CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hot Coco (Coco500 -- San Francisco, CA)

Yeah, so I totally suck for not getting up more content on this piece of shit in a timely manner. Wish I could say I was doing something more exciting than touching myself over the prospect of going back to French Laundry this weekend, but then I'd be lying.

But looky looky here -- I've got some love for you, oh yes I do.

When I heard that Loretta Keller was closing the beloved Bizou and re-opening it as Coco500, my initial reaction was, "What the fuck kind of name is Coco500?" I mean, really. But I stayed open minded and I am glad I did.

The name kept me away for a good long while until I found myself performing in a show (titled "Pomegranates," no less) with Scott, who happened to be a bartender at Coco500. "You HAVE to come in," he said. "It's reeeeeeally good."

Now my chats with Scott had led me to believe that he knows his shit (he later proved me right on this). Plus, Loretta had rocked my world when, at the tender age of 22, I ate a pizza with GRAPES on it at Bizou. Doesn't sound too crazy, right? But at that point in my life, it was and it changed the way I looked at food forever and for better.

So it was on a Monday evening that Jon and I found ourselves sitting at the bar with Scott (where I also saw Jason Alexander, who is on my favorite sommeliers ever list, as you might recall).

In addition to Jason, Elizabeth Falkner was there, as was Gordon Ramsay. So something had to be going right.

On that first visit, we had some really great wine, and Jon had a killer Margarita. Jon had the mole tacos (beef cheek mole on little tortilla chips), a pizza with delicious corn that must have been hand picked by virgins to taste so good, a salad with extremely voluptuous Santa Rosa plums and some English pea ravioli that I pretty much licked off the plate. The star of the evening, however was the calamari with black rice and stewed garlic. In a word, YUM. So yum, that I tried putting it in my pockets when I couldn't eat anymore. In hindsight, a take-out container would have made more sense.

We had no room for dessert, so we passed, which I now know was a mistake (more on that). Our service was great. I am so biased with this, though, because, well, Scott's my homeboy.

After hearing that both Catherine AND Fatemeh had good food but bad service at the double Co, we three decided to go back. Me, because I liked it, and they because the food was that fucking good that the bad service didn't deter them.

After going to see Julie Powell and her neuroses at a book signing, we found ourselves at Coco. While waiting for our table, we spent some quality time with Scott, who broke it down for us.

"Now I don't know who your waiter is, so I can only tell you what I know. No confit, no prosciutto and melon -- you guys are above that..." Nothing like a little flattery to butter us up right. He gave us the lowdown on what not to miss and what to skip, and then he mixed us up some cocktails. I let him do what he wanted and ended up with a lovely little margarita with a splash of grapefruit juice (who knew?), Fatemeh had a sidecar and Catherine got a surprise that I can't remember after Scott decided that the Coco500 cocktail she ordered wasn't going to pass muster. So he just told her he'd make her something else, which she was cool enough to go with.

In all fairness, Scott knew that my homegirl, Fatemeh, had had a bad experience. I'm not sure if he knew about Catherine's equally shitty service. In any case, I know he made it a personal mission to get our hot asses treated right. And so he did.

The GM paid special attention to us, just as he had to the notorious table of giggly girls that caused him to ignore F and her loverboy on their first visit. We looked around to make sure no one else was suffering due to the attention we were getting. They weren't.

Cat noted that we got the "cute, perky waitress." She was all of the above and then some. Not a misstep in the service all night.

We formulated a game plan, which included mostly fish so we settled on a bottle of white. Upon inquiring about the Jurancon Sec on the menu, the GM/sommelier got an elated look on his face and dashed off to grab it.

We were brought some bread, which none of us had experienced on our prior visits. This was the only "what the fuck?" moment of the night. The little rolls looked so promising and then just tasted like little flour lumps. As Jon's relatives in Minnesota would say, "Ish." How those can be so shitty and the flatbread so good I'll never know. We cut our losses and moved on to bigger and better things.

The first of those things was the fried green beans. Now I'm all for fried, but I didn't expect these to rock my world despite Cat's fervor for them. I should have heeded her hot flashes because these were off the chainsaw (to paraphrase Brian, who stole it from Audrey). What made them so special was SALT. Freaking brilliance right there. The salt content was PERFECT. The olive tapenade for dipping was fine but nothing to write home about, but that didn't matter because these bad boys are super on their own.

We also had the endive salad with mushrooms and creme fraiche. This was very good but very mild. This wouldn't have been a problem except the squash blossom flatbread with truffle oil was set down at the same time and they were difficult dishes to bounce between. Were it not for the irresistable flatbread, the endive would have been a star. Unfortunately, she was overshadowed by perfect little squash blossoms sprinkled with truffle oil on yeasty happiness.

We continued with a whole fish in fennel saffron sauce. Very delish. And then the calamari that I so love and F had been cheated out of on her visit. Honestly, this is a dish I could eat every day and probably not tire of it. It has so many of my favorite things: squid, spice, starch. I mean how can you go wrong, really?

Despite being really full (and happy) we decided that not one, not two, but THREE desserts would be the right number to order. I am such a slut.

Cat went for the brownie, which is more like a chocolate cream cheese cupcake. You get two teeny ones for two dollars. That's cheaper than a date with your sister. I went to take a little taste and almost bypassed the chocolate sauce on the plate when Cat practically stabbed me with her fork and made a guttural warning noise that indicated not taking any sauce would be akin to not washing one's hands after peeing (you know who you are). She was so right.

The vacherin consists of meringue, coffee ice cream (my all time favorite flavor), chocolate sauce and almonds. Basically, it's like Delfina's profiteroles with meringue instead of profiteroles. I don't know who was first, and I don't much care because in both cases, it works.

The real star, however, was the fifty-fifty. This is not always on the menu and all I can say about that is FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY? This had passionfruit, then panna cotta (vanilla), then more passionfruit. Holy fuck this was good. I think I ate most of it. It was bring-tears-to-your-eyes good. LOVED. IT. I think I drooled in Fatemeh's lap. She's so good to me. And I adore passionfruit. I may just start calling on a daily basis to find out when they have it. According to Fatemeh, it changes, so it doesn't always have the PF even when they do have the dessert. Are they TRYING to kill me?

In this case, the company didn't hurt either. I loves me my girls.

Verdict: Go. Maybe you want to sit at the bar since table service seems inconsistent (although F's waiter has been fired since her visit, so...). And I know my boy Scott will take good care of you 'cause he's really fucking good at his job. And if nothing else, the flatbread, squid, the fifty-fifty, Scott and Loretta Keller will keep me wrapped around their little finger for a good long while.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
--La Rochefoucauld


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohmygod, too funny, girl! I laughed out loud. Multiple times. A perfect write-up of the eve...

11/04/2005 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can corn picked by virgins be good? I wouldn't think they'd know what they're doing with a stalk in their hands. Regardless, I will have to go there after reading this next time I swing by...

An invite to the fucking shower would have been nice. Thanks alot, bitch. ;-p

Oh, and Italy was killer.

11/05/2005 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the famous beans a while back at Manzanita in Healdsburg, where Keller is (was?)a partner. I thought they wer e ok. Forgetable sauce. Mainly they illustrated the fact that anything deepfried is good. During the Sonoma County Fair, there's a stall that sells deep-fried Twinkies.

Those have got to be good, right?

11/06/2005 1:22 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

Jen -- next time you are in SF, just let us know!

Cat -- glad you think so. Personally, I think there is no way to adequately describe how much fun it was.

Bones -- if you didn't live in fucking COLORADO, we might be able to negotiate.

John -- I found Manzanita to be underwhelming on all counts, so that doesn't surprise me. By the way, I thought of you yesterday when I used Terra as the cover story for surprising my aunt with a visit to the French Laundry:).

11/07/2005 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheeze that's a heck of way to treat an aunt. I can't say with confidence I would be quite so good to my parents, even if they came back from the great beyond to join me. Not that I don't love them, but neither would know good food if it bit them.

Anyway, if you've liked Terra in the past I'm sure you'll check out their new joint. (website coming soon, I hope...)

11/07/2005 9:16 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

Well, we surprised her with the VISIT -- they (she and my uncle) surprised us by paying the bill:).

11/07/2005 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, anybody can pay the bill - it's getting that FL ressie that's the hard work!

11/07/2005 4:49 PM  
Blogger The Tens said...

Hey, if I can't plagiarize from my roommates, who can I plagiarize from?

11/07/2005 10:56 PM  
Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

how can I get on your eating out with person list?

11/08/2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

Shuna, love, consider yourself on it! Name a time and a place and I'm there.

11/09/2005 6:28 AM  

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