Back in December my friend Michael Sullivan, the butcher from The Inn at Blackberry Farm, asked if I could get some volunteer students to help at the opening of this year's Cochon 555 on Jan 23rd 2011. Cochon 555 is a ten city tour competition and it's purpose is to bring awareness to heritage breed pigs and small market farmers. It features five outstanding chefs, five breed of pig and five quality vintners all combining for a great time. At each tour location a winner is selected by a panel of judges and they will later compete at the final in Aspen to see who is the king or queen of pork! http://www.cochon555.com/menu/mission/ The founder of Cochon 555, Brady Lowe, then asked if I would like to conduct a demo and be one of 20 judges for the event. Hard to resist!
The event was amazing. The five chefs were given their hogs about a week or so ahead and were asked to prepare a nose to tail menu. The rules are pretty basic, prepare as many dishes that utilize the whole pig and present it with an explanation. The chefs presented at the judges table, giving a description of each item. The NYC chefs included Bill Telepan from Telepan Restaurant, Sean Rembold from Marlow and Sons, George Mendes from Aldea Restaurant, Peter Hoffman from Savoy, and the winner of this round Brad Farmerie from Public Restaurant. All presented amazing dishes and showcased their creative abilities with numerous braises, terrines, soups, crisps, pastries, pork infused everything!
Part of the mission of Cochon 555 is to showcase heritage breeds of swine and the assortment of pigs represented didn't disappoint. The pork used were all from unique niche market growers using their own particular feeding styles. There was Berkshire from Raven and Boar which was raised similar to pigs used for Parma ham, feeding them whey from cheesemaking. The Mangalitsa pig came from Mosefund Farm which Michael Clampfer feeds a diet partially of barley and acorns. There was also a Rede Wattle from Heritage Foods USA, an Old Spot pig from Flying Pig Farm and a Duroc cross from Fleischer's of Kingston. There was also a couple of butchery demos, one by yours truly featured a milk fed "porcelet de lait" mid sized pig from St. Canut Farm in Quebec which was provided by D'Artagnan distributors. The other was a competition demo between two Lowell Carson and Jose Manuel Alarcon featured a large Berkshire raised by Mark Newman of Newman Farm.
Twenty two students from the Culinary Institute of America joined the action as volunteers. The meatroom MIT Spencer Lee helped organize it and we all met at the location, The Lighthouse at Chelsea Pier. The students did a great job helping with the chefs in the kitchen, preparing appetizers, serving and generally were there when hands were needed. In return they got a chance to mingle and network with the chefs, farmers, winemakers and all of the guests.
Besides the heritage pork dishes there was a fine display of cheese presented by Murray's Cheese and wonderful charcuterie fromDebragga and Spitler. There was also some Black River Caviar Oesetra from Uraguay and Island Creek Oysters but I somehow managed to miss that tasting.
The wineries were also well representedby Copain Wine Cellars, Alysian winery, Elk Cove Vineyards, Failla Wines and Scholium Project. I enjoyed the Savignon Blanc from Scholium Project. It was slightly cloudy with super strong apricot tones that made you think it was going to be overpowering but it was very pleasant and went very well with the rich pork.
On a final note Bobby Hellen of Resto brought in a roast half hog that was carved and served on a waffle that was sooo delicious. My own demo pig, the porcelet was boned and rolled with porcetta spices and roasted. Its skin was a perfect wafer thin crisp.
Cochon555 moves on to Boston next weekend and then on from there. Check out their site. www.cochon555.com