After five years I still remember the crispy salty skin and the succulent mildly liver flavored meat of the first squab I tasted. Don had ordered the roasted pigeonneau at the family run Hotel Neuhauser in the French Alsace. It was so good that I ordered it myself the next night. Since then I’ve kept an eye out for this tender bird, both in restaurants and in the butcher case, but had yet to see it again, until now.
According to Wikipedia squab is a young domestic pigeon that is butchered at one month when it has reached full size but has yet to fly. The meat is all dark, similar to duck, but more tender and finely textured. It has an almost silky mouth feel and is best cooked medium rare.
Golden Gate Meat Company
Our first domestic sighting was at the Golden Gate Meat Company in the San Francisco Ferry Building. We bought it on the spot. Don marinated it in balsamic vinegar and honey seasoned with thyme, roasting it first in a 450° oven for 10 minutes to render some of the fat out and crisp the skin before finishing it off at 375°. Such a wonderful treat, the crispy skin and liver quality that I remembered.
Squab at Boulevard
The next week we had dinner at Boulevard, and yes there it was again, squab. Even though I had just relived the pigeonneau experience the week before, we wanted to see how a professional prepared the dish. The two halves of the voile were served boned except for the leg bone, skin on but not crispy. The meat, just barely cooked medium rare, was even more succulent than the week before. Not overcooking the meat is definitely the key to preserving the fine texture, almost organ meat quality.
Cooking Squab at Home
Our last week in San Francisco we took the opportunity to try squab just one last time to see if we could match that medium rare silky texture. Don used the same marinade, but this time he grilled the birds over indirect heat for about 25 minutes. With a high sugar content in the marinade it was difficult not to burn the outer tips of the wings, but the meat inside was every bit as tender and silky as the squab we had tasted at Boulevard.
Boulevard Restaurant Review
Boulevard is a San Francisco institution located near the Ferry Building at One Mission, just south of Market Street. Decorated in dark wood and mosaics with a vaulted brick ceiling and a larger patterned mosaic stone floor, it has an atmospheric ambience. The colors are warm and the lights low with individual tables spot-lighted adding a sparkle and elegance to the setting. Service is attentive – seemingly more staff than patrons – if not a bit too quick. This is not European pacing.
We started with the Dungeness Crab Salad, a meaty crab cake served with tart slices of tomatillo in a lime and chili vinaigrette that were a nice contrast to the sweetness of the crabmeat. Although I didn’t taste much if any heat from the chili, I don’t know that it needed it. The Duo of Ravioli included a pancetta wrapped loin of rabbit – the saltiness of which over powered the delicate flavor of the rabbit, a flavorful tomato ravioli and a braised rabbit and porcini ravioli – the best of the three. Overall our least favorite dish of the evening.
Both entrees were cooked perfectly. The pan roasted sturgeon was served with earthy root vegetables and chanterelle mushrooms and a sharp horseradish potato purée that balanced the rich fish beautifully. The squab (described above) was accompanied by a wild rice pilaf with sweet bits of candied fruit and contrasting salty flakes, an interesting textural complement to the silkiness of the meat.
The wine, Espirt de Beaucastel by Tablas Creek, was Californian made in the classic Rhone style and tasted very much like a luscious fruity Rhone with mild tannins and complex fruit. A rounded, bold but not over powering wine that complemented both the sturgeon and the squab nicely.