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Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Five with Chris Cosentino

Chris Friday Five series resumes today after a week hiatus with not one but two lists of five things with Chris Cosentino, the chef of Incanto in San Francisco.

Those of you you're fans of the Search for the Next Iron Chef last Fall, you should recognize him from the show. He made it all the way to the final three. I wasn't so kind in my critique of the episode he was voted out, but, hey, he's big enough to know it's the critique of the performance and not the man.

Today we should talk about the man, whom I got to know very well, not from his appearances on various TV shows, but from having seen him around the farmers market every saturday morning for about as long as I remember. He's always there, usually at the back of the stalls or by the farmers' trucks forever unearthing unusual stuff for his kitchen. The usual etiquette at the market requires that, when running into someone you know carrying a box or a bag of something interesting, you ask them what they plan to do with it. It's almost like our "how are you". Just as no one would expect a detailed health report from a simple "how are you", no one expects a recipe out of the question "what are you doing with those Myer Lemons?" Unless, of course, the friend you've just run into is Chris. His enthusiasm wouldn't allow it. He'd spent ten minutes giving you a rundown of precisely how he plans to cook the stuff -I'm talking step by step instructions here- and how it would be served on his menu that night, pairing with this dish or that. It's adorable!

He's made quite a name for himself with his love of odd bits and gore. I absolutely agree with him, chickens are not made up of nuggets, nor are pigs made of pork chops. It's clearly more responsible to use every bit of the animals we kill for food. But you would be wrong to think of his restaurant, Incanto, as a place fit only for eating weird stuff or playing Tony Bourdain for a day. Incanto is such a lovely local place, with a menu full of comforting, delicious food. It's Italian-inspired food cooked with the local bounty of the Bay Area. It practically was my canteen the last year I lived full time in San Francisco. And I still go there now, though not quite as often as I used to.

Today, Chris is talking about the five strangest things he's ever tasted, and, to balance it with his more normal side most people don't see, he's also giving us the five most boring foods he love.

Five strangest things I've ever put in my mouth
by Chris Cosentino

Balut Balut
A delicacy of the Philippines, according to a friend who gave it to me. It's so wrong in so many ways, eating a fermented duck egg with hard bones and feathers that tickle the roof of my mouth. Never again! (I wrote about it on my blog when I first tasted it.)

Stinky Tofu

The smell was so strong I couldn't get the taste out of my nose and mouth.

Slimy and reminded me of bad beans

Sea Squirt
I loved it, hard to describe unique texture.

Chicken (odd bits)
In one meal I had Chicken sashimi (really enjoyed it, it was very delicate), Yakatori of keel bone (a little crunchy, but great flavor when its grilled), soft knee bone (gelatinous and crunchy all in one), chicken assholes (a little tough and chewy.)

Five most boring foods I love
It's hard to say that it is boring, because everything has its place and can be great in its own way. So by no means is this boring it's just everyday foods.

Toast with peanut butter every morning for breakfast. Its great and flavorful, I use Della Fattoria seeded wheat and organic peanut butter.

Dried fruit - golden raisins, apricots all nature sweets better then candy.

Plain cake donuts – they remind me of having breakfast with my grandfather.

Fish and Chips
- growing up in new england this is comfort food.

Grilled cheese sandwich
is always a great way to brighten up a gloomy day. Just pick your cheese.

There are two upcoming events featuring Chris I'd like to tell you about.

If you're in the Bay Area this April (dates TBD), Chris will be cooking a special dinner featuring unusual bits of fish with his friend at Sebo, the Japanese restaurant in Hayes Valley.

For those of you in New York, Chris will be doing a Q&A with Michael Ruhlman at the Astor Center on Sunday, March 2.


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