A Year of Cochon555: Chicago 4/26 and Heritage BBQ 9/27

Portioning a Heritage Pig into cuts for sale at Cochon 555

Portioning a Heritage Pig into cuts for sale at Cochon 555

I was fortunate to visit Cochon 555 two times this year, once on April 26 and at the Heritage BBQ on September 27. For those of you who haven't been, it is a mission to educate chefs and consumers on heritage breed pigs raised by family farmers. It is a local mission as well, which donates to local charities and promotes farm to table produce and pork. The tour has hit many US cities: NYC, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, DC, Denver, Aspen, Miami, Austin, Minneapolis and has ventured up to Canada in Toronto.

On my visits, I had the pleasure of tasting heritage breed pork prepared by some of this city's finest chefs like Nathan Sears of The Radler, Chris Marchino of Spiaggia, John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina, Nicole Peterson of Found Kitchen, Kurt Guzowski and Thomas Rice of TETE Charcuterie, Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder, Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia, Erik Freeberg of Bar Toma, 2012 King of Pork Jason Vincent, Edward Sura of Perennial Virant, Scott Manley of Table, Donkey & Stick, Phil Wingo of Pork Mafia, Alfredo Nogueira of Analogue, Chris Curren of Seven Lions, Dave Ochs of upcoming Maple & Ash, Mitch Cavanah of GT Fish & Oyster, Chrissy Camba of Maddy's Dumpling House and Jonathan Meyer of Freehand. Now each chef was in competition and given a 180 pound heritage hog to make 6 different dishes for the voting crowd. There was a large variety of cooking style like at Cochon 555 and at Heritage BBQ with Hibachi, Korean BBQ, Asador, Braai from Africa, Char Siu, Caja China, Churrasco and Barbacoa.

I tasted many dishes like Feijoada (confit shoulder, roast loin, linguica, black beans, pickled ramps and broth, malagueta salsa), Blood & Ham (blood & rye cake, shaved extrawurst, dill cream cheese, cucumbers), Pork Candy Bar (smoked lard caramel, crispy pig ears, chicharones, dark chocolate and sea salt), Pork Belly Huaraches (crispy corn huarache with mole, cilantro and pickled pig skin), Gnocchi della Spina (potato gnocchi, spinal ragu, pork sugo, parmigiano), Dashi Braised Pork Belly, Asado de Tira Ribs, Grilled Sweatbreads in Chimichurri Rojo and many more. It's like a pork orgy in an array of culinary style- an amazing experience.

There's also great wine, spirits, cocktails (Smoked Manhattans from Breckinridge!), punches and cheese on display to keep your taste buds moving, thirsts quenched. And there's always butchers on hand to cut and portion heritage pork for you to take home- get your creative juices flowing and dress up a prime cut with your favorite recipe or just throw it on the grill.

I would recommend for anyone to save up and grab a ticket when they come to your town in 2016- tickets start around $100 and the VIP experience is the best where you get to enter an hour earlier than everyone else- I was able to taste about 75% of the room before the hour was up! See you at Cochon 555 2016!

Delicious Pork everywhere- even in dessert form!

Delicious Pork everywhere- even in dessert form!

A room full of Chef made Heritage Pork creations- where to start?

A room full of Chef made Heritage Pork creations- where to start?

Best dressed guy (always) fellow Sommelier Philippe Andre of Mo ë t & Chandon

Best dressed guy (always) fellow Sommelier Philippe Andre of Moët & Chandon

BaconFest Chicago

If you haven't made the trek to BaconFest, you'd better start planning for 2016.  It is a show of culinary porkdom, craft cockpigtailing, smokey sensory meaty goodness.  I waded through a sea of people looking for a pork fix, piggy tricks and drink mix.  There were cooks from Chicago restaurants like Big Jones, Duck Inn, Epic, Lockwood, Perennial Virant and Taco Joint. Meaty, salty eats everywhere surrounded by beer from Lagunitas, Goose Island and Lakefront Brewery along with Wirtz cocktails.

The biggest quandary on what to do is where to start or how.  I figured it was best to start in the middle and work my way out, taking small bites from each vendor to save my stomach for later, while grabbing cocktails from Templeton Rye and Tito's and foregoing gutstuffing brews. 

Wading my way through the masses, I managed to find my favorites:

- Tanta (118 W Grand Ave).  They made my favorite dish of the Fest, a Chicharron Glazed Bocado, a spicy thick piece of bacon with pineapple which had the right amount of everything. Delicious

- Kanela Breakfast Club (1408 N Milwaukee Ave).  This was an extremely close 2nd, with an amazing dessert- Bacon Infused Loukoumades (Greek Donut) accompanied by the most outrageous candied bacon I've ever tasted!

- The Duck Inn (2701 S Eleanor St).  The most insanely delicious hot dog ever- The Frankenduckie: a duck fat dog wrapped in bacon with cheese sauce, pickled jalapeno and Calabrian chili relish. 

- Acre (5308 N Clark St).  Chicken Liver and Bacon Pate which was so delicious I almost asked for fourths!

- Sheekar Delights (Glenview IL).   One of the best Baklava ever with bacon, pistachio, walnuts and simple syrup, which made it lighter and better.

- Velvet Taco (1110 N State).  The Cuban Pig: a taco stuffed with grain mustard, slow roasted chili rubbed pork butt, cured ham, applewood peppered bacon, gruyere and pickles.  Perfect Cuban taco.

- Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse & The Budlong (6954 N Western Ave).  Nashville Hot Chicken Club was an insanely heat rubbed chicken paired with Nueske's smoked bacon.  I love the heat.

- Old Town Pour House (1419 N Wells St).  Ebel's Weiss Braised Pork Belly.  It was like pot roast but 100x more delicious with onion marmalade, red pepper coulis and sweet serrano chili pepper.  Love love love.

It's so hard to stop talking about the food but I'll stop there and leave your imaginations (and drooling) to wander).  Too many cocktails to think about my favorite with Koval, Tito's and Templeton Rye in the house.  You'll have to taste through the madness!  

Windy City Wine Guy trying to entertain his Wife   

Windy City Wine Guy trying to entertain his Wife