Geoff
06/02/09

Cochon 555

This past Sunday the imfoodblog.com staff was treated to an extra-special outing to Cochon555 at the Mandarin Oriental hotel here in Washington DC (with special thanks going out to our friends at www.foodbuzz.com!)

Cochon555 is a culinary competition to raise awareness for heritage breed pork between 5 chefs, each given 5 whole heritage breed pigs (oh and 5 vineyards). All our regular readers know that we love our pork, so we were all extremely excited to have the chance to attend.

The chefs/restaurants participating were:

  • Brian McBride of Blue Duck Tavern
  • R.J. Cooper of Vidalia
  • Nicholas Stefanelli of Mio
  • Jamie Leeds of Commonwealth Gastropub &
  • John Manolatos of Cashion’s Eat Place

How do five of DC’s finest chefs prepare five whole hogs? Jump with me to find out!

(Here’s a hint: Deliciously)

Follow up:

The above picture is a pork & bean shooter, topped with lardons, chive creme fraiche and homemade pork cracklins. The folks at Market Salamander in Middleburg VA put together this gem, and also shared some of their wonderful cured pork loin. I’ve been lucky enough to get out to their store, and they really do have some wonderful stuff! If you live in or around the DC area, I highly recommend taking a day trip out to Middleburg to check them out. (Do not miss the sausages or any of their home-cured bacon…)

Cowgirl Creamery was also there with this delicious cheese spread:

Our plate of cheese, and wonderful chicharrones (light, spicy pork rinds.) from 4505 Meats! The pork rinds were among the best things we ate all evening. I’m pretty sure we tried to squirrel some away as they were packing up… only to eat them all before we left!

This is Brady Lowe of the Taste Network, which puts on these Cochon555 events around the country. DC was the 9th stop of a 10 city tour! He’s giving us a run-down about what we are about to experience inside the hall.

This is the first thing we got to sample. What you see there is a fresh ham and homemade pork sausages from RJ Cooper at Vidalia.

Our plate of ham, sausage and chive biscuit. YUM!

Moving over to Blue Duck Tavern’s station: (They had placards out with the chefs pictures, which was helpful.) In this case, however, chef McBride wasn’t on hand. Understandable, as the event was timed concurrently with Sunday dinner service!

Blue Duck Tavern is one of our favorite restaurants in DC, and one of the (very) few that we frequent repeatedly-I had last eaten there about a month ago, and enjoyed a wonderful pair of perfectly prepared Berkshire chops, so we were excited to taste their offerings. (Click to enlarge to see the complete menu)

Here, you can see the mettwurst and red cabbage being prepared.

The fantastic looking pork loin:

Trotter croquettes being plated:

We were forced to show you pictures of these being prepared, because unfortunately, we were only able to try the mettwurst (which was excellent) as the folks at Blue Duck Tavern only made enough of most of their food to serve the judges. :(

Don’t worry, we will still head there whenever we need our bone marrow fix*.

*So not kidding about this. Slow roasted bone marrow served (in the bone) with roasted garlic. Possibly the best single dish in Washington DC.

This is chef John Manolatos from Cashion’s Eat Place.

Cashion’s Eat Place only had one dish, all based on a whole pork leg confit that just looked fantastic.

Here is a table of their dish, which was the pork confit wrapped in lettuce with pickled vegetables, cilantro, orange mint, and sambal.

Even though they included our hated cilantro (which we all of course picked off)the lettuce wraps were excellent.

During the entire event, they had a butcher demonstration with one of the hogs. If you’ve never seen an entire pig dispatched into familiar looking cuts, it is quite the show. This is Trey Massey, preparing the torso…

…as he had already removed the head and hind (Nick bought both of the tenderloins you see in this picture for the bargain basement price of $25).

Jamie Leeds from Commonwealth Gastropub was there in person.

Chef Leeds offered her take on head cheese, which was cut thick and simply delicious. (There were THREE takes on head cheese at the competition!)

Chef Leeds was gracious enough to pose for a picture with the imafoodblog.com staff. (Not shown: the imafoodblog.com staff - part of my arm and Sara’s hair). NOTE: We stuffed the ballot box for Chef Leeds…

The five chefs at the awards ceremony. Chef R.J. Cooper from Vidalia took home the top prize.

We had an absolutely wonderful time at this event. Not only did we get wander around tasting delicious bites of beautiful heritage pork, but we also got the chance to talk with many fellow porcine admirers and mingle with our fellow DC area food bloggers (especially PeteBakes, The Bitten Word and Macheesmo)

The evening ended with a raffle to win the belly from the pork that the butcher Trey Massey carved during the demonstration. A very apropos way to end the evening, and no, I definitely did NOT track the lucky winner down to give him advice as to what to do with that beautiful belly.

(OK, I actually did.)

A big thanks to the folks at Cochon555 for putting the whole thing together and our friends at Foodbuzz for giving us the opportunity to attend. It was amazing and I’m heartily looking forward to them coming around again soon!