The Pork Flowed Like Wine at Cochon 555 [New York City events]
It's been a few hours since I've been home from yesterday's Cochon 555 (website) in New York, and my hair still smells like pork. No joke: The smell hit us like a greasy, meaty wall as soon as we entered the Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel.
The "555" in the event's title refers to the components of the event: 5 heritage breed pigs, 5 restaurants, 5 winemakers. At a whopping $125 a head, we expected the pig to say hello and serve up its own trotter, but we had to sate ourselves with the free-flowing wine, as much food as we were willing to wait in line for, a good crowd and an upbeat atmosphere.
People were friendly, strangers kept introducing themselves and chatting about the pig. Not bad, as these things go. Maybe because it was a mid-afternoon thing, there were lots of couples with babies (even a few strollers parked incongruously next to one of the wine tables). Zak Pelaccio's toddler son was running underfoot, alternately being cute as a button and coughing on Fatty Crab's plates of seriously juicy pork drowned in fish sauce and deep-fried sambal.
But the point was the pork:
Pelacchio and the Fatty Crab team's Malaysian/Thai/whatever fish sauce weirdness aside (seriously, who masks the flavor of heritage pork with freaking fish sauce?), I was really surprised that there wasn't a single showing that involved something southern, no barbecue or even straight-up bacon. The Mosefund Farm team had simultaneously the worst and most out-of-the-box component: A "pork dirty martini" of aquavit and pickled cubes of fatback. It tasted like raw pork on a slice of rye bread. In a bad way. Their other serious miss, what I think was a pig liver bread pudding, was more than offset by some perfect braised belly with pickled shallots.
Good but not spectacular showings came out of Resto and Eighty One, who stuck to basics: Resto had blood-sausage tartlets with applesauce, Belgian waffles with bacon whip, and some seriously delicious house-made boudin blanc. Eighty One delivered unpleasantly cold porchetta with some gummy belly and a little shrubbery of frisee salad.
The longest lines were at the Del Posto table, for a random-but-brilliant hodgepodge of mini hot dogs, testa, and bean soup. They were also handing out giant slices of perfect cracklings, and once the hot dogs ran out they had a bowl of chocolate covered espresso beans doused in pork fat and smoked salt. I waited in the (really long, really disorganized) lines for most of the restaurants' offerings, but Del Posto's was really just the flat-out best. I cast my ballot for them as soon as ballots came out, but ridiculously I wasn't in the majority — Fatty Crab won. I call bullshit.
– special EMD contributor Emily