So many festivals so little time. Literally the morning after Tales of the Cocktail wrapped on Saturday down in NoLa, think the Oscars of the bartending world, foodies were making a maddening cross country dash for The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Chelsea Ballroom.
At precisely 3:30 PM this past Sunday the doors to the ballroom swung open and guests, some still with luggage in hand, entered the first ever All-Star Cochon. For the uninitiated, Cochon 555 is a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event–five chefs, five pigs, five wine makers–to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs.
Each stop along the ten-city tour offers hard-working local farmers the opportunity to connect with like-minded agriculturalists, renowned chefs and the pork-loving public as 50 chefs are selected to prepare a ‘snout-to-tail’ menu from heritage breed pigs.
Though Cochon’s goal is to help family farms sustain and expand their businesses and to encourage breed diversity it is also a competition and the 10 regional winners from each year’s tour compete in Aspen at Grand Cochon during the Annual Food & Wine Classic.
This is the third year Cochon has taken its show on the road and they capped this season off with an All-Star event highlighting 14 chefs and butchers who are previous winners and fan favorites from the past three seasons. Though not a competition, All-Star Cochon drew some serious heavy hitters who all brought their A-game including Joshua Applestone of Fleisher’s Meats (NY), Mary Dumont of Harvest (Boston), the 2011 “King & Queen of Porc” Duskie Estes & John Stewart of Zazu (Sonoma), Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats (SF), Devin Knell of French Laundry (Napa), Mark Ladner of Del Posto (NYC), Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura of Lindy & Grundy (LA), Michael Sullivan of Blackberry Farm (Walland, TN), John Sundstrom of Lark (Seattle), Andy Ricker of Pok Pok (Portland), Jeremy Fox (Napa) and the 2010 “King of Porc” David Varley of Michael Mina (San Francisco). Alex Seidel of Fruition (Denver), winner of this year’s Denver Cochon 555, Jamie Bissonette of Coppa (Boston), winner of 2011 People’s Best New Chef, and Stephanie Izard of The Girl & The Goat (Chicago), winner of Top Chef (2008), rounded out the field.
Highlights from this bunch included Duskie Estes and John Stewart’s bacon in the batter waffles, Mary Dumont’s pork cotton candy (that matched Duskie’s pink wig!), John Sundstrom’ wicked good pork and pineapple tarte tatin, David Varley’s HamBurger with sour cherry ketchup that was accompanied by Pork E O’s (think an oreo, but with the cookie and cream made from lard), and Devin Knell’s amazing swiss army pig and sour morello cherry griebenschmaltz with lard crackers.
Chefs from The Cosmopolitan’s restaurant portfolio (including Scott Conant) were also on hand to serve up even more pork and non-pork nibbles. These included Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, China Poblano, Comme Ça, D.O.C.G, Estiatorio Milos, Holstein’s, Jaleo, STK, Scarpetta, and Wicked Spoon Buffet. Highlights from the Cosmo included Milos’ simply prepared lavraki (mild white fish), Jaleo’s iberco ham taco filled with osetra caviar, D.O.C.G.’s ricotta gnudi topped with summer truffle, and Holstein’s mindblowing adult (i.e. alcoholic) captain crunch shake topped with a peanut butter and bacon meringue –David Morris