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Cow by Bear: Pop-up perfection

HAVE YOU ever had dinner served by a bear? For a few select locals the answer, odd as it may be, is yes. 

But how is it possible that a bear serve you dinner, and five courses at that? Simply, Savannah’s newest and coolest pop-up restaurant: Cow by Bear.

And if you are not in the know about what it means to be a pop-up restaurant, let me explain.

Traditionally, a pop-up is a temporary restaurant in a secret location that serves food for a limited time period.

Savannah’s newest culinary comrade, Cow by Bear, is flipping the concept on its head by offering guests an experience like no other — all five courses are created and served by a bear: Chef Po Bear himself. 

Savannah’s Cow by Bear is not the first location, and several other Chef Bears are hosting their own pop-ups in San Diego and Seattle. Chef Po Bear explains why Savannah was so lucky to be included in the Chef Bears’ dinners:

“Savannah had the right kind of acceptance and quirkiness that makes us feel at home. With the culinary scene continuously evolving, where better than here to start something different and new?”

As for Chef Po Bear’s menu, he explains that “growing up in the mountains of France, my family and I lived by the seasons. As I’ve grown into a chef, I’ve used the seasons as the place to start a foundation for a new dish.”

The Welcome Course, the Hawaii P-O, is “based on Chef Po’s trip to Hawaii...and a dish that was served with Spam,” our dinner host and mixologist, Michael Peterson, explains as the course is served.

Pork belly is the star of the dish, served sliced and so tender it barely stays on the fork. The nod to Spam came with the seasoning of the pork, which somehow Chef Po Bear imparts with a wink of classic salty Spam flavor without overpowering the entire dish, as the classic canned meat so often does.

Paired with the fragile pork is a complex yellow curry, vibrant pickled green apple, and invigorating fresh cilantro. 

The drink pairing, a creation by Michael, was his take on the classic Silver Monk, a cucumber, mint, and yellow chartreuse libation. Inspired by the Powerpuff Girls villain Mojo Jojo, he adds tequila and lime which lends the drink a refreshing kick, and makes it a flawless introduction to the night ahead. 

Paired with the first course, Ode to Spring, was a light Chardonnay to match the delicate flavor of the masterpiece. Featured was creamy fennel risotto topped with confit chicken, crispy new potatoes, and a herb salad.

The idea is to “dig for your potatoes like they are from the garden,” Michael said as he explained why the beautiful new potatoes were hidden beneath the bright green herb salad resting over the entire dish.

The showstopper of this course was truly the fennel risotto; the fennel brightened the velvety rice and a brown butter and chicken broth au jus enveloped every grain with the sumptuous taste of succulent briny chicken gravy. 

The risotto is one of Chef Po Bear’s special recipes, he boasts, “I have been told I make a mean risotto, and it is one of my favorite ways to play around with new flavors.”

His confidence is justified because, though an extremely difficult dish for even the most seasoned chefs to cook properly, the risotto he created could be pictured in the dictionary next the definition.

'Beauty and the Beets'
'Beauty and the Beets'

Beauty and The Beets was served as the second course, and is the favorite of both Chef Po Bear and Michael. As he proudly placed down each plate, Michael explained the Chef “tried to take on an ugly vegetable and dress it up into the belle of the ball.”

Delicate hand folded tortelloni filled with a striking purple beet filling were presented wading in a shallow pool of lemon oil, and resting atop the al dente pasta was a sprinkling a poppy seeds, pea shoots, shaved candy striped beets, and pickled golden beets. The golden beets were most surprising, tricking the palate into thinking it was eating candy.

As for the filling, the tender beet stuffing was nutty, without even the slightest hint of what can be an overbearing earthy taste that beets can so often have. 

A 21-day dry-aged ribeye cap, the Cow by Bear, was the pinnacle of the show. As the table sat and waited, drinking Chef Po Bear’s favorite rum, the sound of sizzling marbled steak drove everyone at the table crazy.

With a caramelized crust and warm red medium-rare center, the prized cut of meat had a developed beef flavor due to the long dry age. Roasted sunchokes rested elegantly next to the steak, and tasted reminiscent of a potato; perched on the hunk of beef came a nest of crispy carrots and onions. 

To finish, the dessert, dubbed Milk and Honey, was that of a dream. It “features two of Chef Po Bear’s favorite flavors of all time,” Michael told the table, but it also featured almost every texture you could imagine.

Crunchy, creamy, gooey, sticky, sweet, salty, are just some of the things you can expect from the symphony made with two types of honeycomb, yogurt panna cotta, crispy sweet cream, chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, and bee pollen. It is rare to find a skillful chef that can create a balanced yet delicious dessert, many restaurants have both a pastry chef for the task. 

Just like the seasons that Chef Po Bear so adores, the menu is set to change as seasonal ingredients change. He even plans to switch up the “Cow”, claiming “while it is still in rotation here, I’ll be mixing it up a bit and giving people a reason to come back and try something new every time.”

So how do you get a seat at the select 14 person table of Cow by Bear, especially considering the location is a secret and there is not a telephone number to call? A little digging online and a quick email can get you on the list.