Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cochon 555: Farms, Chefs, and Winemakers Celebrating Heritage Pork


I have an excellent meal prepared to show you to illustrate all the wonderful things my new food processor does for me, but first I have to share the inspiring and decadent event I attended last weekend in Des Moines: Cochon 555
This touring event draws attention to the work being done around the country by farmers, winemakers, and chefs to use high quality rare heritage breed meats.  Heritage breeds are the animal equivalent of heirloom strains of plants.  As you may have noticed if you shop at a large grocery store, modern pork has been bred to be extremely lean.  As a result, much of the flavor has been lost along with the fat.  Heritage breeds are less suited to being raised in CAFO's, and thus are raised almost exclusively on small farms.  These rare breeds and the farmers who care for them are extremely valuable to consumers.  Events like Cochon remind us that we vote with our dollars every time we eat, and that there are farms out there who deserve our support.   Read more about heritage breeds and where to find them around you here at Local Harvest.

Foodbuzz was kind enough to send me and a couple other bloggers to this event, and I think it was enough to convince me to go next year.  
Let's just say the evening started like this:

The event centered around five wineries, chefs, and heritage pigs from local farms.  

The chefs:

Cody Hogan from Lidia's Kansas City (yes, that Lidia)
George Formaro from Djano and Centro in Des Moines
Howard Hanna from River Club Kansas City
Hal Jasa from Homage in Des Moines
and last year's winner
Matt Steigerwald from Lincoln Cafe in Mt. Vernon

The wineries were from Napa, Williametee, and the local Des Moines Jasper Winery.

And the pigs were  Birkshires, a Glouchstershire Old Spots, a Red Wattle, and a Duroc.  

We got the party started with a little of that parm and some of these: (you bet La Quercia was there)

Wine of course.

The rest of the evening was a blur of pours and plates.  While I was given tickets, this event was well worth the money when considering only the quality and quantity of food served, let alone its charitable contribution.  

We sampled some beer from a brand new brewery in Newton, IA, Madhouse.

Hey, it's Chef Matt! Matt brought a bunch of sauages and even some lardon! (credit goes to Andy)  The rest of Matt's offerings included a posole, sausage, and a spring roll.

Another chef offered a small salad with an open-faced bbq pork sandwich.

This ravioli was luscious.  

This plate was from Howard, who was a very enjoyable person and obviously talented chef.  He had some fresh vegetables (radishes and pickled ramps), a small cuban, and more posole.  And that's a little blood gelatin on that shortbread.  Honestly I couldn't taste the blood, but the color was very striking.  He also brought some pork and beans with some pork rinds.  Delicious.

One of the most interesting things I got to see that night was a butchering demonstration.  This man took a whole pig and broke it down into the cuts we all know and love, which were then distributed by a drawing.  Watching the methodical way in which he teased the meat from bone inspired me to start doing more of my own butchering, and to offer even more respect to my butcher than I already do. 

The second photo is a little blurry, but I included it because I wanted to illustrate his technique.  He felt for the muscles before he started cutting.  Here, he's feeling for the shoulder, or butt.

I got to meet the lovely Diana from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa!  She soaked in the butchering process, as she plans to butcher a pig of her own this fall.  I was so pleased to finally meet Diana and encourage you to check out her blog.

I also got to see Kate again, from What Kate Ate!  Also a total pleasure to hang out with.  Stay tuned this month for a yoga project we're working on! 

Before judging they brought out a whole-roasted pig, and I caught Nick Bergus taking a picture.

I also saw Chef Kurt Friese from Devotay! (Would you believe I saw a bunch more people there that I  knew?  It was such a fun event.)

While the winners were announced, we munched on some porky desserts, all of which were fabulous.

Everyone was gracious and we eaters were thankful for all their work.  

Once again, Chef Matt from Mt. Vernon won.  He's going to have to fight Andy for that Templeton.

It was a lovely evening, and I recovered the next day with a little pho.

It was an excellent weekend and I can't wait until next year!  
See you very soon with a food-processor heavy post.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Long-Overdue Update: Flowers, Seeds, and Gadgets

My life has been so full these days, so I've been putting posting on the back burner.

I've been running outside thanks to this spring, which is most certainly one for the books.  In fact, I've been running alongside my dog and husband, which has been very satisfying family time.

I've been weeding.

Hanging out with my dog.

Going on walks.

Picking flowers.

Making lots of veggie pizza. 

I've also been starting my garden, downstairs.  I've got peppers and tomatoes going down here, along with two successive plantings of kale.  Watching seeds grow is facinating and a daily source of satisfaction.  I'm a little behind where I was last year, but things are moving along quickly.

In addition to the garden, we've decided to get a CSA this year from the lovely ZJ Farms in Solon, IA.  I had so much fun doing the One Share Project last summer and we're very appreciative to have such high quality local food available to us.  

We've also acquired a couple new kitchen accessories.  Our old French press needed to be replaced, so we upgraded to the 12 cup version.  We drink a lot of coffee and the press is our favorite way to have it.

More excitingly, my tiny three-cup food processor finally broke and we replaced it with this machine, a Cuisinart.  It has served us extremely well and I have a meal to share that shows how useful it is, but that is for another post.

My farmer's market begins on the first of May, and soon it will be the time of abundant green produce and easy meals.  Until next time, get out there and enjoy spring!

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