Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cochon 555 Boston

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.


JacquelineC said...

actually the judges voted on three aspects and our collective votes counted for 49% it was the the people's 51% on taste that decides, i think

Alex Lewin said...


Thanks for the correction. I've updated my post to reflect it.


Unknown said...

awww, I am sad I missed this. Thanks for your elaborate account of the evening. Looks like a great time!!