Spent last weekend in Seattle attending the Cochon 555. It was a fantastic weekend, sunny and cold, perfect weather for a porkapalooza! The Cochon 555 brings together 5 award winning local chefs, each cook one of 5 locally raised heritage pigs, and 5 local wineries offer up their wines to accompany all of the dishes. Yes it’s decadence and gluttony, but with a message and a cause.
The event celebrates local farmers who have embraced small sustainable farming and have helped to save breeds of pigs that were in danger of going extinct. Farmers whose pigs live in pastures, forage, wallow, make babies the old fashioned way, and on their final day are dispatched humanely.
Big Ag created the “other white meat” using genetic engineering and massive ad campaigns in an attempt to convince the American public that cheaper was better than taste, texture and the humane treatment of the animal. Big Ag, big corporate dollars and modern science create millions of enormous white pork monsters, pen them, inseminate them, and raise them in football field size facilities that look and smell like cesspools. Not what I want on my table and I’m happy to say not what a lot of other people want either.
Me & a big farmer in the background
It was a lavish event with all you can eat bacon on every table! We also slurped up sustainably raised oysters, caviar, cheeses, wines, breads….and all of that before eating what the chefs had cooked!
Best part of the evening for me was watching the head-to-head competition of 2 local butchers in a speed cutting match. They were given a side of pork, a cut-list and 40 minutes to carve, trim and tie up the prettiest pork possible. They had entirely different techniques and approaches to the cuts which was interesting for me to see, and apparently for a lot of others too. These guys were the rock stars of the night! I seriously thought people were gonna start asking for their autographs! Awesome to see butchers getting some long overdue respect.
Meat cutting demo with Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats
Mrs. Black Belt Butcher was kind enough to stand in line at all of the chef stations and then bring me back the plates of porky goodness so that I didn’t have to miss any of the cutting action. Turns out that there must have been 555 people at the Cochon and the lines were soooooo long that we weren’t even able to make it thru some of the stations before they ran out of food.
Logistically the event had some flaws. Three of the chefs seriously did not think thru how to plate and feed a crowd of that size and it was frustrating for the guests. There was a lack of tables so people ended up having to balance wine glasses and plates while trying to eat. Again frustrating. If you were lucky enough to snag the corner of a table you first needed to push away a 6 deep pile of dirty plates and glasses. Don’t know what the staff of the Westin Seattle were paid to do, but it certainly wasn’t clearing tables. Nuff said.
The chef we voted for didn’t win, Holly Smith, but she put out the best bite of the night if you ask me (which they didn’t by the way). It was pork ice cream with a bacon toffee brittle. Really, it was the best tasting dish of the night! Sweet, rich, porky, salty and crunchy. Delicious.
All in all an enjoyable event made all the better by the cause it supports. However the pork hangover was a bitch.
And the winner is...Ethan Stowell