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MOUTHING OFF

Barrel of pork: The owner of House of Bunbuster, whose name I never was able to procure, phoned to say he was disgruntled over the category of "Best Pig's Ears" in the 1995 Best of Denver. "I just think no one in Denver really cares about pig's ears," he said. "I guess since I don't advertise with you, then I wasn't even considered for the issue." Au contraire, Mr. Bunbuster. I most certainly did consider him for the Best of Denver, but his pork tenderloin sandwich ($3.95) isn't the best in town and so wasn't included, which is what I told him. That's when he hung up on me.

The fact is that the pork in the sandwich is overly breaded and the accompanying fries soggy and underdone. This was the case the first time I tried the pork tenderloin sandwich--when a fellow food writer brought me one--and it was the case when I picked up my own last week at 8800 East Colfax. What I didn't get a chance to tell Mr. Bunbuster, however, is that his ribs are wonderful and absurdly well-priced--$4.95 for a half-rack--with a falling-off-the-bones quality and a decent, if mild, barbecue sauce.

I didn't even try to make a gourmet treat out of the ears attached to the oinker who starred in the pig roast I hosted recently. (The snout wound up a party favor on someone's head.) And I could use an improved recipe for cooking a pig in a pit, because the one I tried didn't work. Of course, a good rule of thumb when attempting a new recipe is to test it before you have people over for dinner. Unfortunately, that's a little unrealistic when the main course is a 200-pound, $200 pig that you're cooking in your backyard. I did this ridiculous thing the weekend it rained so hard that guests driving out to the party had to pull over along I-25 because they couldn't see the road anymore. It was the perfect day to have twenty mud-slathered kids and sixty adults running in and out of the house sloshing beer all over the floors (luckily, one of the beers was my favorite local micro, the light-colored Tabernash Weiss, which goes well with our carpeting).

We had enough beer that when the pig came out half raw--after sixteen hours of cooking in a handmade pit complete with grate and metal cover--no one cared. Or at least they pretended that they didn't. But we learned a few important things about pig roasts. The first is that you need to have somewhere to put a pig that's just been shot in the back of the head and is bleeding all over. We stuffed the body cavity with ice to maintain a bacteria-killing temperature before wrapping it in blankets and throwing it on the bed of our truck in the garage. Anyone driving by would have thought we were either trying to ditch Hoffa's body or filming a sequel to GoodFellas. I kept walking past the truck and swearing I thought Oreo, the deceased, was still moving.

The second important thing is to do a pig roast only if you live in a rural area like we do, because then you have neighbors who actually know how to skin a hog and are nice enough to do so on the spur of the moment. And last, ignore every bit of advice that everyone gives you and use common sense. Our mistake turned out to be not giving the pit enough air holes to let the fire breathe. In the end, we butchered Oreo (thank heavens he wasn't named Babe), cut him up into sandwich steaks and finished him off in the oven. He was a good pig.

 
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