Thanks to my friend and former contributor Chef Jay, I was alerted to Cochon555 in Los Angeles a few months back.
5 chefs face off cooking 5 heritage pigs with 5 wineries providing wine to pair. Such a glorious event befitting to be held in a former church in Downtown Los Angeles, Vibiana.
Chef Jay told me to volunteer, probably thinking they might let civilians into the kitchen to help. Of course, they were using local culinary students for that. But I volunteered nonetheless. And I dragged Aaron of Savory Hunter with me. And what a sport he was too, since he doesn't eat pork. But he did get to have the wine.
Octavio Becerra of Palate Food & Wine cooked a popular Berkshire. Chad Colby of Mozza nose-to-tailed a Hampshire. Tim Goodell of Public Kitchen & Bar served up succulent Spotted Poland China. Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station showed off the all American Hereford. And Joshua Whigham of The Bazaar went to town with the rare Red Wattle.
Wines were provide by the Scholium Project, Alysian, Arnot-Roberts, Copain Wines, and Red Car Wine. None of which I got to taste.
If you came through the gate on Sunday, you probably have talked to me or seen me. While I didn't know a lot of people there aside from Matt of Dig Lounge (his recap here), I got to marvel at all the people Aaron knows and was chatting with like LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold, and Erika Nakamura and the Lindy & Grundy's butcher shop gang.
Oh, and you guys would be so proud of me that I didn't scream and faint and/or beg for photo op when Michael Voltaggio turned up with his posse.
Clare, the volunteer organizer, did tell us to relief each other so all 6 of us could experience the event better. 2 volunteers went off into the event, and we never really saw them again. And I'm not a kind of gal who'd abandon ship when I made the commitment to come to WORK the event. Naturally, I was working through the whole thing and didn't get to enjoy the event the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
And I didn't bring my D40. You know, I didn't want my DSLR slathered in pork fat. It's just getting in the way of things. ;-)
But I did get some good pics from my phone and also get to sample some great stuff though. In the VIP area, I snagged me a sample of beer from Eagle Rock Brewery when we weren't too busy. Then after the rush, I answered Clare's plea that all of the GIANT oysters be eaten and cheeses from the Cheese Store in Silver Lake be consumed.
When I got a chance to do the round in the main event, all the lines were so long that I didn't want to get in one because I wanted to be fair to other volunteers. So I ended up sampling around the place, not at the chef's stations.
I had my first taste of technically raw pork--seared Iberico Fresco. It's the same pork that will eventually be cured up to that famous Jamon Iberico de Bellota. It was almost like tasting sushi, sweet and delicious.
Then I had more than my share of Devil's on Horseback, one with smoked bacon and one with prosciutto. And there was this blue cheese and bacon shortbread things that I would eat by the bucketful. I also fell in love with the odd pairing of prosciutto from Gourmet on Wheels with Hazelnut Orange Cinnamon chocolate from H3 chocolate. I hung around their table so much I was given 3 hunks of chocolate to review later. LOL.
Oh, and I got some mercifully strong samples of Johnny Appleseed cocktail from the fantastic St. Germain's cocktail too. Addictive!
While Aaron posted at the gate once the event started, I went into relief the poor couple that was manning t-shirt sales inside. Lance went around to get himself and his wife Sheila some food, and at some point he got me a plate too (I didn't know from which chef) but overzealous wait staff took it away while I was busy selling shirts.
By the time I got to do my final walk around, most stations have run out of food and/or were packing up. From Chef Tim Goodell's station, I got just a sampling of the pig's head and trotter sausage and posole and a shot of some really earthy but delicious cocktail to wash that down. While the sausage blew my mind, the posole was missing salt in a big way.
Then I moseyed over to see what was left at Chef Chad Colby's station and there was a few big chunks of sausage left uncut as the chef and crew were cleaning up. I told the chef that I was sad I didn't get to taste his food today. He told me to take the whole chunk of his nose-to-tail salami. Before he changed his mind, I stabbed it with a fork and walked away. I went around the rest of the party gnawing on my pork lollipop.
I almost missed Chef Neal Fraser's Porcelet de Lait pig roasts too. But I cruised by right before they rolled the cart out and was invited to pick up the pieces. Since I didn't have plate, with salami lollipop in one hand, I shamelessly dunk my other hand into the carcass and picked on all the morsels soaked in delicious pork fat. These little milk-fed piglets yield buttery, juicy tender meat--best I've ever had. I peered around to find a piece of skin when one of the chefs tossed me an ear which I quickly shoved in my mouth and happily gnawed away. I didn't care about the pork fat running down my arm. I was such a happy girl.
And happier yet when Chef Chad Colby won the competition that night. Pork karma!
As people rolled into the party bus heading to the after party at Public Kitchen + Bar, Aaron and I said our goodbyes and headed off to each of our own blissful evening. Sleep for him. And belly full of pork for me.