lamb Loin), Piperade SF

Lamb Chop (with Lamb Shoulder & Lamb Loin), Piperade SF

THE SPOT: PIPERADE, SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Piperade is a favorite haunt of neighborhood ad execs who expend creative brainpower during the day and come here for after-work cocktails and Basque-inspired dining after 5. The bar is friendly and active, as is the service, and there’s a great big communal table to spark the opportunity for new friends. Fun place, great drinks, and generally really good food as well.

THE GRADE: Great (3 out of 5)

THE DAMAGE: $23

THE SKINNY: Piperade
1015 Battery Street, San Francisco CA
Phone: (415) 402-4892
Website: http://www.piperade.com/

French Dipped Sandwich (the original) (Philippe, Los Angeles CA)

FRENCH DIPPED SANDWICH

America’s Best Sandwich (possibly)

Philippe The Original French Dip Sandwich, L.A.

Philippe The Original French Dip Sandwich, L.A.

The Spot: Philippe (ORIGINAL FRENCH DIPPED SANDWICHES), Los Angeles, CA 

Neighborhood: Downtown L.A.

The Dish: The Original French Dipped Sandwich

The Best French Dip Sandwich is the Lamb Dip Sandwich. The beef and pork are good, but there is really nothing quite like the tenderness and flavor of the lamb dip sandwich.

Be sure to slather a little of the notorious, house-made mustard on the sandwich. For folks who like hot food, it’s a fire-starter if used in the proper proportions.

Lamb French Dipped Sandwich at Philippe

As sides, the potato salad’s quite good. There are lots of things on the menu, from old-school, hearty soups (navy bean, split pea) to pickled beets, eggs, and pigs’ feet, but most guys usually just barrel down on 2 or 3 sandwiches.

Philippe The Original Lamb French Dipped Sandwich

The Vibe: Really this ranks as one of my favorite places to eat of all time, for so many reasons. It’s over a century old and used to be the caterer when giant circuses came to town. It’s just a couple short blocks to Union Station and was the prime feeding ground for anyone riding the rails. it’s got the same vibe from a century ago: ancient booths and communal tables and bolted-down stools, sawdust strewn old flooring. And, during the decade or so I would occasion its giant hall in LA, it looks like most of the servers are the same, too.

Phillipe The Original is one of the few restaurants in L.A. that has the everyman feeling about it, that survived the times when just past Beverly Hills were orange groves and Malibu was barely heard of; a place that, for me, hearkens back to the Depression through the film noir era. Seems like a joint that a mug who’s down on his luck might scrape up enough for a bite.

The Damage: Lamb French Dip Sandwich $6.25

Beef, Pork, Ham, or Roasted Turkey French Dip $5.15

The Skinny: Philippe’s, The Original French Dipped Sandwich
1001 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 628-3781
Website:
http://www.philippes.com

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