12 days of christmas: cantu… (2019)

Pork collar.

It seems only a short while ago that Val Cantu was hosting a pop-up in San Francisco.  Those early previews of Cantu’s modern, but studied approach to Mexican cooking generated considerable excitement.  Before I knew it, he had opened a small restaurant in the Mission and earned a Michelin star.  It was in those early days of the restaurant that I first visited Cantu at Californios.

The penultimate chef to cook at this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, Cantu joined hosting chef Christopher Kostow on the eleventh night.

At the comal.  2nd Course: Black Truffle and Banana Tamal

Cantu issued the longest menu of the twelve nights.  The half dozen canapés alone – all by Cantu – were a feast. Highlights included kale tetelas filled with goat cheese, which Cantu griddled on a giant comal; a juicy squab taco; and short rib mole negro, which was served on a tortilla with shaved white truffles.

His main courses were just as colorful and diverse. There was a banana tamal with black truffles. The packet was opened table-side and crowned with caviar.

There were tender slices of abalone, shingled in a giant shell with cilantro butter.  And a bright ceviche of buri (Japanese amberjack) interleaved with a rainbow of citrus suprêmes, and garnished with slivers of jalapeño.

Canapé: Tetela of Local Kales and Goat Cheese  Canapé: Squab Taco

The Restaurant at Meadowood served a rich dish of smoked cod in a buttery sauce with soured corn. That was fantastic, as was the restaurant’s dessert of sweet potato.  The shock of bright, neon-orange flesh breaking out of its dusty, charred jacket was an arresting sight.  It was flambéed with tequila and sauced with tres leches caramel.

Canapé: Short Rib  2nd Course: Black Truffle and Banana Tamal

This is the menu from Day 11 of the Twelve Days of Christmas with guest chef Val Cantu (click here for all of the photos from this dinner):


Green Garlic Sope
Brassicas, trout roe.

White Sturgeon Taquito
Chives, caviar.

Tetela of Local Kales
Goat cheese.

Squab Taco & Squab Broth

Short Rib Mole Negro
White truffle.

Aztec Fuji Apple Sorbet
Key lime.

1st Course
Butter Clam
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

2nd Course
Black Truffle & Banana Tamal

3rd Course
Ceviche of Buri

4th Course
Aguachile of Cactus

5th Course
Oysters en Michelada

6th Course
Crab Tostada

7th Course
Abalone in Cilantro Butter

8th Course
Smoked Cod
Soured corn.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

9th Course
Pork Collar
Avocado leaf.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

10th Course
Sweet Potato
Tequila, caramel tres leches.
(The Restaurant at Meadowood)

11th Course
Sweet Tostada
Grapefruit, anise.

12th Course
Oblea of Green Apple
Bon bons.

Wine pairings.

Domaine des Tours, Réserve 2014

COS, Zibibo Ampora, 2017


Kistler, “les Noisetiers,” Sonoma Coast, 2015

Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 1993

Roccolo Grassi, “La Broia,” 2015

Day 11: Val Cantu

Below are links to my posts and photos from all Twelve Days of Christmas dinners I have attended. Each chef is listed with the restaurant with which they were cooking at the time they participated in the event (some have moved on to other projects and restaurants).


Scott Anderson (Elements; Princeton, New Jersey)
John & Karen Shields (Formerly of Townhouse; Chilhowie, Virginia)
Phillip Foss (EL Ideas; Chicago, Illinois)
Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions; San Francisco, California)
Jason Franey (Canlis Restaurant; Seattle, Washinton)
Matthias Merges (Yusho; Chicago, Illinois)
Mori Onodera (Formerly of Mori Sushi; Los Angeles, California)
James Syhabout (Commis; Oakland, California)
Nick Anderer (Maialino; New York, New York)
David Toutain (Agapé Substance; Paris, France)
Josh Habiger & Erik Anderson (The Catbird Seat; Nashville Tennessee)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Andy Ricker (Pok Pok, Portland, Oregon & New York, New York)
Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó; Santiago, Chile)
Carlo Mirarchi (Blanca and Roberta’s; Brooklyn, New York)
Tim Cushman (O Ya; Boston, Massachusetts)
Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner; Raleigh, North Carolina)
David Chang (Momofuku; New York, New York)
Matthew Accarrino (SPQR; San Francisco, California)
Mark Ladner & Brooks Headley (Del Posto; New York, New York)
Rasmus Kofoed (Geranium; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Nicolaus Balla & Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine; San Francisco, California)
David Kinch (Manresa; Los Gatos, California)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Matthew Orlando (Amass; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Frank Castranovo & Frank Falcinelli (Frankies 457, Prime Meats; New York, New York)
Kobe Desramaults (In de Wulf; Dranouter, Belgium)
Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillère; La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil, France)
Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn; Lummi Island, Washington)
Joshua McFadden (Ava Gene’s; Portland, Oregon)
Virgilio Martinez (Central; Lima, Peru)
Grant Achatz (Alinea; Chicago, Illinois)
Corey Lee (Benu; San Francisco, California)
Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo; Oslo, Norway)
Ignacio Mattos (Estela; New York, New York)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, NoMad; New York, New York)
Nenad Mlinarevic (Focus; Vitznau, Switzerland)
Christian Puglisi (relæ; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jorge Vallejo (Quintonil; Mexico City, Mexico)
Joshua Skenes (Saison; San Francisco, California)
Matthew Wilkinson (Pope Joan; Melbourne, Australia)
Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan ([One]; Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
Isaac McHale (The Clove Club; London, The United Kingdom)
Kyle Connaughton (Single Thread; Healdsburg, California)
Atsushi Tanaka (A.T. Restaurant; Paris, France)
Justin Yu (Oxheart; Houston, Texas)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Mark Lundgaard Nielsen (Kong Hans Kælder; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Manish Mehrotra (Indian Accents; New Dehli, India; New York, New York; London, U.K.)
Jeremiah Stone & Fabián von Hauske Valtierra (Contra & Wildair; New York, New York)
Jeremy Fox (Rustic Canyon & Tallula’s; Santa Monica, California)
Ben Sukle (birch & Oberlin; Providence, Rhode Island)
Sean Brock (McCrady’s, McCrady’s Tavern, Husk, & Minero; Charleston, South Carolina)
Yoshiaki Takazawa (Takazawa; Tokyo, Japan)
Thomas Keller (The French Laundry; Yountville, California)
Eric Werner (Hartwood; Tulum, Mexico)
Jock Zonfrillo (Orana; Adelaide, Australia)
Alexandre Couillon (La Marine; Noirmoutier, France)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Jose Enrique (Jose Enrique; San Juan, Puerto Rico)
David Pynt (Burnt Ends; Singapore)
Jessica Largey (Simone; Los Angeles, California)
James Lowe (Lyle’s; London, The United Kingdom)
Kamilla Seidler (formerly of Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia; Copenhagen, Denmark)
Byung-jin Kim (Gaon; Seoul, South Korea)
Wojciech Modest Amaro (Atelier Amaro; Warsaw, Poland)
Justin Cogley (Auberine; Carmel, California) & Trevor Moran (Nashville, Tennessee)
Michael Tusk (Cotogna and Quince; San Francisco, California)
Ana Ros (Hiša Franko; Kobarid, Slovenia)
Sota Atsumi (Maison, opening in 2019; Paris, France)
Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood; St. Helena, California)


Gabriela Camara (Contramar; Mexico City, Mexico/Cala; San Francisco, California)
John and Karen Shields (Smyth, and The Loyalist; Chicago, Illinois)
Daniel Calvert (Belon; Hong Kong)
José Avillez (Belcanto; Lisbon, Portugal)
Junghyun Park (atomix and atoboy; New York, New York)
Jeremy Chan (Ikoyi; London, The United Kingdom)
Nicolai Nørregaard (kadeau; Bornholm and Copenhagen, Denmark)
Brady Williams (Canlis; Seattle, Washington)
Jeremy Charles (Raymonds; St. John’s, Newfoundland; Canada)
Malcolm Lee (Candlenut; Singapore)
Val Cantu (Californios; San Francisco, California)

Kostow, Cantu

Photos: Pork collar on the Josper; Val Cantu making tetelas at the comal; caviar for the black truffle banana tamal; tetelas on the pass; squab tacos; shaving black truffle over short rib with mole negro; Cantu finishing black truffle banana tamal; wine pairings; Cantu and the team at The Restaurant at Meadowood; Christopher Kostow and the team from Californios.

~ by ulterior epicure on April 30, 2020.

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