Get Ready for the Ham Bar, Courtesy of Hog & Rocks

Categories: Buzz Machine
Scott Youkilis.
San Francisco has hosted many a specialty bar in its day. The oyster bar. The fern bar. Oxygen bars, hookah bars, kinky furry bars, tiki bars with 100-plus bottles of rum. For their new place, Maverick chef Scott Youkilis and Eric Rubin of Tres Agaves wanted to do a raw bar, but the 1,000-square-foot space they found at 19th and Mission wouldn't accommodate it. So they switched up the concept to a ham and oyster bar called Hog & Rocks, expected to open in May or early June.

What exactly does a ham bar entail? SFoodie asked Youkilis yesterday. Exactly what you'd think: Four-five hams representing Spain, Italy, and the United States, each served with pickled mushrooms, salads, and other accompaniments meant to match the ham's flavor profile.

"As I look at it," Youkilis says, "Hams are gems. They're unique and interesting and take a shitload of time to make. Hams aren't even being served until they've been aged 10 or 11 months, and they can age up to 36 months. Serrano ham is so different from Iberico ham and prosciutto. They're all from a pig, but they taste different based on their diet, how they're aged, how they're cured, if they're smoked."

For several years now, Youkilis has been working with one of the American hams he plans on serving at Hog & Rocks: Colonel Newsom's country hams out of Kentucky. "Colonel Newsom died a while back," Youkilis says, "and his daughter, Nancy, now runs it. Her stuff is amazing. She uses a secretive recipe that has been in the family for a couple hundred years.

"The ham changes seasonally, too," he says. "The pigs are slaughtered in the fall and packed in cure over winter. Then by summer, they go into a barn to smoke and hang. [The Newsoms] do it the old-school way -- no refrigeration or technical temperature stuff. It's just hanging in a barn in the woods in Kentucky. Apparently, the flavor you get from the ham comes from a mold that the barn somehow acquired in 1962 or '63."

As for the oysters, they'll be served both on the half shell and cooked, and many of the bar snacks will come from other parts of the pig. Youkilis describes the cocktail bar -- aka the bar in the traditional sense of the word -- as focusing on old-school cocktails, using booze he describes as coming from "your grandfather's liquor cabinet."

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