Monday, March 12, 2012

cotogna

meetings this morning were rather unpleasant. some days, weeks, months...are better than others. i knew that i needed to step away from the computer as it approached late afternoon. i decided to drop off some of the final paperwork at the accountant who has an office in north beach. i adore my accountant. my accountant also provides me an excuse to visit north beach which isn't on the list of my usual haunts. after i dropped off the paperwork, i stood by washington square....thinking about whether or not to have a lunch out today. a cook i know recommended that i try mama's...someday. i just cringe when i think about the lines....and as it was monday...they are closed anyways. speaking of closed....as it was past the typical lunch hour....i knew that many restaurants would have already closed up their lunch service....so i was trying to access the memory database to see if there were any places near by that i've been wanting to try. then it came to me....cotogna! i've been wanting to visit them for ages and ages.....and they are now running continuous service throughout the day. i could feel myself become excited...and perhaps there was a bit of jaunt in my step as i made my way over to the jackson square area to check it out.

i arrived and there were still a quite a few tables occupied with folks finishing up their lunch and took a seat at the chef's counter. i'll let you know right now that i did not take any pictures of the food. given where i was sitting, i didn't think that would be the best of ideas. i was literally under the noses of two cooks at the beautiful copper counter. i don't make a habit of taking pictures in front of cooks.

i'm never quite certain what the exact etiquette is for sitting at the chef's counter. my philosophy is to make eye contact to say hello when i sit down and then don't talk to them unless they say something to me.

big surprise.

well, i figure saying hello is polite and acknowledges that they are there....but i have no intention of disturbing them while they are working. a couple of japanese tourists had no such compunction at all. i was rather fascinated to see how one of the cooks would handle the distraction as it was very obvious that they had no idea where they were eating and the connection between cotogna, quince, tusk, and well...the beard awards. the cook (not mr. tusk btw) was really quite friendly to them....answering many o' many questions. explaining the connection between the two restaurants, even providing insight on what kind of fruit quince was, how it could be prepared, and provided an example of how quince could be well paired with foie for a dish....while he was doing his prep and making pizzas. i was also a wee bit tickled that chopsticks were among his arsenal of cooking tools. i pretty much eat and cook everything with chopsticks...so i'm not judging...but rather....i found it funny to see something familiar.

i pretty much knew right away what i was going to order. i started with the tripe and then had the farro papperdelle as my main dish. from my perspective, tripe is a very challenging dish to execute and i had a feeling that if any place could pull it off....it would be cotogna. it was meltingly tender and supremely delicious. i remember thinking that i wish sus was there so that she could try it. it is such a lovely way to cook tripe. what i found fascinating was that three different people checked-in with me while i was eating it. two of the FOH folks and one of the cooks. they seemed to like that i liked it so much. then, one of the cooks asked if i'd like a couple of slices of baguette...which i accepted. it was very kind of him to offer...perhaps that is a perk of sitting at the cook's counter.

then my next course of was the farro pappardelle with duck ragu. as i looked at the wide ribbons of pasta....glistening....as i wrapped a ribbon or two around a fork....i remember thinking that i wasn't expecting cotogna's food to be so sensual.....so sexy actually.

i'm not talking about supremely in your face....over the top...and whack them over the head sort of sexy. sometimes i get that impression when folks try to over do it with things like "how many versions of pork belly, bacon, or confit can i put in this single dish".

this food i was having for lunch was a different sort of sexy.

from my perspective, it was more of a supremely confident comfortable sensuality where one finds oneself luxuriously lounging around in the middle of a beautiful afternoon with a very familiar lover. it is the kind of sexy where everyone is well aware that everyone knows what they are doing...and are very good at it.

i suppose i didn't think about that when i entered the restaurant and sat down...but it makes complete sense.

i suppose my quiet enjoyment and appreciation of the food may have been a bit obvious as one of the other cooks asked how the meal was so far. as i haven't eaten at cotogna before, i don't know if this is a usual sort of interactions with the clients is expected of cooks with stations by the counter. i responded about how much i was enjoying the food and then also thought privately to myself that the cooks should be getting a portion of the tips that come into FOH at the counter for the kind of attentive service they are providing while doing prep, cooking, and plating food.

unsurprisingly, i left the restaurant on a bit of a high from noshing on the lovely food....my earlier unpleasantness a very distant memory. no, i didn't have a drop of booze during my late lunch. tempted? yes...but i didn't have any....didn't need to actually. i think that meal may have made my week.

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