Recap Recap: The Reader’s Whole Hog Dinner

Eat me! I am delicious!

The Chicago Reader’s whole hog project, an endeavor to follow the raising, slaughter, and eventual consumption of a mulefoot pig that Our Secret Boyfriend Mike Sula spearheaded, had its climactic dinner last night at Blackbird. Sky Full Of Bacon’s Mike Gebert has a writeup of the experience. Interestingly, in keeping with current food-writing trends, SFoB’s current recap is just a palate-whetter, as both Gebert and Sula will be filing longer-form pieces in their respective media — a vidcast from Mike G., and a Reader feature from Mike S.

What we saw last night was that given a great ingredient— the clean, lushly fatty meat of the mulefoot pig— as a focus for the meal, these six chefs (actually more across all six restaurants) could produce a coherent meal reflective of a similar approach to showcasing the inherent flavors of the midwest’s products at their most heightened and refined, without artifice or gilded pork-lilies, but with plenty of good midwestern stuff like bacon or pickled onions. …And by “coherent” I mean “spectacularly good.” Around me I heard comments like “I feel like I’ve never tasted pork before,” and that more than once in relation to different dishes.

…For me there were two particular standouts: Vie’s cotechino, salty and strong, but leavened by the sweet note of a pickled plum, and the headcheese ravioli in a pork consomme from Avec’s Justin Large, the broth a marvelous, slightly lemony shot of concentrated pork savoriness. But there was revelation throughout the meal— I heard others say they were blown away by Lula ’s pork belly, amazed at how delectable a cube of almost pure fat could be, or by the snow-white pork rinds that made up part of Blackbird’s cheese course, or the deeply comfy rosemary-scented roast-pork satisfaction of The Publican’s porchetta.

Le Grand Tour du Porc [Sky Full of Bacon]
The Whole Hog Project [Chicago Reader]
Blackbird [MenuPages]
Blackbird [Official Site]

[Photo of a mulefoot (interestingly, the same photo The Reader uses, because it is the only mulefoot photo on Flickr), via Drake Christensen’s Flickr] DRAMZ, y’all: Thanks to reader comments and an email from Sula (swoon!), we have learned that this is, in fact, a photo taken by OSBMS himself, and no one has any idea who this obviously very shady Drake Christensen character is. Photo courtesy of Mike Sula, all rights reserved.

Recap Recap: The Reader’s Whole Hog Dinner