Ten years ago, Michael Tusk opened a little 60-seat restaurant called Quince in San Francisco, showcasing modern Italian cuisine and cooking philosophies he honed working in Europe and at Chez Panisse. Now, the chef/owner of a much-larger Quince, which relocated to a historic building in Jackson Square in 2009, also owns and runs Cotogna, a rustic Italian restaurant that, like Quince before it, has a devoted following in the Bay Area.
We found out that Tusk had jetted off to Argentina — a pretty damn good place for Italian food, not to mention meat and wine — so we handed him our travel questionnaire to get the details on his trip.
Where are you just back from?
Argentina: Mendoza and Buenos Aires
Business or pleasure?
A little bit of both: Cooking in Mendoza at O Fournier Winery, with some free time in Buenos Aires.
Viewing a lightning storm roll over the Andes Mountains.
Just getting there. There is just no easy way to travel there from California.
What airline did you fly and how was it?
LAN airlines. It was a long 17 hours in flight.
Where’d you stay and what’s your mini-review of the place?
Park Hyatt Hotel Buenos Aires. It was an extremely well-run property. I was very impressed with the hotel staff and their attention to detail, and their execution of service across all departments — from the concierge services to housekeeping — was some of the best I have seen. They maintained meticulous upkeep and care of the property (historical Palacios Duhau). Also, they had one of the most beautiful floral shops and floral arranging services in a hotel I have ever seen.
What was your best meal on the trip?
My favorite meal was a very straightforward dinner at El Pobre Luis. Lots of meat, morcilla and chorizo. The double sided grill was amazing, and the meat was excellent. No frills — just chimichurri sauce with some good wine selections. I also discovered a great producer: Achaval Ferrer.
Did you bring anything back and if so, what?
I love to collect kitchen cookware or anything related to food and wine. My new passion is Argentinian steak knives. I brought back six different models for Quince, each made with different wood handles, great craftsmanship and nice weight. The shop, Claraz, was located a couple of blocks away from the hotel and offered a great selection. I then found steak knives from a manufacturer outside of Buenos Aires for Cotogna. These were big and heavy, but with 3mm blades — all made to order by hand. These knives were spotted at a restaurant named Unik, which was probably my favorite dining experience outside of the more classic steak restaurants.
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