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Feast: Cochon 555

January 31, 2011

Cochon 555 is best described by this traveling event’s brief tagline:

5 Chefs, 5 Pigs, 5 Wine makers

But a quick trip to Cochon 555’s website gives you a lengthier explanation, via their Mission: 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. Our goal is to help family farms sustain and expand their businesses and to encourage breed diversity. Cochon 555 is the only heritage breed pig culinary competition in the country.

Great idea, great cause, and in Boston last night, great chefs at a great venue – The Fairmont Copley Plaza. Two of my favorite chefs – Scampo’s Lydia Shire and Hungry Mother’s Barry Maiden- were competing, so even if bacon wasn’t one of my favorite food groups, I would still have been excited to attend.

The 5 wine makers and 5 chefs were set up at booths along the perimeter of the Fairmont’s ball room, and guests lined up to try the offerings from each.  While options like “pig newtons,” “bacon baklava,” and bacon cotton candy were interesting to try, it didn’t take more than a bite of these to fill up on whimsy. While experimentation is great, sometimes it can get a little too haughty.

options from Garden at the Cellar

Bacon Cotton Candy from Harvest

My three favorite dishes of the evening were:
1. Lydia Shire’s donut
2. Will Gilson’s chicharrone with aioli
3. Mary Dumont’s pork rillettes with mustard and cornichon

All three were fantastic, simple executions of excellent pork (or lard), sans affect or hubris.

My favorite full tables were Lydia Shire and Barry Maiden (not suprising). Lydia was holding court- and holding up the crowd as her line grew to the full length of the room. But it was a warm and festive atmosphere, and with a glass in your hand and bacon being passed around in mason jars, who really minded a little wait? Once I got to Lydia’s station, she was carving a ham and hand-serving each person. She (accurately) sized me up when she saw me, looked me in the eye and pronounced “You are going to need another plate” as she plopped a piece of lemon tart, a portion of blood sausage with hollandaise, and a donut on my dish. The donut was warm, perfectly glazed, and not too sweet. Forget everything you thought you knew about donuts.

Lydia serves the masses

Chef Maiden was not as talkative at his stand, but I’m so infatuated with Hungry Mother I had to tell him how much I admire his food. Busy as he was, he stopped his furious plating, smiled, and gave me the most humble, genuine “thank you so much” I’ve heard in a long time. No, thank you.

Unfortunately, I felt that many of last night’s featured wines didn’t pair well with the dishes being served, so it was hard to give them a fair shot. But maybe I was just too food-focused at the event. I did find one new favorite that I’m hoping to buy a few bottles of – the Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir.

There were two special bonuses I was not expecting at Cochon 555 – the first, a booth from Clover Food Labs. Clover, started by an MIT grad, is based out of a food truck that serves “a new type of fast food.” Given that the pine nut cauliflower they were serving was literally the best cauliflower I’ve ever eaten, I would completely agree that this is no Burger King.

The second bonus was a butchering competition between Tom Daly of Savenors and Rick Lemay of Lemay & Sons. They make offal look like (my version of) a Renaissance painting. The cuts of pork were raffled off to benefit The Food Project.

My one regret of the evening is that the only part of Matt Jenning’s food I got to taste was the chocolate-lard cookie (his lines were too long and they only dissipated once his food had run out). But by then I was way too full of pig to enjoy anything else, so it’s probably just as well.

Food from Matt Jennings of the Farmstead

Special thanks to a lovely new friend for facilitating my attendance, I had a fantastic time. And, I particularly liked the lighting when I first got to the event – dimmer lights always make me feel better when I’m consuming massive amounts of pork fat.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ken permalink
    January 31, 2011 4:56 pm

    This looks like GREAT fun & a chance to taste very unisual fare. There are future 555 events in Wash DC in March & San Francisco in June. Perhaps you can get your parents to try thiswith you thyere & you can guide them through the maze of food & wine!

  2. bestthingslicedbread permalink*
    January 31, 2011 7:39 pm

    it was great- if you get the chance you should absolutely attend!

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