Cochon 555 - a feast of pork and wine in Northern California
I was delighted to hear that I was invited to attend Cochon 555 as part of my internship with Culture. The event took place last Sunday at the Culinary Institute of America in St Helena, Napa.
The VIP room commenced at 3.30pm. As I meandered around the room with my St Germain cocktail, that was kindly handed to me on entry, I picked up various bites including Black River Caviar canapés, sustainable oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company (my first – I can’t say that this was a pleasant experience!), crispy strips of bacon that were displayed in jars on almost every table, and plentiful doses of artisan cheeses from Cheese Plus.
Our friend Ray Bair at Cheese Plus also presented a bubbling pot of Smoky Creole Tasso Ham Fondue. I think the fact that I consumed at least four servings of this delicious goo says enough about how much I enjoyed it!
We were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of the “pièce de résistance”… cider-glazed pigs smoked with a collection of fruity woods. Look at those spectacular colors!
Inside the main event were five chefs, five winemakers and five pigs. The chefs each prepared dishes from a 150-175 pound heritage breed hog from head to toe. After sampling the prepared pork dishes paired with a glass (or five) of wine from the five selected winemakers, guests and local judges chose the winner of the competition based on presentation, utilization and overall flavor.
Some of the culinary works of art that were on offer included blood and tongue sausage, shredded pork with coconut and pineapple, bacon waffles, Asian pork buns, lard on toast and the most delectable pork pie that I have ever tasted.
I generally prefer my desserts less sweet, however, they always seem to win me over at any food competition. For me, there was no contest for the best dish. It was actually the Toffee Bacon Chocolate Lollipop that I took home with me and consumed the next day. The texture of the toffee wasn’t jaw-breaking, yet required a substantial amount of force to bite into which was rewarded by the salty, caramelised and subtly meaty flavor. I am so sad that I failed to take home more than one of these rare and delectable finds.
As the end of the evening drew closer, there was still so much to try, yet, my stomach was completely full and almost on the verge of popping! My taste buds had certainly been tickled by the explosive (but rather salty) culinary adventure. The various samples of wines and cocktails just added to my fuzzy contentment.
The five renowned chefs from Northern California included Dave Cruz from Ad Hoc, Duskie Estes and John Stewart from Zazu, Charlie Parker from Plum, Curtis de Fede and Tyler Rodd from Oenotri and Brand Sharp from Olbar. The five winemakers at the event were Pey-Marin Vineyards, Ladera Vineyards, Scholium Project, Domaine Serene and K Vinters.
All in all, it was an exceptionally enjoyable afternoon.
For more details about the event check out the Cochon 555 website.