As I’ve never done anything social with TP outside of the monthly poker game, the trip provided a diversion to know one another beyond reliving poker hands played in previous games. Accompanying us was D, a business acquaintance of TP’s, whom I would discover is a lifelong county resident (about my age) who shared similar tastes in music and movies, as well as remembrances of farm life growing up in “wine country.” After a brief introduction at the appointed meeting place, we were off to the heart of a quiet neighborhood, Noe Valley, in San Francisco to Incanto for a meal of offal, the remainder meats.
Traffic worked in our favor, arriving on time to the restaurant, and found a parking spot directly across the street. Nearly unheard of to find parking immediately and so close to where we were going. And so we went in, had a brief look around, and were seated in a nice room directly across from the kitchen- an open affair so people could watch and hear the sounds of the kitchen. Beautiful decor, very old world feeling, and amazing smells wafting from the kitchen.
Food is highly ritualized by each individual. How does one prefer to eat? Textures and tastes can be enjoyed, tolerated, or flatly rejected. Foods can mix, or must remain divided. Do you prefer sweet or savory? Typically, you’re provided a menu from which you might select according to your tastes. That night, all choice was removed from us, the chef had prepared a five course meal based on season and availability. We had no idea what to expect until seated and were presented a menu for the evening meal:
- Rabbit & Carrot Chips
- Tuna & Beef Tripe
- Calf’s Brains
- Trotter Cakes with tomatoes and onion salsa
- Chocolate Blood Pana Cotta
The first course, when presented, turned out to be battered and fried bunny ears with fried carrot chips. Curious at first taste, I devoured the dish. Mildly gamey and chewy, but terribly delicious.
The tuna and beef tripe was the favorite among the three of us. It was a delicate soup that allowed you to taste each of the component parts (including heirloom tomatoes), but with a little back-end bite from a chile.
Then it was time for Calf’s Brains, which I’m sure most people don’t want to know about. It was interesting and delicate. I was reminded of fois gras in texture and consistency. The sauce, white chantrelles, capers, and lemon, provided most all the flavor. Of my table mates, I made the most hearty effort to discern what this dish was about, making my way7 through most of the dish. Whereas one tablemate could only eat a couple bites, and the other was finished a quarter the way through.
The trotter cakes would melt in the mouth, so soft and flavorful. Where did the fat end and the meat begin?
And the dessert was astounding: Chocolate Blood Pana Cotta. It was wonderfully creamy and complex, with hints of cinnamon, allspice, and chile to name a few. If the word blood had not been on the menu you could not have known it was a component in the dish.
It was a delightful experience, with some interesting people. The things you learn about people when dining is fascinating to me. I was surprised when, at the end of the meal while talking to our server, TP asked where the chef was. We had driven an hour and a half for this meal, it’s not a meal that is often requested, why hadn’t he come out. I never would have been so bold, nor would I have framed in that manner. I did not expect this from TP, but then there were several other comments through the evening I would not have expected of him.
Well fed and having drank some tasty wines, the drive home was more comfortable and quieter. When I clambered into bed, WN woke enough to ask “How was the meal? Was it offal?”
She’d been saving that joke for some time.