Friday, February 6, 2009

Classic "Bollito Misto" at Poggio

Poggio Trattoria opened in Sausalito in November 2003. We live in Sausalito and have been to Poggio four or five times over the years. There is no doubt that it is a tastefully decorated restaurant with its beautiful interior and row of outdoor tables along Bridgeway. Although we have always wanted to love it, sadly each time we have been underwhelmed, and in the recent past had not gone back for the last couple of years, favoring instead Angelino just down the street if we are eating locally, and Perbacco in San Francisco, if we want the best in Italian cuisine.

I walk by Poggio almost every evening on my way home from the ferry. This past Monday I noted from a flyer that they were presenting a dinner this week featuring a classic Italian dish, “bollito misto.”

I had never had that dish before and was intrigued. Plus a review in the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the first such dinner last year was very strong. I hustled home, convinced our son, Patrick, to join me for dinner, and made a reservation for Thursday night.

Bollito misto – which means “mixed boil” in Italian – is a classic Italian winter comfort food. It is primarily a northern Italian dish, although in one form or another it is found throughout Italy - after all, boiling meat may be the most basic means of cooking it. A variety of cuts of beef are traditionally included, as well as the head, tongue and tail, together with a chicken and a fresh pork sausage named “cotechino.” For the best results, each ingredient is cooked separately since each calls for a different length of cooking. The meats are served with a variety of condiments, including one called “mostarda,” a candied fruit mixed with mustard seeds.

Our waiter for the evening turned out to be Alex who we had known when he worked at Perbacco. It was nice to see him again, but it made both Patrick and me sad since we were reminded of our favorite waitress of all time, Auxilia, who also used to work at Perbacco and who has now returned to Abruzzo.

Auxilia and Pat at Perbacco in Happier Times

After a glass of Prosecco, we started off with appetizers. Patrick selected a spinach gnocchi in a meat sauce from the main menu, and I ordered the taglionlini alle frattaglie (with a sugo of calf liver, prosciutto, wild mushrooms and sweetbreads) from the special Gran Bollito Menu.

For our main courses, Patrick decided on the Chicken “Al Matone” (cooked “under a brick”), while I, of course, went with the bollito misto. It was wheeled in on a traditional “carello” or cart, and individual items were carved at the table.

As noted on the flyer, Poggio's bollito misto included six meats, beef brisket, veal breast, a capon (chicken), beef tongue, oxtail and a cotechino sausage made inhouse.

It was served with five of the traditional condiments.

Poggio recommended a short list of wines to pair with the bollito misto and we picked the 2006 Barbera d’Alba produced by Negro Angelo e Figli in Monteu Roero, just to the northwest of Alba in Piemonte.

In reading about bollito misto before we went to dinner, I noted that one of the most famous restaurants in Italy for the dish is one named Il Moderno located in the town of Carrù in Piemonte.

I also learned that in addition to its bollito misto, Carrù is also famous for "La fiera del bue grasso" (the fair of the fat bull) which is held each year on the second Thursday before Christmas, to select the best representative of a special breed of Piemontese cattle called in Italian the Razza Piemontese. In fact they even have a society to protect and promote them (for any who want to practice their Italan vocabulary for cuts of meat ("i tagli"), see this helpful chart).
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I am sorry to say that I do not think I am going to become a fan of bollito misto any time soon. While my taglionlini was quite good and paired well with the Barbera d'Alba, the bollito misto was frankly a bit bland (apart from the tongue which was great), even with the condiments. While it was a pleasant evening, I am afraid Poggio underwhelmed us once again.

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