Pork. It's "The Other White Meat." But it's not supposed to be. The chops you pull out of most supermarket meat cases have been cut from commodity pigs, scientifically bred over the past forty years to be lean and basically as much like chicken as possible. They would've put wings on them if they could. When we engineer an animal to grow as quickly and have little fat as is possible, we lose most of what made it taste so great in the first place. One of the reasons we saw so much pork belly in restaurants recently is that it's one cut (unlike the rib or loin) that's still fatty and thus has a lot of flavor. Disappointingly, it's now even become common practice to inject many pork cuts with a salt solution before they hit the shelves in an effort to replace some of the flavor that has been removed from it through these breeding practices.
The good news is that there is an alternative; heritage breed pigs. They're more costly to raise because they require open pastures and don't grow as quickly as commodity swine, and that cost is passed down to us, making heritage pork more expensive and comparatively less accessible--one usually has to go to a real butcher, CSA, or decent restaurant. But, it makes all the difference and thankfully, chefs like Robert Harris understand that pork is pork, and not an alternative to chicken. He served locally raised heritage breed pork at his table last month.
This Sunday, we'll be getting another fill of the good stuff at Cochon 555, a culinary event designed to celebrate heritage breed diversity and pork that tastes like it should. Cochon is stopping at the Fairmont Copley Plaza with five beautiful heritage breed pigs as part of its ten city tour, now in its third season. They may provide the pigs, but Boston provides the talent. Five local chefs--Matt Jennings of Farmstead, Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, Lydia Shire of Locke Ober (among others), Mary Dumont of Harvest, and Will Gilson of Garden at the Cellar--will prepare a nose-to-tail tasting menu from heritage breed pigs. Attendees and local expert judges will vote on the best plates and regional winners will compete in this year's 2011 Food and Wine Classic.
Tickets run $125, steep, but wine pairings are included. $175 will fetch get you a VIP ticket, allowing its holder early entry, a VIP offering of wines, spirits, cheeses, and oysters. Here's a picture of the whole pig breakdown demo from last year, something we're looking forward to Sunday. Check back next week for our thoughts.
Sunday, January 30th. 3:30pm VIP opening, 5pm general admission. Fairmont Copley Plaza (138 St. James Ave, Boston). More information at Cochon555.com. Download their Field Guide to Heritage Breed Pigs (pdf).