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Market Watch: Shopping with Chef Chris Cosentino for More Than the Bits

Shopping with chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto restaurant can be an adventure. His Food Network series Chef vs. City and his many appearances on shows like Iron Chef America and Best Thing I Ever Ate have made him something of a local celebrity. As we walked through the market on a recent Saturday heads were definitely turning and I even caught a few folks whipping out their camera phones to get a candid photo of the chef in action. Chris’s gregarious personality lends itself well to television, but he’s deeply dedicated to the Bay Area and has a tremendous amount of respect for the farmers who grow the food he cooks. This commitment is especially visible at the market, where he walks his talk by supporting a sustainable agricultural system and through his restaurant’s menu, where he encourages others to appreciate seasonality and understand where our food comes from.

Chris also has something of a reputation for having a way with offal. His blog offalgood.com, restaurant and salumeria, Boccalone, located inside the Ferry Building, are all testaments to his deep affection for the less-common parts of the animal. I‘ve known Chef Cosentino since I started working at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market over six years ago, and in that time I’ve realized that this reputation for being a master with ‘the nasty bits’ can really overshadow his talent for building a menu out of simple, fresh and seasonal ingredients. Some of my favorite things on the Incanto menu have often been  surprisingly straightforward—like house-made pasta with green garlic puree or a perfectly dressed salad with fresh fava beans and strawberries from Dirty Girl Produce.

As we shopped together Chris picked up things on his list and allowed himself to be swayed by a few impulse items, including toasted ground cornmeal made with Supai red parching corn from Tierra Vegetables that he planned to take back to the restaurant and experiment with. Here’s what else caught his eye this week:

•    Summer squash from Balakian Farms
•    Lemon verbena from Eatwell Farms
•    Rhubarb from Tierra Vegetables
•    Nettles from Star Route
•    Cherries from Hamada Farms
•    Radishes from Dirty Girl Produce