The Hoof Cafe
The Hoof Cafe has been open about a month. When we stopped by for a recent visit, either the cold or the holidays kept this cozy yet well appointed French country (or according to a Swiss dining companion: mais non, plus American country) meets IKEA space emptier than it will be once the word gets out.
Well consider the cold a test of your mettle, Jackson. Because if you manage to mosey your way on up to Hoof Cafe's beautifully aged wood and whitewash bar, braving the cold is a good start to your visit since brave is definitely what most people will need to be to eat here. Or you can be like our intrepid little band this particular Saturday afternoon and believe that it's never too early in the day for nose-to-tail eating.
Greeted and seated, Latte ($4) and Earl Grey ($2.75) in hand we anxiously wait for 11am to pass so we can order co-owner Jen Agg's tasty take on a Ceasar ($8). The home made Clamato is very mildly clammy and complements the pepper-infused vodka. What helps this drink punch above its weight is the addition of dehydrated horseradish, and marmite syrup which adds depth without the (clearly acquired) taste of pungent yeastiness that the british staple is known for. And the pickled bean on top beats celery any day!
Drinks sorted, we focus shift, slowly scanning across the chalkboard menu, eyes cataloging items with the same mixture of beautiful dread and bewildered awe as a Riefenstahl tracking shot. Pork belly pastrami? Pigtails and cheesy grits? Grilled tongue and cheese sandwich? We're definitely coming back for the suckling pig benny which pulls baby pork and couches it 'twix the house cheddar biscuit and perfectly poached eggs drenched in home made hollandaise.
And on another visit, the sweetly floral blueberry buckwheat pancakes with rabbit we'll have'll be a winner that'll have us thinking a cereal box ain't the only worthy place for our flop-eared friends at our breakfast table.
All that'll have to wait though because the specials today are speaking my language. We start with an inspired take on the timid timbit: crispy, bite-sized beignets ($6) stuffed with house sour cherry jam and bone marrow and dusted in caster sugar (and maybe just a playful sprinkle of salt). HOLY CHRIST! That's what Tim's has been missing! Marrow! It's insane. The addition makes the outside crispier while keeping the center almost liquid and tongue-scaldingly molten and rounds out the flavours with panache! The cherry vibe is subtle and definitely adds a little extra sweetness to the mix. The donuts are devoured nearly before we can capture the photographic evidence.
The other special of the day is a blood sausage crepe with grilled quince and walnuts ($10). The creamiest boudin noir I've ever had is stuffed inside flapjack's skinny sister and it's rich earthiness is complemented perfectly by the floral fruitiness of the grilled quince. I really hope this delicious treat goes from understudy to lead on the Hoof's menu because I can't wait to have another.
The star of this meal though is definitely the French toast ($8 - photo at top) with the--read my lips--o-bli-ga-tory slice of seared foie gras perched precipitously on top (add $14, and don't forget to thank me. Oh and here's a link for the girl sitting next to us who wasn't hip to the gavage goodie...seriously...what's foie? Give your head a shake).
Like Ken Boothe's UK pop-reggae, Chef/Co-owner Grant van Gameren and dish is a glorious corruption of a classic and there definitely ain't no sunshine in this dish as all the flavours are moorishly dark, the textures complex; all cinnamon, cardamoms, custard and crunch.
Even the peach in the peach and ginger preserve that anoints the dish manages to somehow evoke autumn rather than August. And the foie. Fuck. You'll forget you ever heard of butter once you taste the way this perfectly seared, liquid centered piece of duck liver evokes the savory, smoky taste of bacon and eggs, and as the heat from the thick-cut, egged up brioche slices (made in house like pretty much everything else) begins to render it...well all I have to say is oarsome. This dish is diabolical. Sided with an order of sabodet ( $3.50, think tongue-in-cheek breakfast sausage...literally) luxuriating on a bed of the best lentils you'll ever eat (drippings from the suckling pig are used in the prep) and you'll be needing a lipitor instead of a post meal mint.
Now, I've been accused in the past of occasionally fawning in my reviews. Well bring out the haters because I haven't had a meal, let alone a breakfast, this gush-worthy in ages. Everything we had on the menu was deftly prepared; rich without being overly so, clever without being precious. The service was friendly and knowledgeable without being pushy and I am personally IN LOVE with the beautiful Laurie, our server on both occasions (call me)!
Also worth mentioning that most of the Hoof's amazing brunch dishes were developed
collaboratively between Grant and his wicked talented head chef at
Hoof, east-coaster Geoff Hopgood (I have him to thank for the outstanding
boudain noir crepe) who I'm sure we'll be seeing amazing things from in the future if his work on the menu at Hoof Cafe is any indication. Definitely someone to watch.
There isn't room in this space to go into Grant's tweets with Chris Cosentino, the relationship between slow food and blogging, how he feels about Keller's recent name-dropping, asking Jen exactly how long figs need to marinate in cachaça before it's caipirinha-ready and a host of other quandries. All this will have to wait for next time. And there will be a next time. I can guarantee it.
Caveat: Vegetarians and our Hasidic brethren may wanna reconsider a visit (or their priorities, I'm not picky) to this Black Hoof off-shoot because there's really not that much for you to nosh on at this...this high temple of the pig. Offended by offal? The fifth quarter not to your liking? These are all just thorns around the castle to keep out any but those who truly appreciate the whole beast and some seriously inspired cuisine.
Photos courtesy Adrienne Tam