Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Offal Is Good!

Did you know: Duck fries are to mallards as Rocky Mountain Oysters are to bulls?

I found out this fascinating fact tonight during my dinner at Incanto (1550 Church Street; 415-641-4500), the Italian restaurant in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco known throughout the Bay Area for their house-cured meats. Food Network fans may recognize Incanto executive chef Chris Cosentino from his recent challenge against Mario Batali on Iron Chef America in "Battle Garlic". (During the next couple of months, Incanto will be featuring a special garlic dinner menu on Friday and Saturday evenings that serve up the same dishes as the ones created during that ICA battle.)

Karen and I had talked about paying a visit to Incanto well before Cosentino's television appearance brought the restaurant into the spotlight, so we took advantage of the opportunity to check it out tonight. In addition to their cured meats, Incanto is well-regarded for their emphasis on using fresh, local ingredients and their award-winning collection of Italian wines. Cosentino is also well-known for his creative use of offal in his menu. In fact, Cosentino writes about variety meats and their preparation in his blog, cleverly titled Offal Good.

Since this was our first visit to Incanto, we decided to stick with the house specialties. We started with the antipasto plate for two, which consisted of house-cured meats, roasted garlic and green onions, and marinated carrots. (We did consider the duck fries though.) The plate had several kinds of cured meats, including a homestyle head cheese, a lamb pâté, some mortadella made with pistachios, and some goose proscuitto. Karen really liked the head cheese, and I was quite pleased with the mortadella. For our main courses, we decided to split a pasta dish and an entree. For the pasta course, we chose the chicken liver agnolotti with fava beans and chianti. I had been looking forward to trying an agnolotti dish after reading Alan Richman's article touting his favorite variety of pasta in the January 2007 issue of Bon Appétit. The pasta was good; the savory filling was silky smooth and bursting with flavor inside al dente wrapping. For the entree, we picked the roasted lamb neck with cardoon, mint, and polenta. The lamb was perfectly cooked, its exterior roasted into a beautiful and tasty crust encasing a generous portion of juicy, fall-apart tender meat. It was great, definitely a dish that I would order again and again. The polenta was quite good as well - we were wondering how much cream and butter went into its making.

We both really enjoyed dinner tonight at Incanto and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in trying something different. Unless, of course, you are a vegetarian, in which case you should look elsewhere for dinner. There aren't a lot of options for non-carnivores there. There are a couple of interesting things to note about Incanto. In response to the San Francisco ordinance requiring restaurants to boost their minimum wage and provide health care benefits for all employees, Incanto instituted a 5% service surcharge to pay for the additional costs. The second note of interest is that Incanto offers filtered still and sparkling Hetch Hetchy water, free of charge, to address concerns about the environmental impact and costs of bottled water. The additional cost of the service charge ended up being balanced out by the free sparkling water - it was a wash for us.

4 comments:

Karen said...

Interestingly enough, Loren and I both guessed wrong on what we thought duck fries actually were. Even more interesting, extremely large duck phalluses have been making the news lately. Some are as long as the entire duck body(they grow rapidly during mating season in spring and then disappear during the fall). You can check out why it all happens at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/science/01duck.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin
or http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/01/science/01duck.html
Too much information? Maybe. Good eats? You be the judge.

Karen said...

Hopefully the first comment did not put anyone off. Dinner at Incanto was great (except for the couple who got into a heated argument next to us - Loren and I seem to bring out the best in people). I highly recommend visiting and trying some new things. Incanto was also the first restaurant I recall visiting that scored a perfect 100 on the health inspection test. I was impressed.

Loren said...

After reading the NYT article, you might pause the next time that you see "duck sausage" on the menu.

I'm not sure why we bring out the bad side of people when we dine out. Perhaps we are projecting our anger. Who knows...

Loren said...

In case the URL is too long to fit on the screen, you can access the NYT article here.