This past weekend, I headed to the 3rd Annual Cochon 555 culinary competition where 5 chefs used 5 pigs (paired with 5 winemakers) came together to promote heritage breed pigs and breed diversity. And to promote the eating of lots and lots of pork.
On Sunday, January 23, 2011, food critics, judges, and guests alike all gathered at The Lighthouse to sample pork dishes paired with wine in a great battle of talent. The five chefs of the night were Bill Telepan of Telepan Restaurant; Sean Rembold of Marlow & Sons; George Mendez of Aldea Restaurant; Peter Hoffman of Savoy; and Brad Farmerie of Public Restaurant. The winning chefs will compete against other regional winners at the finale Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, on June 19th, 2011 – a prize well worth fighting for.
What are heritage pigs and why are they so important? Well, the Cochon 555 guide dishes all:
“Heritage breed pigs come from bloodlines going back hundreds of years when livestock was raised on multi-use, open-pasture farms. Because of their lifestyle and inherent genes, different breeds became known for a variety of characteristics, including the rich and hearty taste of their meat, distinct marbling, bacon flavors and creamy fat.”
“The additional care and time involved in raising heritage breed pigs makes them more expensive to raise than other pork. Raised naturally, with a purpose and passion, these pigs mature as Mother Nature intended. They take longer to gain weight because of their indigenous diets, and the fact that they are raised on open pastures.”
Each station had several chefs and workers all toiling tirelessly and speedily putting together dishes to be served. They also put together special plates for the judges who decided who would be crowed as the “Prince of Porc.”
The five wineries we tasted were from Scholium Project, Alysian Winery, Elk Cove Vineyards, Copain Wine Cellars, and Failla Wines. In addition to the wine and pork, VIP guests were invite earlier to sample a special tasting of Murray’s Cheese, Island Creek Oysters, and Black River Caviar. To curb our thirst, champagne with St. Germain added some sweetness to our palate.
In between feasting, we stopped to watch the butcher competition, where two butchers pitted their carving talents against one another. Jose Manuel Alarcon from Dickson’s Farmstand worked effortlessly and with ease. On the opposite end was Lowell Carson of Double L Ranch who was super focused and clearly takes his meat very seriously.
Telepan served up a delicious mini pulled pork sandwich on a dense biscuit, next to a bacon and radish sandwich. Savoy served German-styled charcuterie and beer sausages with all the right sauces and spices. Marlow & Sons presented us with a cured “pigstrami” with sauerkraut, and the clever name has stuck. Aldea had a bizarre pork liver pâté that did not suit me, but they had my favorite dish, which happened to be a dessert: a beignet of fried dough coated with bacon sugar (that’s right, you saw it correctly: bacon sugar) with a scoop of bacon ice cream.
In the end, it was the Public team took home grand trophy and will be the NYC representative at the finals at the Food & Wine Festival in Aspen. Congratulations!
NYC was Cochon 555‘s first stop of the national tour, and they’ll also be visiting Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and, finally – Aspen, Colorado. Don’t be surprised if you find me following them on their tour like a die-hard groupie.
Magnalitsa – Mosefund Farms
Berkshire – Newman Farms Berkshire
Rede Wattle – Heritage Foods USA
Old Spot – Flying Pigs Farm
TBD – Fleisher’s Grass Fed-Meats
Berkshire – Raven & Boar