Matt Accarrino’s very full, and flavorful, plate.
The traveling throwdown of pork cheffery and heritage-breed swine known as Cochon 555 descended upon San Francisco yesterday on its last stop before the Grand Cochon faceoff at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. What did Grub Street learn as a first-time judge? Mostly that the pig is an even more astoundingly versatile animal than we ever knew; that you can, in fact, eat a Red Wattle’s wattle (thanks, David Bazirgan); and that Bar Agricole’s Brandon Jew is a true charcuterie master. As we mentioned earlier, Matthew Accarrino of SPQR took home the prize for a pretty amazing set of dishes. We now bring you some photos, still dripping with pork fat, from official Cochon photographer Huge Galdones.
The scene at the Julia Morgan Ballroom, which became quite packed as soon as the floodgates opened from the bar and V.I.P. section at 5 p.m.
The action on the floor, in addition to each competing chef’s station, included a pig roast and pig butchery demo.
One of the best dishes of the evening was this small ramekin of mortadella spuma with strawberry gelee from Michael Mina chef Dave Varley. Varley is the reigning King of Porc, having one last year in D.C. and at the Grand Cochon in Aspen.
Another fine bite was inside this salt dough – this was Ravi Kapur’s inspired solution for the ribs of his pig. He wrapped them in a simple salt dough and baked the whole thing. Inside, the ribs were tender, well seasoned, and displayed their full, unadulterated pork essence.
Chef David Bazirgan, in the interest of competition, didn’t want to give away too much of his gameplan when we went behind the scenes with him
last week. And his efforts were pretty extraordinary – especially his expertly seasoned pork leg tagine, his Hong Kong Char Siu with geoduck and pickled green papaya, and his phenomenally delicious, subtly Douglas-fir-scented pork consomme with pig’s head cappellacci and parmigiano reggiano. Also, at left, that’s a brain flan, which was possibly one of the richest things we’ve ever put in our mouths… and that’s saying a lot. It was served alongside a blood espuma, and topped with cripy offal, including a little bit of fried wattle.
SPQR’s Matt Accarrino pulled out all the stops (he mentioned that he also didn’t sleep) to present this group of bites, which ranged from the casual – two sandwiches, one of which was a “Misto” pannino with fried heart mortadella, smoked ham, calabrian chili mayo and a spicy slaw; the other of which was a head cheese “pastrami” with gruyere and pickled ramp Russian dressing on squid-ink bread – to the sophisticated – his Lonza Terrina Classico was a pork loin terrine in a loaf-like lard crust with green strawberry and gin gelee (quite good), and one of our favorite bites of the night was the zampone, which was a pork-stock-braised stuffed foot served with an Umbrian lentil puree, red wine onions, and a clove-scented sauce. Also of note, that eclair has bacon on it, and a coffee-bacon cream inside.
Chef Brandon Jew probably made our favorite bit of charcuterie: a fantastically spiced and balanced liverwurst. He also did an impressive aspic dish with a quail egg inside as well as English peas and horseradish leaves; and his ciccioli, a spread made from various scrap after the pate making was through, was also a delightful surprise.
Joel Teitelbaum (right) of Zero Zero was one of several bartenders on hand in the crowded booze room, serving up a champagne cocktail with St. Germain.
There was lots of tasty bacon on tables from Black Pig Meat Co., the company started by John Stewart and Napa Cochon winner Duskie Estes.
The five chefs (from left, Dave Varley, David Bazirgan, Matt Accarrino, Ravi Kapur, and Brandon Jew) gathered on stage with their Templeton Rye, but only Accarrino went home with the prize.