Mighty Fine Pork: Pizzaiolo, Fatted Calf, Cafe Rouge, Gregoire
It was a week of pigging out at the Mousse household. We had five different preparations of delicious pork at some of our favorite East Bay spots.
For the past month, Pizzaiolo has been serving up jaw droppingly good pig. Charlie started buying whole pigs from the Heritage Foundation and the pork was the highlight of my last two dinners there. Last Friday it was a Berkshire pork chop served with ratatouille and fried polenta. The pork was tender, juicy and so flavorful that we were talking about it for days afterward. Charlie told me that he'll be using the Heritage breeds in all of his pork dishes - which means the meatballs are going to get even better (hard as that may be to imagine). He also plans to have lardo on the menu soon as well as some other Italian charcut.
Saturday morning we made our weekly Fatted Calf bacon run and the salami cotto caught my eye. This is one of the tastiest salamis I've had from Fatted Calf so far. It was a wet salami, with a pleasantly mellow pork flavor. I've found that some of their salamis are too strong for my taste, but this was just perfect and I snacked on it all week. There are some nice photos on bunrab.com, about one week back. They have it on tomorrow's menu so go check it out.
While on the subject of Fatted Calf I must give a shout out to Biggles and his idea of grilling the bacon. Damn. I didn't think you could improve on perfection but I guess I was wrong. Crispy without overcooking, fatty without being greasy, that's some good bacon. And they have rind on bacon on tomorrow's menu. Can't wait to try it.
Dropped by Cafe Rouge on Sunday intent on buying some steak but I couldn't resist the sight of their house cured ham. Stuffed with garlic and aromatics and finished in the rotisserie it's the best ham I've had around these parts (though nothing like the ham I ate in France). Apparantly, Cafe Rouge does a variety of house made deli meats including corned beef and pastrami. Considering the lack of good delis around these parts, Rouge may be the best place for your cold cuts fix. The only catch is that they only carry one at a time, if any, so it's best to call ahead and ask.
Spent the week munching on my leftover ham and salami but today I was sill craving the pig. Dropped by Gregoire during my lunch break to try the August menu and I was thrilled to see a baked ham and cheese croissant. This is the sort of French comfort food that Gregoire excels at. The croissant was flaky and buttery, the bechemel was creamy and satisfying, the ham was thinly sliced and not too salty and the whole thing just came together perfectly. Only down side is that I'm just about ready to go to sleep now. It's the perfect comfort lunch for a lazy Sunday.
It's funny: two years ago I would have told you that I didn't like pork. Turns out that I didn't like bad pork. It took a couple of chefs at the restaurants I regular insisting that I tried the pork before I was able to see the light. Now it may be my favorite meat.
Second on Pizzaiolo's pork--I had braised pork shoulder there a week ago and, no hyperbole, thought it was the best pork dish I've ever eaten, especially the really tasty fat marbling.
In SF, I highly, highly recommend the pork chop at Bacar: "mesquite grilled smoked kurobuta pork chop
mashed yams & cherry-apple compôte." The smoking gives it a great bacon-like taste.
They get them from Idaho (probably Snake River Farms, is my guess), brine them for 24 hours and smoke them for an hour at 150 degrees. I was informed thay they will sell them "cryovaced and ready to grill" for $20/lb.