Saturday, January 16, 2010

From the Fois to the Tail: The Joys of Coppa Enoteca

I can't stop thinking about the pig's tail. I am not typically a risky eater, and having passed on the calves' brain ravioli and the sweetbread Saltimbocca, ordering the pig's tail seemed almost too safe. It arrived looking a bit like an oversized spare rib, coated in Christmas colored squares of candied fruit. In fact, each bite of fatty, silky, tender, salty, sweet goodness made me and my companion swoon. The top was crisp, while the gentle meat melded perfectly with Chef Jamie Bissonnette's homemade mostarda, a chutney like combination of mustard seeds and fruit. And, amazingly, although this dish was the highlight, it was only one of the wonderful treasures that we discovered in our first meal at the new Coppa Enoteca in the South End.

A kind reader once pointed out that I am often so effusive in my posts to the point that they can seem, well... disingenuous. It was a very fair criticism. However, I am still torn. As I only use this blog to recommend places, the reality is that I do truly enjoy any restaurant, food store, or food that appears on this blog. And, when I have a meal that is so absolutely fantastic, I do mean it. All this is my way of advancing two warnings: first, my recent meal at the newly-opened Coppa included some of the most fantastic dishes I have had. Really! I also want to apologize for the fact that the photographs don't do any justice to the food. I had gambled that my new IPhone would capture this food as well as my 35 mm. For the record, the IPhone photographs can't even come close to that of my Nikon. But it is really to Bissonnette that I apologize.

Like many food-lovers, I had been eagerly awaiting the opening of Coppa. Having had the pleasure of trying Chef Jamie Bissonnette's cooking at Toro, and knowing his passion for home-cured meat, I had high hopes for the charcuterie. And, as he opened this restaurant with Chef and Resturanteur Ken Oringer, I suspected that there would be a range of great bites. Set in the South End, right near the Franklin Cafe and Fromaggio's Kitchen, I am deeply envious of anyone that can stop in to eat whenever they wish. Coppa's menu is far reaching, and includes "Stuzi" (small "bar snacks"), cold salads, hot antipasti, salumi (cured meats and pates), pasta and pizza. While having a few of the stuzi or antipasti could easily add up, you could just as easily enjoy a home-made pizza for $13. Alternatively, I recommend going with a few people, if only so that you can try as many of the dishes as possible. As the menu changes frequently, you can easily return to try something new each time.
Having had a very long week (that included destroying my personal and professional computer), the waitress' suggestion to try the Belladonna was perfect. Although I noted that I don't like gin, she still suggested I try the drink as it included sloe gin, Pimms Number One and grenadine. It was sweet, cold and reminded me of a plum wine. In addition to the pig's tails, we started with the salumi Coppa, or cured pork shoulder. It was as rich, salty and melted in my mouth. Next, the most tender meatballs I can remember, served decadently drapped in lardo (pork fat.)

We broke up our pork fest with an amped up buttery sandwich that was stuffed with sea urchin (pictured above.) Then, we dove into a tender piece of salted cod that was coated in a heavenly puree of meyer lemons and pistachios.
The lemons were used generously adding a sweet taste to the fish. The weakest dish of the dish of the night consisted of cold, wood roasted octopus with salsa verde and preserved lemon. I am far from an octopus expert, but both of us thought it was too chewy and tough. However, we loved the sliced fennel and salsa combination. On the other hand, Chef Bissonnette generously sent out a sample of another octopus dish: this time stewed with garbanzo beans and tomatoes. Here the octopus was so tender. My favorite aspect, though,was the earthy and creamy buckwheat polenta that created a base for the dish.

Chef Bissonette sent out one more dish to try: his pate de campagne or country terrine. This dense slice was filled with pistachios, which provided both a contrast in texture and taste to the rustic pork.

Finally, we closed this feast with my version of dessert: Fois gras seared perfectly and served with winter citrus and pickled walnuts.
It was creamy, unctuous and so rich. And here the highlight was the brilliant combination of the bitter-sweet candied fruit with the fois gras.

And it was a perfect end to the meal. I have been convinced that Chef Bissonnette was one of the lesser-sung stars of the Boston Culinary scene. This meal proved ample evidence for that belief. Each seemingly simplistic dish was so layered, and reflected the best ingredients and a sophisticated understanding of food. Yet, Coppa never feels pretenious or unreachable. Instead, it is a place that I will return again and again. And for the record, next time the photographs will be better!

Coppa Enoteca, 253 Shawmut Street, 617-391-0902

1 comment:

  1. interesting. i live across the park and was eager to try Coppa. went a few days after it opened and was sorely disappointed. grazed through 8 stuzzis, pizza, antipasti and hot dishes and only the steak was acceptable. yes, the octopus was chewy, the foie gras boring, the pizza w/ calamari yuch, the breaded's breaded chicken. can't even remember the others.

    have lived in france the past 10 yrs(now live in Boston part time), spend a lot of time in spain and italy. i think i know what food should taste like. Toro, i though, was a big FAKE. and Coppa much of the same. sorry, but i so disagree that Coppa is anywhere close to good. or real.