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Friday, February 15, 2008

Tasting Menu at Cochon

A few weeks ago, we talked the folks at Cochon into doing a tasting menu for us. We told the chef to do whatever he felt like, and we ended up with a fascinating meal, with lots of offal and other unusual ingredients, but which proved to be diverse and most importantly, delicious throughout.

Head Cheese

This was very meaty, and not nearly as gelatinous as I expected. With the peppery greens and tangy sauce, the flavors really jumped out beautifully.

Pig Snout Ravioli

The pasta had a creamy, flavorful filling, which contrasted nicely with the vivid broth, which had a little kick of spice. The crunchy, chewy strips (of ear?) provided another pleasing edge.

Grilled Sweetbreads
lardons, frisee, haricots verts, brown butter vinaigrette

These might be the best non-crispy sweetbreads I've ever had, and rank pretty high for sweetbreads in general. The texture was creamy, but not gooey, with none of the pasty quality one sometimes gets. The acidic and bitter nature of the salad offset the richness of the sweetbreads perfectly. There was a bit of variation among the plates, some getting mostly hefty traditional bacon lardons, others getting more strips of sweet ham. The salty worked a little better than the sugary, but in either case, the porky overtone was quite complimentary.

Tongue stew
capers, conichons, tomato sauce

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this dish was significantly lighter than I had anticipated. The meat was fork tender, subtly-flavored, and nicely paired with the tomato sauce and salty accents.

Roasted Berkshire Pork Belly
fava chick pea ragoût and house-cured guanciale

It may have been roasted at some point, but it was clearly finished in the deep-frier, lending it a bubbly texture and crunch. The fat layers had rendered-down nicely, so while it was not exactly lean, it was not a total fat-bomb. OK, it kind of was, but in a good way... The beans and crunchy pork jowl were good too.

Heritage Pork Loin
blood sausage, sauerkraut, riesling whole grain mustard sauce

At this point we'd had SO much food that we probably could have skipped this one altogether and gone home happy, so I'm not sure any of us can assess this course properly. It was pretty good, and I think I might like it as an entrée some night, not as part of a tasting menu. Smoked and cured a bit, the meat had a firm texture and assertive flavor that was offset well by the kraut and the mustard. I feel like the blood sausage got a little lost in this setting, but again, it could be that my palate was just pretty burnt... I think a small portion of this might have been perfect early in the meal, perhaps alongside the headcheese.

Overall, the portions were pretty ridiculously large, and the chef knew it, but couldn't help himself!

Pain Perdu
bacon ice cream, maple creme anglaise

Somehow we managed to find some room for dessert. What, you thought we were going to turn down bacon ice cream?!? The pain perdu was more like deep-fried bread pudding than french toast, but had the requisite crisped-up custardy bread thing going on. The bacon component of the ice cream was subtle, but definitely there, and the maple brought it all together in a disorienting zone of sweet/salty/creamy/brunch/dessert. I'm completely in favor of that kind of confusion.

As I think the photos show, the food was significantly more varied than just reading the menu might suggest. Everything was quite tasty, and well-prepared. If I have any complaints it's that the portions were too big!

We're hoping to get chef Giuffi to do something like this again for us, but in the meantime, we're hapy with the regular menu and daily specials, which are not too different from what we got on the special tasting menu.

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