When the pork chop hit the table, I could hardly believe my eyes.
I didn't have my pocket scales with me, but a good guess would be at least 24 ounces of pure pork — just a little fat, no gristle, no bone, and meat so flavorful and tender that it set a new personal standard for what a great pork chop should be.
Wishbone, the new Petaluma restaurant that serves this behemoth, calls it the "Pork Chop of Awe and Wonder" ($25 ****), and that's an accurate description. To accentuate the tenderness, chef Miriam Donaldson brines the center-cut chop, then roasts it until it develops a savory brown crust and plumps to a good 2inches thick through the middle.
She is setting up local farms and suppliers, but this chop comes from Niman Ranch, whose headquarters are in the Bay Area but who contracts with more than 700 farms around the country that have agreed to Niman Ranch protocols.
These strict guidelines ensure the animals are raised sustainably, never fed routine antibiotics or hormones, come from parents with high-quality pedigrees, and are always treated humanely and with compassion.
Humane treatment is vital to the best-quality meat. Studies have shown that the meat from hogs raised in distressing conditions is weak and watery, with a substandard flavor.
The chop was topped with slices of pear that had been marinated in bourbon, and it sat on a bed of excellent mashed potatoes in a moat of luscious pork jus.
If the names of Miriam Donaldson or her partner Josh Norwitt sound familiar, you may have encountered them at Humble Pie, their former restaurant in Penngrove that earned them a cult following for their commitment to the highest-quality local and organic ingredients prepared in a rustic American style showcasing the true flavors and textures of the produce.
They are keeping to that philosophy at Wishbone, in the space that was the Three Cooks luncheonette.
As at Humble Pie, the restaurant is funky. The sound system is a Crosley "Cruiser Turntable," retro-looking but armed with up-to-date electronics, and a stack of vinyl LPs to play on it.