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Monday, March 12, 2012

No. 46: AQ's Duck With Beets

Posted By on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 3:35 PM

AQ's duck with beets: Order it now, before winter changes to spring. - MELISSA BARNES
  • Melissa Barnes
  • AQ's duck with beets: Order it now, before winter changes to spring.

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition


There is little reason to dread the coming equinox -- dreary San Francisco summers be damned, it's easier to look ahead to longer, warmer days than it is to the winter solstice. But the remaining days before spring officially arrives may be your last chance to eat one of of Mark Liberman's best winter dishes at AQ, which changes its menu every three months: the duck with beets.

Liberman dry-ages ducks on the bone for a few days, letting earthier, almost gamier, flavors accrue, then sears the duck breast slow enough to let most of the fat underneath the skin render out, crisping the skin in the process. 

Duck meat takes to cooked fruit like lamb to syrah, but instead, Liberman pairs the meat with two of the sweetest vegetables around: slow-cooked fennel, its anise kick mellowed in the cooking, and beets roasted until they become as sugary as a poached pear. The cooks lay a purple, transparent strip of gelled beet juices over the top of the duck, which melt onto the meat and cling to it, and spoons a mound of dehydrated beet pulp -- with an almost nutty, toasted-grain edge to the powder -- onto the corner of the plate. 

The gel and the powder are modernist touches only in the sense of textures transformed -- beets remixed to reveal flavors we rarely expect to taste. The duck with beets is a complicated dish with more classic good cooking to it than chemical-induced trickery. And it will disappear within a matter of weeks.

AQ: 1085 Mission (at Seventh St.), 341-9000,

Other favorites in this series: 

47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi

48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 

49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodieand like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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