Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ - A Pork-tastic Event
Last Sunday [October 4] was a dreary day in the Nation's Capital, but it was immediately brightened and made better with the Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ event at Union Market. This culinary competition, which is part of a five-city exhibition tour across North America, has three goals: (1) to promote and educate individuals about heritage breed pigs (2) to highlight grilling cultures from around the world and (3) to raise funds for a local cause.
Given my predilection for pork and grilled foods, I was excited about this bash. As I arrived at Dock 5, spare ribs and oysters were on the grill waiting for guests to take that first delicious bite or slurp ;-) I grabbed a dry-hopped farmhouse ale from Blue Jacket and a pork belly taco that rightfully teased my palate for what was coming up afterwards. Heritage pork and A LOT of it!
Five notable chefs from DC - Nicholas Stefanelli (Masseria), José Adorno (Graffiato), Sam Molavi (Compass Rose Bar & Kitchen), Will Morris (Vermillion) and RJ Cooper (Rogue 24) - instantly brought heat to this friendly concours. Each chef was given an entire heritage breed pig (these pigs which are humanely raised are known for their juiciness, flavor and tenderness) and was challenged to come up with six dishes. They were then graded on 'utilization, global influences, cooking techniques and overall flavor.' Some of my favorites from this talented pool included Chef Molavi's six global dishes, Chef Adorno's Sopa de Habichuelas and Chef Stefanelli's chocolate cannolis (with rose scented ricotta) fried in pork fat (yes, pork fat and it was incredible). Now you are probably wondering who won ... the crowned King of Porc was ... (drum roll please) ... Chef José Adorno with his Puerto Rican themed dishes. Congratulations, Chef!
On that note, there was also a non-competitive tasting element, titled BBQ Traditions. Eleven equally remarkable chefs (Kyle Bailey of Birch and Barley, Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto, Scott Drewno of The Source, Victor Albisu of Del Campo, Jeremey Waybright of Boss Shepherd's, just to name a few) prepared one dish from their preferred BBQ culture. My vote went to Chef Danny Lee (of Mandu), who incidentally was crowned King of Porc at Cochon 555 last March, for his L.A.-Style Galbi, a Korean BBQ marinated beef short rib dish.
As music filled the air, my fellow pork enthusiasts and I happily went from table -to-table and indulged in global bites prepared by the competing and non-competing chefs, sipped on wine and artisanal drinks, enjoyed creamy cheeses and delighted in desserts that satisfied the sweet tooth. And if guests wanted to try their hand at making their own dishes with heritage pork, there was a pop-up butcher shop, where cuts from a Mulefoot heritage breed pig from Spring House Farm were being sold and a portion of the proceeds went to support Piggy Bank, a charity which aims to increase opportunities for local family farms and L'Academie de Cuisine, a professional cooking school based in Maryland.
In short, this was a fantastic foodie affair. Therefore, I highly recommend that you check out one of the Cochon 555 events in a city near you, whether it is its national event, heritage BBQ or Chef's Course Friday Dinner series. You won't regret it. I mean these events actually encourage you to pig out and how can you say no to that?! ;-)