Yesterday was National Pig Day
. To celebrate, Georgia-based Taste Network
held the Portland edition of Cochon 555,
a national series of contests in which five chefs each get a pig and vie to prove their mastery of pork
while five winemakers offer samples, at the Ecotrust building. The event, a fundraiser for the Raphael House
, was preceded by a reception with a tasting of roasted shoulders from the five pigs, each of which was a different heirloom breed (see above) and baskets of pork rinds.
At 6 pm the competition proper began, as the chefs (Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches, Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place, John Gorham of Toro Bravo, Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon and Alex Bourgidu of Porta
) squared off with their dishes at prep stations in a crowded conference room and the attendees, most of whom had paid $125 for the pleasure, began eating.
The things I remember putting in my mouth over the course of an hour include: some sort of headcheese
on toast; an excellent cassoulet
by Gabriel Rucker; a variety of offal
, including head cheese, liver terrine, sous vide
loin with heart and kidneys, a liver sausage and cracklins by John Gorham; a banh mi
(Vietnamese sandwich) of some sort of gelatinous pork concoction
by Tommy Habetz; ginger-braised pork
on a butter lettuce leaf and salad with porcetta by Alex Bourgidu; and, most impressive of all, "Pig in a Sausage blanket" by Vitaly Paley—a pork loin wrapped in bacon, then sausage, then caul fat.
I did not try another dish of Habetz', which appeared to be some sort of pig milkshake
, or the "pig shots" of pork juice and spirits that were passed around prior to the event. Even I have limits.
Paley (right, with crew) was crowned "Prince of Porc" for the night, thanks, I assume, to that amazing pork roll. Here's his menu for the night, in its entirety:
Testarosa (rolled head sous-vide), 5 day cedar smoked prosciutto, Consommé royale (bacon and truffle custard, Oregon truffles, cured ham, chervil), Crispy Black Pudding and Bacon Hollandaise, Pig in a Sausage blanket, trotter and hock stew, elderflower braising jus, crispy skin and rocket salad (pork loin wrapped in bacon, sausage, and caul fat. Served with a hock and trotter stew, elderflower brazing jus, apples, and red onions. Topped with a salad of crispy cider syrup glazed pork skins, apples and rocket)
And then Adam Sappington, of The Country Cat,
demonstrated how to butcher a pig.