Wives, children and cholesterol levels have all slowed SoG members recently. But certain sequences of words will always make our hearts aflutter and break our lethargy.
“Five Course Pork Dinner” may be at the top of the list.
Meme, the shoebox size restaurant at 22nd and Spruce, was holding said pork dinner, and it featured five heavyweight chefs from around the city, who each would tackle a course, with a wine or beer pairing for each. One rule: use pig in some way or another. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it must have appealed to tons of people, as we were only able to score 2 seats to the dinner. A tough decision loomed: send two member of the Society, or unite in solidarity and have no one attend.
I am now lying through my internet teeth. There was no decision. It was five courses of pork! Kyle, an SoG Board of Trustees member, and I got the honor, mostly because 1) I called and 2) Kyle was standing next to me when I called and 3) it was five courses of pork! I mean, I was envisioning things like pork toothpicks and bacon breath mints. Nothing could stop us.
So we went on an only slightly awkward man date. We arrived at the restaurant a little before the 8:45 seating and the chefs were mulling around outside, having just completed their first seating. Excitement, and wafts of jowl meat, were in the air. What follows are crappy iPhone pics I took. If you want really well-lit and composed photos from the dinner, check out the Meal Ticket gallery here.
Hors d’oeuvres by Meme’s David Katz: The host really set the tone for the evening. In fact, the above photo attests to the fact that I was so excited, I began consuming the plate before taking a pic. These four tastes were a real highlight of the entire meal. No descriptions on the menu, so I’m winging it here by saying it was (from left to right) an awesome, awesome, awesome pate, a fried quail egg atop pork belly (“an entire plate of breakfast in one bite” according to Kyle), some pork rinds (I think), and a pork stuffed cherry pepper. The only thing that could make this collection of dishes better, and porkier, is if it was served on a flap of pig skin rather than a plate (Chef Katz, feel free to use this idea, free of charge).
First Course: Lettuce Soup with Pork Belly, Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes by Bistrot La Minette’s Peter Woolsey: This was a soup that was all fresh summery summer-ness, with a big ‘ol slab of pork belly in the middle. Pretty damn good.
Second Course: Crispy Pig Head in Filo with Gribich Sauce by Bibou’s Pierre Calmels: This dish arrived and kinda looked like a seared Hot Pocket next to a lump of tartar sauce with a few greens next to it. But then I bit into it. Holy hell, it was fantastic. It was the absolute essence of pork, swaddled in a light filo dough that gave just enough crunch to that unbelievable pig head inside. This whole thing may sound weird, but it was amazing. In a night of really great dishes, it was the clear winner. On a side note, this was paired with a really weird white wine, an ’04 Etoile “Savignon” Domaine Montbourgeau. The sommelier for the night told us it would be “challenging” while I found it more “metallic” and Kyle thought it was “gasoline-ish.” Whatever, I’d drink gasoline if I could have that pig’s head again.
Third Course: Grilled Wild Shrimp with House Cured Pancetta, Orrchiette, Rosemary Butter and Shrimp Jus by Fork’s Terence Feury: Chef Feury introduced this dish by talking about how he and his brother, Patrick, had worked with Victory Brewing on a special Fists of Feury Ale, and the beer turned out to be fantastic. Victory’s beers sometimes get a little to bombastic for their own good, but this one did not. As for the food, at first I was a little disappointed to see the lack of pork on the plate, but if you were going to have a seafood-heavy dish, it should be on the heals of the previous pork bomb dish. And this dish was very good.
Fourth Course: Pork Belly Confit with Creamed Corn, Sea Urchin, Mango Pickle by Zahav’s Michael Solomonov: We were really excited for this dish. It’s pig cooked in it’s own fat, for tit’s sake. But something happened between the kitchen and table, as the whole dish turned out to be a little weird, particularly from a texture standpoint. It was all slightly mushy–like eating a raw pork cutlet. The sides were good and it was paired with the best wine of the night, a really earthy red, a 2006 Rosso di Montalcino, La Torre.
Fifth Course: Honey Grilled Peaches, Marscapone Sorbet, Capricola, Almond Brittle by 10Arts’ Jen Carroll & Monica Glass: Pork dessert has the makings of a disaster, but this was really, really good. I’d sprinkle that almond brittle and capricola on just about anything, and the seasonal peaches and sorbet lightened it all up. This dessert made me happy. So did the five courses of beer and wine.
All in all, it was a great night, with awesome dishes across the board. Though at the risk of sounding like gluttons (which we are), Kyle and I both thought the chefs could have even gone a little porkier with the dishes. But that’s a minor quibble from two fairly disgusting human beings. I’ll be back next year. Maybe I’ll bring the pork toothpicks.