Category Archives: Pork

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (Fringale SF)

BACON-WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (Fringale SF)

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (Fringale SF)

The pork loin at Fringale is about as good as any pork dish I’ve had at a restaurant all year.  Thick, hammerhead-sized slices of tender pork are choked by their semi-crisp bacon muffler and, with a swirl through the braised savoy cabbage and a semi-sweet caramelized onion jus, it’s simple and sumptuous. What a treat to get cabbage when it’s done so miraculously: tender, crunchy, and looks like little bits of braised apple in there to complement the pork. It’s a perfectly balanced dish.

Fringale’s been around for over a generation in restaurant years; doesn’t get the yelpies or real press it deserves; but retains a status as a SOMA neighborhood gem and still serves up awesome dishes like this one. The owner is often there and when he’s not, un autre bon ami amicably fills in, and they are great fun to hang out with at the bar. They’re good storytellers, manage a busy tiny space with calm and grace, and make you want to go back just for an appetizer and glass of wine.

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (Fringale SF)

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin (Fringale SF)

And, not for overkill, but if the mood strikes…the potatoes gratin are wicked. See below for your personal ramekin of cheesy potato glory.

Fringale's got wicked au gratin

Fringale’s got wicked au gratin

The Grade: Awesome (highest grade)
The Damage: $19 (great deal for SF)
The Skinny: Fringale restaurant
570 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107
Phone: (415) 543-0573

Pork Chop (Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro, SF)

GRILLED PORK CHOP – ANNABELLE’S BAR & BISTRO (SF)

When a pork chop (or a pork loin, for that matter) is properly cooked, there’s not too many more things more satisfying. I’ve been rolling around (figuratively) on a pork chop run, and I find the pork chop at Annabelle’s to be very tasty and very satisfying. It’s nicely grilled with the familiar char-diamond argyle pattern, and slices open to a perfectly pale rose pink interior with lots of natural juices inside from proper rest.

Glazed baby carrots add curious color and crunch, and a mound of organic mushroom rice provides the starch to sop up the fantastic bourbon jus. And Executive Chef Larry Piaskowy is not shy about jus. He can pour out some mean (I mean absolutely delicious) jus for his meat dishes, and works the natural flavors together wonderfully. His pork chop is another great dish to eat at Annabelle’s.

Grilled Pork Chop -  Annabelle's Bar & Bistro (SF)

Grilled Pork Chop – Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro (SF)

The Grade: Excellent (4 out of 5)

The Damage: $25

The Tip: Annabelle’s offers a three-course, prix fixe menu for $33.

The Skinny: Annabelle’s Bar & Bistro
68 – 4th Street, San Francisco CA
Phone: (415) 777-1200
Website: http://www.annabelles.net/ 

Chef Larry Piaskowy is not shy about jus.

Chef Larry Piaskowy is not shy about jus.

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. – Awesome Meat Dishes

ELIZABETH FALKNER’S PORK BELLY

SHREDDED PORK TACO – SCOTT YOUKILIS

RYAN FARR’S BRISKET & TONGUE SANDWICH

 1. ELIZABETH FALKNER’S PORK BELLY WITH SUMMER MELON

Pulling out all the stops, Citizen Cake & Orson founder Chef Elizabeth Falkner and her crew served lovely pork belly chunks with cubed watermelon and a great, Dr. Seuss-green sauce. Rich and fantastic flavors, with the sweet melon calming the heart, the pork belly’s striation was like a painting in pork. Excellent.

Pork Belly with summer melon - Orson - Elizabeth Falkner

Pork Belly with summer melon – Orson – Elizabeth Falkner

2. SHREDDED PORK TACOS (CARNITAS) – SCOTT YOUKILIS – MAVERICK

Down the aisle, Chef Scott Youkilis of Maverick was cranking out amazing little carnitas tacos on fresh-fried tortilla chips. This was a great bite, enhanced if you so desired, with a piquant dollop of his house-made hot sauce. Youkilis steals away for 4 days once a year to produce the limited run of mouth-burn, and his balance of heat and afterbite and flavor makes the sauce a great addition to the tacos (and lots of other things I can think of). Another excellent dish.

Carnitas tacos from Maverick with house-made hot sauce. Excellent.

Carnitas tacos from Maverick with house-made hot sauce. Excellent.

Notice fire extinguisher? Yeah, Scott had house-made hot sauce!

Notice fire extinguisher? Yeah, Scott had house-made hot sauce!

3. BEEF BRISKET & TONGUE SANDWICHES – RYAN FARR – 4505 MEATS

Ryan’s a food star in the making, and you would be wise to attend any event that he’s cooking at because you will certainly be well fed. Ryan had amazing little brisket and tongue sandwiches on a great roll stuffed with cilantro. A guy asked about the sandwich and when Ryan got to “…and tongue,” the guy pulled his hand back. I chuckled and told him how great tongue is and what a soft, delicious meat it is. Ryan also gave him a soft sell. No dice. Ho hum. More for the foodios who know. Another excellent offering from Ryan.

Ryan Farr (4505 meats) - excellent brisket and tongue sandwich

Ryan Farr (4505 meats) – excellent brisket and tongue sandwich

Dude, it's tongue! It's good for you!

Dude, it’s tongue! It’s good for you!

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009: Gitane – Eyherabide – Bacon-Wrapped Prunes

BACON-WRAPPED, GOAT CHEESE-STUFFED PRUNES

“Bacon BonBons”

SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009 OPENING NIGHT PARTY 

At the opening night of SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009, Chef Lisa Eyherabide had fantastic prunes that were wrapped in bacon and stuffed with goat cheese. Many people, including me, went back for seconds and thirds. Simple, well-balanced, and delicious, evidence of why she and Gitane restaurant are getting lots of attention.

I discovered these are available on the regular Gitane menu. They’re called “bacon bonbons,” and the prunes are sauteed and finished with anise and cinnamon port sauce. Excellent appetizer and doorway to Gitane’s Basque-inspired innovations.Delicious bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed prunes from Gitane.

Delicious bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed prunes from Gitane.

Chef Lisa Eyherabide of Gitane @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

Chef Lisa Eyherabide of Gitane @ SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009

SF Chefs Food Wine – Wild Boar Hot Dogs

WILD BOAR CORN DOGS – CHEF RICHARD CORBO

PIZZERIA ZANNA BIANCA at SF CHEFS. FOOD. WINE. 2009

Wild Boar Corn Dogs - Richard Corbo at Zanna

Wild Boar Corn Dogs – Richard Corbo at Zanna

One of the best meat dishes at the opening night party for the inaugural SF Chefs. Food. Wine. 2009 was Richard Corbo’s wild boar corn dogs. Fried in small batches, Richard and his sous chef were putting down dogs and they were snatched up immediately by hungry hands.  The meat was delicately soft, quite surprising for wild boar, and the corn dog texture and flavor around the chewy, lush pork was just great. A small dollop of sauce sat on the dog, like a bellybutton bindi.

Formerly of Ducca, Richard will be opening up his own restaurant in 2010 in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It will be called Pizzeria Zanna Bianca, and we look forward to it. (Zanna Bianca is Italian for “White Fang,” a famous Jack London novel.)

The Grade: Excellent (4 out of 5)
The Spot: SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Opening Night Party, Union Square, SF

Chef Richard Corbo manning the fryer

Chef Richard Corbo manning the fryer

Wild boar corn dogs disappeared immediately

Wild boar corn dogs disappeared immediately

Haggis – Cochon555 SF

HAGGIS – POGGIO’S PETER McNEE – COCHON555, San Francisco 2009

June 0f 2009 was the cruelest month, for there were some unbelievable dining events. The best of these, far and away, was Cochon 555. A friendly competition between 5 of the Bay Area’s best chefs, each of whom had a different breed of heritage pig to cook and make dishes from. Unbelievable. I could write 100 posts on that event alone. And I just might…

Poggio’s Peter McNee took the title, and he definitely had a few very memorable pork dishes. His haggis was really incredible. Haggis is pig viscera with onions over oats, a traditional Scottish fare, and something you’ll rarely see at a restaurant. (Kinda hard to pitch it to most folks.) Safe assumption that not many people like offal (animal innards and such), but I love them when leveraged by a great chef. There’s so much interesting texture and flavor in the ‘weird’ parts of the animal; it’s a great exploration for the palate to venture into new territories.

Haggis - Haggis - Haggis from Peter McNee, Poggio

Haggis – Haggis – Haggis from Peter McNee, Poggio

The haggis was indelibly delicious in McNee’s capable hands. My funky little haggis pile  didn’t win over compadres at my little standup dining circle during Cochon555, but after I raved a bit about it, two guys went over to get a plate before the Poggio team ran out.

You could say I loved the haggis, which I did, but you can obviously see the subliminal messaging in the photo:  the dark, heart-shaped pig innards thumping out from the yellow oats, yellower than a pirate’s teeth but just a bit less salty. Arrrg, it was good, matey. Haggis. Yes, haggis.

I Heart Haggis from Poggio (Cochon555, SF)

I Heart Haggis from Poggio (Cochon555, SF)

Charcuterie plate – Poggio – Sausalito CA

AWESOME CHARCUTERIE PLATE

Peter McNee of Poggio (Sausalito CA)  at  Cochon555, San Francisco

June 0f 2009 was the cruelest month, for there were some unbelievable dining events. The best of these, far and away, was Cochon 555. A friendly competition between 5 of the Bay Area’s best chefs, each of whom had a different breed of heritage pig to cook and make dishes from. Unbelievable. I could write 100 posts on that event alone. And I just might…

Among the (many) favorite dishes of the evening was a splendid charcuterie plate from Peter McNee, the chef at Poggio restaurant in Sausalito. (Poggio won the event and was crowned SF’s “Prince of Porc” for the season.) Pork cotto, pastrami, tongue, rillette, mortadella, uh, did I miss anything? This was just a beautiful array of tastes, textures, and visual stun. The salumi and friends with their fatty, nutty, meaty spots looked like an Impressionist (or stipling) landscape. The giant platter looked even better than my plate, with each meat sliced and stacked. That’s my idea of cornucopia.

Cochon555 SF: Charcuterie Plate from Poggio's Peter McNee

Cochon555 SF: Charcuterie Plate from Poggio’s Peter McNee

When you visit Poggio, sit at the bar for your appetizer if it’s Tuesday through Saturday. Ask Tony the bar man for the house-made prosciutto ($15 for the platter); it’s not on the menu and only available while supplies last. (Honestly, since they’ve been aging their prosciutto for nearly 2 years now; it won’t last long.)

And **do not miss** any future Cochon555 event. Sign up for the newsletter (upper RH corner once page loads) so you know when they’ll return in the fall.

http://www.amusecochon.com/
Poggio on Urbanspoon

Kurobuta Pork Chop – The House, SF

KUROBUTA (BERKSHIRE) PORK CHOP

Berkshire pigs, called Kurobuta in Japan, are  big black hogs that make phenomenal pork chops, bacon, and other meaty treats. They’re thought to be the oldest breed of pig from Britain. Kurobuta pigs have been finding their way through fine American restaurants, thankfully, to be served up by masterful chefs.

The House in SF’s North Beach District serves up one of the best pork chops I’ve had in 2009, and a likely meatmeister award-winning dish for this year.

Awesome Kurobuta Pork Chop - The House, SF

Awesome Kurobuta Pork Chop – The House, SF

First of all, the dish is beautiful and vibrant with a jet-black and orange swirl, plus bright green, purple, yellow and white on the plate. The purple and yellow potato crisps extend up from the back of the chop like a manic koi tail; this makes the thick body of the prok chop look like a prehistoric sea-beast plunging into the inky tar pits.  The pomegranate-current sauce really resembles tar pits, or a runaway oil slick, its purpleness darker than night. Slicing through the pork chop is like slicing through time. Each morsel is otherworldly.

Kurobuta pork chop (detail), The House - SF

Kurobuta pork chop (detail), The House – SF

The pork chop is perfectly grilled and thankfully, the pomegranate-curry sauce is not sweet.  The mashed-up potatoes propping up the chop are that right mix of slightly chunky but smooth. The potatoes and a couple asparagus spears cut the richness of the dish well, and the crispy purple potato sliver offers another textural contrast. A mix of New American and Asian flavors in perfect balance, the Kurobuta pork chop is terrific.

THE GRADE: Awesome (highest grade)

THE DAMAGE: $21

THE SKINNY: 

The House
1230 Grant Ave  (at Broadway St)
San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: (415) 986-8612

 

 

The House, North Beach, SF

The House, North Beach, SF

Prix Fixe Dinner – Michael Mina

MICHAEL MINA – RESTAURANT REVIEW – PRIX FIXE DINNER

With an atmosphere of contemporary elegance, plus excellent service and trays of succulent small bites coming in spectacularly focused trios, Michael Mina restaurant is certainly worth the special occasion splurge. Tables are distant enough for your group to feel safe and uncrowded. You enter the room–hidden within the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square–by climbing a small flight of stairs, perhaps accurately representational of the culinary temple that Michael Mina has enjoyed since its inception.

Michael Mina has many offerings of multi-course (prix fixe) dinners. The standard three-course dinner sets you back $105. Expensive, to be sure, but it’s a wonderful experience. Six-course tasting menus are $135, and a great three-course pre-theatre meal is $55.

COURSE ONE – PASTA, BRAISE & CONFIT

Course 1 - Michael Mina SF  Prix Fixe Dinner - Pasta, Braise & Confit

Course 1 – Michael Mina SF Prix Fixe Dinner – Pasta, Braise & Confit

LEFT: Fettucine, Rabbit, English Peas

A beautifully rendered meaty pasta, rife and verdant with variegated greenliness. Few American chefs seem to really honor rabbits effectively; the chefs at Mina certainly do. Tastes like Spring and Summer in a dish; simply delicious.

TOP / CENTER: Orecchiette, Pork Short Rib, and Fava Beans

Perhaps the only faux pas moment of the meal. The potentially rich flavor of the pork short rib was nowhere here, and not supported by typically chewy orecchiette (ear-shaped, dense, and spongy pasta), and born-to-be-mild fava beans. Blah.

RIGHT: Ravioli, Duck Leg, Radicchio

Wow; utterly phenomenal. This is a little triumph: rich duck confit, sumptuous in its dark gravy, magical in its layered tones of smell and taste. If you go this season to Michael Mina, request your waiter if you can get a single large portion of this instead of the trio; I surmise they would oblige you. This is the best meaty ravioli I’ve eaten in 2009, and among the best meaty pastas of the year. I’d like to have a big bowl of it and a glass of Super Tuscan; that would be a perfect meal.

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio - Michael Mina SF

Duck Confit Ravioli, Radicchio – Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO – BRANDT FARM BEEF and SPRING VEGETABLES

At first, the tiny bites of steak on the tri-partite plate seem light. But the incredible flavors from each steak made every bite fulfilling, worth enjoying slowly. Each of the three steak dishes was excellent.

Course 2 - Steak & Spring Vegetables - Michael Mina restaurant

Course 2 – Steak & Spring Vegetables – Michael Mina restaurant

COURSE TWO, LEFT:  FILET MIGNON with Sauce Bernaise, Sacramento Delta green asparagus

Beautiful little stacked portion of filet mignon with a perfect bernaise sauce, paired with slivered green asparagus. Cleverly piled like a double-stack…not sure if this is a wink on a double burger but it was great, either way.

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise - Michael Mina, SF

Filet Mignon with sauce bernaise – Michael Mina, SF

COURSE TWO, CENTER:  DRY AGED RIBEYE, wilted spinach, morel jus (plus potatoes)

If you’ve ever wondered why people pay so much money to get dry-aged beef, wonder no more. This is a tiny piece of steak that packs a wallop of flavor. Another perfect presentation, and a great piece of steak.

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

Dry aged ribeye steak, Michael Mina SF

COURSE TWO, RIGHT:  BRAISED TRIO, young leeks, horseradish vinaigrette

Our waiter described this as “Tongue and Cheek,” so there’s beef tongue, beef cheek, and something else equally tender and delicious. A great balance of the beef parts with the earthiness of both the leeks and the brightness of the horseradish vinaigrette.

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina - SF

Braised Trio (beef and cheek), Michael Mina – SF

COURSE THREE: CHEESES – GOAT, SHEEP, COW

For my last course, I opted for the cheese plate and it was again a small triumph of three. Savory with sweet, earthy and salty; everything well paired.

• Minuet, Pear Purée, Hazelnuts

• Pecorino Ginepro, Port Cherries, Juniper Balsamic Vinegar

• Pianoforte, Porcini Syrup, Puffed Wild Rice

There are some great options for sweeter things, but I like cheese to finish a languorous meal. Mina’s renowned for amazing desserts, and anything you order will be pretty great.

THE GRADE: AWESOME (highest grade)

THE DAMAGE: $105

THE INSIDE TIP: Get a very similar three-course meal at Michael Mina for $55. (Each course will be single, not trio, servings but most of the dishes for the regular prix fixe will be available at the beginning of dinner service for the lower price.) Make your reservation for between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for their special pre-theatre dinner price. Go-go, early birds.

Free reservations at Michael Mina via OpenTable.com

THE SKINNY: MICHAEL MINA

Inside the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel

335 Powell Street, San Francisco CA 94102

Phone: (415) 397-9222

Website with menus: http://www.michaelmina.net

Hours: Dinner: Tuesday – Thursday 5:30pm – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

Fried Oysters with Hobbs’ Bacon

Fried Oysters with Hobbs’ Bacon

Cornmeal Fried Oysters with Hobbs Bacon - Town Hall, SF
Cornmeal Fried Oysters with Hobbs Bacon - Town Hall, SF

Anything with Hobbs’ Applewood Smoked Bacon would be a treat, and Hobbs’ is just fine all by its lonesome as well. But topping cornmeal-fried oysters with a fat little dice of Hobbs bacon and preserved lemon twist, all nestled in a verdant spinach-Herbsaint puree hidden in the oyster shell….wow. It’s a full bite with vibrancy of color and a pulsating set of flavors that really sets a meal off. Go Town Hall. Another stellar dish.

The Grade: Awesome

The Damage: $13 (four fried oysters)

The Skinny: Town Hall

342 Howard Street, San Francisco CA
Phone: (415) 908-3900
Website: http://www.townhallsf.com/ 

Cornmeal Fried Oysters at Town Hall, SF
Cornmeal Fried Oysters at Town Hall, SF