Cochon 555 kicked off their 10 city tour in “New Pork City” on January 26th. Chances are those that were early for the VIP session got a glimpse of Mario Batali wishing his chef at Babbo good luck. Rumor is it that Tom Colicchio also showed up to cheer on his chef from Craft. The competition started with the five chefs giving the VIP guests a sneak peek of two dishes from their six dish menus, which they prepared utilizing an entire heritage pig.
The VIP Hour also included Rappahannock River Oysters tastings, samplings from Rogue Creamery and Hudson Valley Fois Gras. They also had Mark Ladner of Del Posto hand chopping at the TarTare Bar featuring Creekstone Farms in the middle of the room.
Some of the libations that were offered came from Goose Island Beer Company, Crispin, and Breadcrumb by Groupon provided a Manhattan jarring station, which was a hit. As they do every year, bartenders competed in the Punch Kings competition with spirits from Breckenridge Distillery.
The event officially kicked off an hour later, The “Pop-Up Butcher Shop” opened and Sara Bigelow from The Meathook went to town butchering the heritage pig to raise money for the Culinary Institute of America for each piece of the pig that was sold. The chefs also went full force with their entire menus. At station 1, Chef Michael Toscana from Perla offered up dishes like a porchetta sandwich with pork broth and a dish called, Ciauscolo, a salami cannoli with persimmon mustardo.
Chef Lauren Hirschberg from Craft had a backyard theme to his station. Some of the dishes he offered up from the pig were assorted charcuterie, barbecue pork pulled shoulder and pork belly tacos, which were carved from the bone.
Seamus Mullen of Tertulia fame, had the most pig-centric setup with different tchotchkes adorning his table. Chef Mullen also labeled each dish, which took the guess work out of it. He used his pig to create sea salt and vinegar chicharrones, “Tongue N’ Cheeks,” terrine of smoked facial bits; tongue, cheeks, ears, snout, etc, and Duck and Foie Ballpark Frankfurter, among other dishes.
Just from those tastes alone, it’s hard not to be full already, but at least for voting-sake, the tasting show had to go on. In the far corner, Frank Langello from Babbo Ristorante and Enoteca worked on his pig to create dishes that reflected the work they do at the restaurant. Chef Langello churned out plates like Agnolotti in Brodo, Lasagna di Maiale and Ciasculo, complete with a Lardo pig that sat on the edge of their table.
Last but not least David Standridge from Market Table concocted bites like pâté en croute, made of pâté in pastry crust with pickled mustard seed on top and a pork sammy with liver mousse, chile baked ham, whipped lardo, pickled turnip and strong mustard. The crisp pork belly with kale salad and pine nut puree probably took the cake as a favorite from Market Table’s dishes.
Once voting was over, attendees did not get a break from food and were treated to 2009 Prince of Porc winner Corwin Kave’s Cochon Late Night Asian Speakeasy dish, to symbolize how top chefs dine when they’re not working. As the judges tallied votes, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams passed around ice cream sandwich bites and cones with Kings Country Distillery moonshine with corn syrup custard and double toasted pecans ice cream!
The time to announce winners had come and first up was the winner of the Punch Kings Competition was James Menite of Crown Restaurant, whose fat-washed punch appropriately included a prosciutto skewer. Seamus Mullen was able to win the NY leg of the Cochon 555 competition and beat out the other acclaimed chefs. He will compete in Aspen in June versus the other city winners for the overall Prince of Porc title.
For more information on Cochon 555 or for upcoming city tour dates, please visit: http://cochon555.com/.
– Stephanie Carino