This evening, I was fortunate to attend Cochon 555 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston. Cochon 555 is a traveling show mounted by Taste Network. Five heritage pigs, five local chefs, and five winemakers gave their all to feed the attendees. (One could argue that the pigs gave more of their all than the chefs and the winemakers.)
The food was my main interest. Nonetheless, I enjoyed all of the wines. Four of the winemakers were from California. My special mention goes to the only local winemaker exhibiting, Westport Rivers, from Westport, Massachusetts. Westport Rivers had some really nice, clean sparkling wines, which went surprisingly well with the rich, fatty, and delicate pork flavors of the day. They make sparkling, white, and rosé wines, but no red wines. Their opinion is that red wine country starts around Long Island (New York) and stretches south from there; this sounds right to me.
The food was uniformly good. I arrived about 45 minutes after the event had started, and some of the items had already been devoured completely. Given that, I can only write about what I saw and ate. I spoke with the organizer afterwards, and she confirmed that the Boston crowd was gluttonous and fearless in the face of some potentially intimidating pig dishes.
Matthew Jennings from Farmstead in Providence prepared a Red Wattle from Lazy S. Farm in Cloud County, KS. He made some delicious carnitas (Mexican-style pulled pork), with house-made farmer's cheese, pickled onions, cilantro, etc. (See picture.)
Jamie Bissonnette from Toro had bánh mì (Vietnamese-style baguette sandwiches) featuring five different pig preparations, all at once: roast pork, head cheese, mortadella, pâté, and ham (I think!). I've always found bánh mì delicious but a little scary; among other things, I've always suspected that the "pâté" was actually Spam. No such worries in this case. It was delicious, and was certainly Meat Of Known Origin. His pig was a Yorkshire pig from Adams Family Farm in Athol, MA.
Jason Bond, of Beacon Hill Bistro, went whole-hog: He had several different preparations, including a pâté and a mortadella. But what got my attention was the pork loin roasted inside of the pig's head. (See picture.) The pig's face was modestly draped with leafy greens, perhaps so that no one would have to look at eye sockets with melted shriveled eyes in them. He also offered bacon marshmallows, plus sanguinaccio dolce, a preparation of chocolate, walnuts, and pig's blood, with cookies to spread it on. (See picture.) Nutella doesn't hold a candle to this stuff. His pig was a Berkshire from Newman Farms in Ozarks, MO.
Joseph Margate of CLINK was provided a Tamworth pig by Metzger Farms of Lamar, MO. His vision was a sort of ultimate "soup and sandwich". He made a sandwich out of 18-hour-roasted porchetta; it was so tasty that it needed no condiments at all. He paired this with a shot of pork consommé topped with a cube of deep-fried head cheese and a dab of truffle aioli. Yum.
Lastly, Tony Maws of Craigie on Main had at his disposal a Yorkshire Duroc Cross from PT Farm in North Haverhill, NH. Unfortunately, by the time I got to his table, all that was left were some toasts with pâté! They were great, but I'm sure I missed something interesting.
There were a couple of other noteworthy items. There were some great big bowls of seasoned rendered lard, along with bread to spread it on. This was quite delicious.
And for dessert, there was caramel-bacon popcorn, and a couple of types of bacon chocolate, at least one of which was made by Taza Chocolate (in Somerville, MA).
My "best of show" award goes to Jason Bond, the executive chef from Beacon Hill Bistro. I dug everything he made, and I really admired how he pushed the envelope.
The official judgment, based on a weighted average of audience votes (51%) and votes by the panel of judges (49%), gave the nod to Farmstead's Matt Jennings. He will move on to the finals!
I definitely have a few restaurants to visit.
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price: Rather that theorizing abstractly about human nutrition, the author sought out isolated groups of healthy people around the world (this was in the 1930s, when there were still isolated groups of people), and documented their foodways. Price's book is jaw-dropping (literally). He describes group after group of people who are healthy in isolation, and become sick, miserable, and toothless when they adopt a "modern" diet. Aren't you curious what they were eating when they were healthy? Full write-up coming soon.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, by Shizuo Tsuji and Yoshiki Tsuji: A masterwork on the subject of Japanese cuisine, and by extension, Japanese culture.
Winning Bicycle Racing, by Jack Simes: A short, fascinating book on the subject of bicycling, published in 1976, when the majority of men still wore moustaches. And as with any bicycling publication, there are some great facial expressions.
The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies, by Mark Booth: A truly fascinating, meticulously documented look at the evolution of human consciousness and religion. What are some of the connections among different religions' creation myths and pantheons? Why are there astrological and other "pagan" symbols in Christian rites? Did you know that "elohim", the Hebrew word in Genesis typically translated as "God", is actually a plural noun? And so on. N.B.: the book describes an almost exclusively male experience. I think Booth could have done more in the front material to explain this, or at least to notify the reader of the orientation.
The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy, by Sasha Issenberg: The history of sushi and the sushi supply chain, detailing the journey that your fish takes from the cold ocean to your neighborhood sushi bar, often by way of Tokyo. Sasha Issenberg focuses on the lives of the people involved in the sushi trade. Fascinating and well-written.
The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice, by Trevor Corson: The story of some students at a sushi academy—and more generally, the story of sushi itself. A wonderful book, entertaining, thorougly and carefully researched, and instructive. It makes me want to eat sushi. Or write about it. Similar, but only a bit, to The Making of a Chef, by Michael Ruhlman.
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