The marriage finally had to happen: a ham and oyster bar, breezily called Hog and Rocks.
I’m glad it happened in the laid-back Mission district, and that the idea occurred to Scott Youkilis, whose nearby Maverick is one of the best eating spots in town.
Youkilis, a native of Cincinnati, cooks unabashedly American. He first tasted country ham growing up near the ham-producing states of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Using hams at Maverick, he developed relationships with families that have been producing them for generations. Youkilis figured out that the best way to serve these salt-cured hog legs is like prosciutto, cut into thin, silky slices. At Hog, he offers four or five different hams each night. They include G & W from Murfreesboro, Tenn., aged nine to 11 months, at $11 a portion, a white plate covered with dewy pink slices. A frisee and cherry tomato salad garnish provides a wet counterpoint to this moist, fruity ham that’s balanced with a whisper of smoke.
Yes, you can choose San Daniele prosciutto ($10) or 15-month-old jamon serrano ($10), but why, when you can try ham from Caw Caw Creek ($14), a masterpiece aged in St. Matthews, S.C., and made from acorn-fed black pigs?
Very salty with lots of pure white fat and not a hint of smoke, this country ham tastes like the country — piggy and truffly. You need the buttered slices of soft, crusty bread that come with it to cut the salinity.
On the flip side of the ham menu is the oyster menu.
Though summer is not the best time to eat oysters, a few from the most-northern locales — crisp Summer Ice from British Columbia ($2 each), briny Wiley Point from Maine ($3) and firm, full-bodied Clavedon from New Zealand ($3), where it’s now winter — actually take the salt level down and the juiciness level up after eating the ham.
A select and blessedly edited list of beers, wines and cocktails, many at friendly keg prices, slake a mounting thirst.
Though his brother, Kevin, may be a baseball hero in Boston, our Youkilis bats a thousand with his clam dip ($7), a glass jar of smooth, gently clammy, chile-spiked sour cream surrounded by deliciously salty house-made potato chips.
And Youkilis’ jar of pimiento cheese ($6) accompanied with white bread, of course, made me sad about what I’d refused to eat all these years — once I tasted his.
If you long for vegetable matter, consider sharing the large chopped salad ($13), a colorful heap of little bits of radicchio, endive, beans, pickled peppers and cured meats in a piquant vinaigrette.
Or, you can gluttonously go for it with a grass-fed beef patty melt ($10), served on soft rye, crisp and buttery from toasting in a skillet, slathered with lots of sauteed onions, melted swiss and special sauce.
The set up of two long, raised communal tables in the center of a small room surrounded by tables and chairs on three sides, and a bar on the other, produces a terrible din during a packed house. Youkilis promises some sound-proofing soon.
In the meantime, savor those hams, plunge into dips and slurp down a few oysters. Who needs to hear with eating this good?
Patricia Unterman is author of the second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hog and Rocks
Location: 3431 19th St. (between Mission and Valencia streets), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 550-8627; www.hogandrocks.com
Hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Price range: $6 to $10
Recommended dishes: Country hams, oysters, dips, patty melt, grinder, chop salad, peach parfait
Credit cards: All major