The Whole Pig Feast at Incanto, SF

by foodhoe on April 21, 2013

1550 Church St SF, CA 94131 | 415.641.4500 | website

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I jumped at a recent opportunity to join a group of chowhounders for a Whole Pig Dinner at Incanto, which is known throughout the land for their magical ability of transforming non-prime meats into culinary marvels.  Chef/owner Chris Cosentino is famous as a champion in the use of the whole animal with a special fondness for offal, which you can read more about on his website Offal Good.

Are you familiar with Chowhound.com?  It is an exceptional online resource for dedicated food enthusiasts, a cornicopia of information where you can read the pulse of food communities around the country.  I subscribe to the local mailing list which sent out the call for people interested getting together for the whole pig feast.  The special dinner requires at least three weeks’ notice for the restaurant to obtain a whole pig, which is roasted and carved tableside.  We were seated in the Dante Room, a private dining room that is dominated by a dramatic mural full of apocalyptic imagery, the text of Dante’s Divine Comedy hangs on another wall which is flanked by busts of Dante Alighieri and his lost love Beatrice on sculpted pedestals.

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We began with platters of house cured salumi from the temple of tasty salty pig parts Boccalone; mortadella, roasted garlic, tiny pickled vegetables, a smear of coarse mustard, and baskets of warm foccacia served with their signature garlicky olive tapenade.  Our server recommended a lively and fresh Rosé, which was perfect with the rich meats and pickled vegetables.

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Rucola Salad with thin slices of crisp watermelon radish and topped with thin shavings of a rich salty cheese that melted into the lemony vinaigrette.  Rucola was described as an herby lettuce, that seemed similar to arugula.

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The star of the show was carried in and applause rang throughout the room.

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Then she enjoyed a quiet moment of repose and posed for the paparazzi.  The gilt snout was beautiful and served to keep the delicate trunk moist and tender.

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The chef came in and explained that the pig was first butterflied, then rubbed with garlic, rosemary and salt, stuffed with a savory focaccia mixture, some whole lemons, garlic and herbs and slow cooked in the oven since the morning.  You can see the lovely stuffing peering out from underneath the bones

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Our waiter dosed each gently steaming plate with olive oil before bringing to the table.  He also switched us over to a rich elegant red wine (oops wasn’t paying attention…) to go with the pork, I still had the rosé and enjoyed both with my meal.

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Platters of tender roasted pork, from all areas of the beast arrived, the heady aroma was spellbinding

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The stuffing was incredible, made from big chunks of focaccia that were infused with the rich juices, tender and steaming inside.  I loved this as much as the pork

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Here is the delectable and rich Pork Jus, which we drizzled over everything.

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A rustic Spinach with Guanciale (pork jowl), it was crunchy, salty and savory

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Tiny Turnips with the greens attached in a buttery lemony sauce.

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My plate, which magically seemed to keep refilling itself…

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We clamored for the crispy skin, which was a disappointment at first, being tough in the manner of rawhide…  the chef who was still breaking down the beast, whisked away and returned with bowls of it freshly fried which transformed them into cracklins, fluffy rich and so addictive tossed with fresh herbs and some spices.  We added salt and munched contentedly.  So dang good!

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Towards the end a platter arrived displaying the two crispy ears, the gold foil covered snout, eyeballs, and tender slices of cheeks.  Ashwin, the organizer of the meal was inspired to pose for me with the golden snout.

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Afterwards, they packed up the remains in to-go boxes for those who were interested, it was a generous amount that ended up being enough to feed me for several more days.

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Were we ready for dessert?  Well, one must try… Here is my Milk Chocolate Caramel Bônet and Cocoa nib Caramel, kind of like a flan, but dense and creamier, which combined with the crunchy sticky cocoa nib caramel was irresistible.

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The other selection was Strawberry Shortcake

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There goes Ashwin, in true chowhound form, he thought that a drizzle of the rich Pork Jus on the cake was just the thing…  many followed suit and concurred.

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It was a memorable feast, somewhat pricey at $130pp, but that includes the whole hog meal, drinks, tax /tip, and some priceless memories…  Unfortunately Chef Chris Cosentino, was not in the house, but the food was savory and well prepared as I remembered from previous visits:

Fergus Henderson special dinner May 2010

Dinner at Incanto April 2010

 

Incanto on Urbanspoon

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa April 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

Fabulous food (especiallly the pork and vegetables)! Now I’m drooling…

Cheers,

Rosa

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Caroline April 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Rucola is just the Italian name for arugula but it’s the same thing.
Wow, what a feast!! Impressive. That piglet looks really really good.

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foodhoe April 22, 2013 at 8:21 am

caroline, Doh! Now that you say it, of course it is Italian for arugula! It was a brilliant feast.

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grace April 23, 2013 at 9:23 am

i love pork as much as the next person, but i get the heebie-jeebies when a whole hog is involved. kudos to you for your fortitude. 🙂

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Rowena April 29, 2013 at 12:34 am

Epic meal, for which I am always glad that there’s you to share all the delicious details. My meat days are severely reduced but every now and then…pig done any way becomes a rare treat.

Btw, arugula is known as rucola here so I figured they were one in the same but called differently at opposite ends of the world. There is a slight difference in that one is cultivated with broader leaves while the other is a wild type and has skinnier leaves. Your photo looks like the wild/selvatica type and is more commonly seen in supermarkets here. This spring I’ll be growing both types.

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foodhoe April 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Rowena, someday I plan to reduce meat consumption too, but keep postponing… Thanks for the rucola lesson, and reminding me to check your garden blog too!

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Kirk April 29, 2013 at 11:43 am

What an epic meal FH!

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Gastronomer May 8, 2013 at 10:36 am

Oh. Em. Gee. I would have loved to have been there!

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Carolyn Jung May 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

So envious! I’ve always wanted to try that feast. Only had the pleasure of the “Whole Leg of Beast” dinner before. 😉

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Brenda Ton February 22, 2014 at 9:11 am

Sandy, I had the Leg of Beast last night and loved it, so I wondered about the pig roast you mentioned when we last saw each other – would love to do this. I am wondering how the pig skin turned out? Was it crispy and was the skin edible?

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foodhoe February 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Hey Brenda, can’t wait to read about the Leg of Beast feast! The pig skin that was served at first was not crispy, but our waiter was super cool and brought it to the kitchen and had them fry them up crispy, he even made a couple of trips for us. I loved everything about the meal. Each time I eat at Incanto I wonder why I don’t go there more often.

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Brenda Ton February 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Good to know! Thanks, chica! My favorite part of the pork is the crispy skin and most of the American restaurants I’ve been to haven’t been able to replicate the crispy skin achieved on Filipino, Chinese, or Puerto Rucan style roast pork for me. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do this in the nearby future. But yes, I would love to frequent Incanto more as I love their offal usage :).

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