I love pork. Probably more than I should! So when the opportunity to attend Cochon555 came up, it was a no-brainer. This past Sunday, April 24th, Cochon555 was held at the Loews Chicago Hotel and we had our restaurant editor attend on our behalf to enjoy all things pork! It was an amazing culinary experience, but more on that in a bit…
So what exactly is Cochon555? This event was created in 2008 in response to the lack of education around heritage breed pigs. The event series started from a thread of conversations where family farmers struggled to educate chefs, restaurants looked to source exceptional ingredients, and consumers sought out responsibly raised proteins. They all converged into one idea: the ultimate quest of flavor. The tour is aligned with the modern-day good food movement — notable chefs, barrier-breaking women and men, artist-like butchers, spirited bartenders and brazen pastry talent. Together, they highlight all things pig and even incorporate some culinary competition.
This year’s competing chefs included Host Chef Cory Morris of Rural Society, Alfredo Nogueira of Analogue, Phillip Foss of EL Ideas, Sarah Rinkavage of Lula Cafe and winning chef Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio who took home top honors. The chefs prepared show-stopping dishes using whole heritage-breed pigs from family farms in a head to tail showcase for a crowd of pork-loving gourmands. Chef Sarah won the event with a Mangalitsa breed of pig raised by Meadowbrook Farm. Originating from Hungary in the early 1800’s, the Mangalitsa is a very rare breed characterized by its course, wooly coat and ability to withstand extreme conditions. It is known for its high-quality, lard-type fat and high percentage of marbling, which worked in tandem with Chef Sarah’s winning menu of six uniquely created delicious bites that celebrated Chicago’s diverse culinary neighborhoods. Dishes included: Southside – Bar-b-Q Rib Rillettes: Lard, Whole Rib, Shoulder, West Loop – Pig Skin Tortellini in Brodo: Lard, Bones, Skin, Shoulder, Feet, Back Fat, Chinatown – Xi’an Spicy Pork Flatbread: Lard, Belly, Ham, Coppa, Ukrainian Village – Offal-ly Pierogi: Lard, Kidney, Heart, Brain, Cheek, Pilson – Tamales De Cabeza & Piggy Backs: Lard, Head, Ears, Tongue and Little Italy – Crema di Lardo Cannoli: Lard, Back Fat.
“Cochon555 has been an very delicious and very satisfying experience. I was very honored to participate. I got to taste forty scrumptious bites prepared by chefs paired with artisan wines from the best winemakers in the county.
Cochon555’s events benefit Piggy Bank, a genetic sanctuary that will provide free heritage breed pigs to emerging family farms and culinary schools. Guests are united with the who’s who of the good food movement helping to raise monies to support the first open-source platform for family farming.
Two of my favorite bites were the PB&J from Rural Society: peanut butter pork liver mousse and raspberry rhubarb jelly on toasted brioche and the Empanadas: smoked pork belly with scrambled eggs and ramp chimichurri.
I never had steak tartare before, but Creekstone Farm’s steak tartare with pickled beef hearts, ramp ravigote and crispy mustard greens were so good that I had a couple of bites!
Analogue’s breakfast bite, Ham and Eggs: sugar cane glazed ham, quail egg, cracklin’ cornbread, and creamed greens … the silkiness of the yolk going over it completed the whole bite.
The wine and cocktails were works of art! Breckenridge’s bourbon presentation was spectacular. The mason jar was filled with smoke from burning wood and the bourbon and ice was poured over it. The aroma of the smoke and the depth of flavor of the bourbon paired very nicely.
The kicker for me was the live butchering event. I haven’t seen a pig broken down before and I learned a couple of things from watching the chefs. It takes a lot of skill and training to do such a feat in a record amount of time.
To see homemade sausage made in front of my eyes was eye-opening. I’m considering to buy a sausage making attachment for my KitchenAid mixer and learn how to make some savory and spicy sausage.
All in all, I had a great time at Cochon555. I ate, I drank, and I learned a lot from this culinary experience. I hope to attend next year’s event!” – Jon, WCC’s restaurant editor
A special thanks to Jon for attending on our behalf and sharing his experience!
About Cochon555 U.S. Tour
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