564 Fourth Street • San Francisco, CA 94107
Truth be told, I shouldn’t be eating at Cockscomb. My doctor recently told me an angiogram is in order to see if I have any arterial blockages worth a stent or two. But any damage I may have done over several decades won’t be augmented by a few meals in a hastily planned vacation before I get back to New York for a procedure I’m not looking forward to.
Otherwise, I’ve been on somewhat good behavior. Taking my meds, my vitamins, eating better the week leading up to this vacation. If I live through the angiogram, I’ll modify my behavior appropriately – with decadent meals and cocktails the exception rather than a weekly rule. So this little trip to California may be my last hurrah. Or my last something, anyway.
Cut to Cockscomb, Chef Chris Cossentino’s ode to whole animal cookery, where the menu is replete with ginormous sharing plates that may include a hundred and twenty five buck Pin Bone Steak with a bone marrow dipping sauce. Depending on how adventurous you are, you can even order Wood Oven Roasted Pig’s Head. Both these options, tempting as they might be, are better suited to large groups – or smaller groups for whom such leftovers are sanctioned by a cardiologist. (Insert smiley face emoticon here, but only half mean it.)
Kim and I reeled it in a bit, but still felt like we had thankfully overdone it. A night of salt infused fitful sleep, while not on the bill, was a cost we gladly paid for a foray into debauched butchery. We started light, with the Tombo Crudo – citrus cured fish with Vietnamese herbs and chili beneath a wide-rimmed rice cracker. It had all the acid that was missing from the Beef Heart Tartare, so we dipped our bread in it before slathering on the aforementioned ticker.
Any attempt to keep it light was soon thwarted by the Hot Mess – an aptly named combination of seared foie gras and pork trotter on gravy soaked toast. Some pickled pink rhubarb could only hope to cut the richness of this most devilish and delectable dish. If you’re out drinking with friends, this is a must.
Our waiter steered us in the right direction and we ordered the Bacon Chop after he suggested it was the most flavorful thing on the menu. I was skeptical. How could a pork chop live up to that? Well, for one, this piece includes the pork belly in the cut – and is served on a tasty bed of mint salsa, chicharron and citrus panzanella that adds some much needed acid. It’s one decadent chop – nothing like you’re imagining right now, so don’t even bother. If you can get over to Cockscomb, this porky delectation needs to be experienced to be believed. Wood fired and perfectly rendered – its pure bliss for carnivores of every ilk. We got it with a side of beautifully garlicky Baby Bok Choy.
If I live to tell the tale, I’ll be back to Cockscomb one day – perhaps to feed my bionic body-parts with everything else on the menu.
Maybe I’ll even come back for the lunch-only Impossible Burger, the closest vegan replica of that American staple which got so much good press recently.
As for me, it’s time for my high blood pressure meds and a leisurely walk along Half Moon Bay where, perhaps, I’ll mull over my life choices and the future of writing about eating.
We strolled leisurely down 11th, avoiding the tourist-infused High Line, toward a chef’s counter reservation at Toro where we happily ordered a step beyond what might be considered reasonable.
I went with a steady stream of Pizza Night! cocktails – a spicy Old Fashioned with Calabrian chili, chorizo infused bourbon, Mike’s Hot Honey, and peach bitters. Cold and hot. Spicy and sweet.
We also found the Hell’s Bell Pepper to be just the right amount of savory – tequila, mezcal, yellow bell pepper, agave and bird’s eye chili.
Now we’re diving headfirst into an expensive plate of Paleta Iberico De Cinco Jotas – a dry cured boneless Iberian ham that delights and is gone before you can say “twenty eight dollars.”
Some addictive Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija followed – a dangerously convenient version of grilled street corn, and a nice foil for the Setas, a bowl of deliciously unctuous mushrooms set beneath a sexy chivy yolk.
Then things got heavy – in a good way. Unable to choose between bone marrow and foie gras, we picked both. I’m more of a purist when it comes to bone marrow, so the Asado De Hueso with guajillo and chorizo XO, Brussels sprouts and escargot – perhaps has a little too much going on. Yet I ate it happily.
We opted for the Foie Gras Tonkatsu – a crispy foie sandwich with strawberry tomato jam and pickled daikon. Kinda perfect bar food if you’re OK with foie taking second billing. Nice marriage of textures, too.
“Hey man, that’s probably delicious, right?” asked a stranger at the bar – flanked by two liquored up and leathery ladies of a certain age. I smiled and snapped a picture of his seared foie.
For dessert we had hamburgers.
Ok, not dessert per se, but our last course were a pair of delectable Hamburguesas, mini dry-aged burgers with a spicy kick on a potato bun.
In a nutshell, Toro is the perfect place for you and your overpaid friends to meet up, get buzzed, and eat decadent small plates while ignoring a world gone mad.
659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238 – Map
Prospect Heights restaurant from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom packs them in for dinner and recently rolled out brunch. Expect twists and turns, like a breakfast of Carrot Kathi Rolls (Carrot Pulp Falafel, Cilantro Stem Raita) or the Duck Duo, crispy duck sausage with scrambled egg and maple flatbread. And don’t leave without trying their bacon, egg, and cheese Egg Rolls, as delicious as they are adorable.
The tight and thoughtful dinner menu includes a scrumptious Duck Liver Mouse, a clever Beef Tartare, Heritage Pork with Raclette, and other seasonal curve-balls. Toss in a playful cocktail menu and you’ve found the perfect spot for those who like a dash of quirkiness on the plate.
What To Do: Paris
On your fourth trip to Paris, you take less pictures and enjoy more actual moments. Best to live like a local. We rent an apartment and stock up on breads from Poilâne, french butter, various cheeses, some fromage de tête. Good coffee. And the inevitable bottle of Orangina.
The Google Map below has more restaurants than you could see in any one trip. I wound up having super memorable tasting menus at Frenchie and Ellsworth, and a nice meal at Ore in Versailles. But we also had excellent low key bistro meals, enjoyed Pizzeria Popolare, and some cocktails and charcuterie at aveK.
One of my favorite spots, L’Avant Comptoir, was closed the night I visited. And I regret not getting to Clown Bar or the Experimental Cocktail Club.
There’s always next time.
Between the historic sites, architecture, museums, churches, parks, and restaurants… there’s a whole hell of a lot to do in and around Paris. Check out our Google Map for some ideas.
Time Out Paris
Lonely Planet Paris
To the GoogleMap above