Etymology of a Special: A16's Chanterelle Bruschetta with Cresta di Gallo

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A16
Liza Shaw.
A new SFoodie feature: Every week, we call a local chef to ask what he or she is putting on the menu that night, and what inspired its creation.

Liza Shaw has been at A16 since 2004 and its executive chef since Nate Appleman's departure in 2009. All it took was a 15-second explanation of the blog post and she launched into the story of a dish she's adding to the menu tonight.

Shaw: So we have this good friend who used to work here as the opening bartender, and now he sometimes helps out as a sommelier. His brother's a chef in Monterey, and they go mushroom foraging. Andrew will call up sometimes and say, Hey, we've got some chanterelles or porcini.

So yesterday he came by with some chanterelles from the Big Sur area. (Foragers never tell you exactly where they find their mushrooms, you know.) We had a lot of leftover bread from the day before, as well as a couple of tubs more ricotta than we could use. So I came up with a dish of excess: bruschetta with chanterelles and ricotta.

So we're toasting the day-old bread and spreading Gioia Cheese ricotta on it. We've got a new batch of guanciale, and so we're roasting the mushrooms with the guanciale, and when it comes out of the oven, hitting it with a little lemon. Then we're putting on an ingredient that I've been really excited to try: cresta di gallo.

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Weird Vegetables
Cresta di gallo from Star Route Farms.
SFoodie: Cresta di gallo? It's a green. It's called cresta di gallo in Italian because it looks like a rooster crest. In Japanese, it's called shungiku. [Ed note: A Web search reveals that it's a type of chrysanthemum green that Cantonese speakers will recognize as tong ho.]

John from Star Route Farms comes into the restaurant every now and then. In November, he'd seen chanterelles on our menu and recommended that we try cresta di gallo with it. So I went to his stand at the market and bought up all of his cresta di gallo. It tastes like mirepoix ― carrots and celery. It's really cool and beautiful to look at.

They use it in Italy and they use it in Japan, too, which is cool for us. We have an A16 in Tokyo, and when I traveled there I was looking through [a] seasonal food pictures book and saw the green, and said, you use this, too? It's mostly a winter green here, I think, and a fall green in Japan.

Where does your bread come from? Right now the bread is from Mayfield Bakery in Palo Alto. It's part of the Bacchus Management Group (Spruce, the Pizza Anticas, Village Pub). We get two kinds of bread ― one a country levain, the other a regular levain. This is the regular levain, which they mix buckwheat and quinoa into. It's great, and it doesn't taste terribly healthy.

No, you wouldn't want that. You know, some of those breads taste like birdseed.

What about the guanciale? How often do you make it? Every Wednesday we get a pig and a half to break down. We use the meat primarily for entrees ― shoulder roasts, loins, taking the chunks of meat from around the pig to make meatballs and sausages with. So we get a pig and a half ― but two heads. Apparently the people who get the other pig don't want the head, if you can imagine. Sometimes we make coppa di testa with the head, and sometimes we save up the jowls and cure them. A batch takes two to three months to cure.

How long are you going to be running the special?
As long as we have the chanterelles. We definitely have enough for tonight, most likely tomorrow. And if Andew comes in Sunday with more mushrooms we'll run it again.

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