In exactly 37 days, the third US Tour of Cochon 555, a nationwide traveling pork orgy that spotlights five local chefs, five heritage breed piggies and five winemakers, will hoof it to Denver, taking over a yet-to-be-determined parcel of pig-appropriate landscape, wherein the chefs will go tongue-to-trotter in an epic battle for the title of prince (or princess) of pork.
And Colorado's participating chefs -- the Chosen Ones -- are all names that you'll recognize.
Jennifer Jasinski (Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bisto Vendome); Kelly Liken (Restaurant Kelly Liken); Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson (Frasca Food & Wine, Pizzeria Locale and Caffe); Alex Seidel (Fruition and Fruition Farms); and Frank Bonanno (Bones, Green Russell, Luca d'Italia, Lou's Food Bar, Mizuna and Osteria Marco) have all been tapped to trot out their pig-centric prowess on April 3.
"I looked for a group of food champions who support local agriculture, and I was lucky to find a group of men and women who are both changing the food system and are leading the path of culinary cuisine. They're putting local food first," says Cochon 555 founder Brady Lowe, who started the nationwide pig jaunt three years ago.
This is the first year that Cochon 555 has traveled to the Mile High City, but according to Lowe, the time was fertile for a Denver pig stomp. "I was inspired by Colorado and the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen to look at the front range and discover what's happening in Colorado on the cuisine front," he explains."There are such amazing chefs there right now that Denver was such a shoo-in to be one of our newest cities this year."
The heritage breed pigs, all of which are approximately 150 pounds each, aren't the typical bacon and sausage you'll see on your breakfast plate at the local diner. These are special pigs, the kind that provide serious challenges to the chefs, none of whom know exactly which particular breed of pig they're going to get. Seidel, though, is getting a head start. "I'm getting a pig next week, so I can start practicing," he told me earlier this week.
Lowe is keeping the chef-and-pig pairings under wraps -- "We want a little surprise for the chefs," he says -- but we do know that Seidel, et al. will be working with a Hereford from TenderBelly, a very rare Meishan, also from TenderBelly and a Berkshire from Newman Farms Berkshire.
"The chefs can make anything they want, but in order to get enough portions, you'll see every part of the pig being used," notes Lowe, adding that past challenges have included everything from charcuterie to blood sausage popsicles. "If New York, Boston or Seattle were any indication, people need to come ready to eat and to discover what makes heritage breed pigs so amazing, and each chef will be preparing one whole heritage breed pig, nose-to-tail, so look for creativity, adventure and incredible tastes," he adds.
The Cochon 555 tour, which will stop in ten cities throughout 2011, isn't just about pigging out, however. "The goal is to connect chefs and consumers with the farms where these pigs come from," stresses Lowe. "The farmers are the real stars here, and we want to put dollars back into the pockets of these family-run farms."
In addition to the tasting floor, where the chefs will be feeding an expected 400 mouths, there's a butchering demonstration that's also judged, and the cuts will be given away in a raffle, which means that if you plan to go, clear out your freezer first. The butchers have yet to be solidified, but if Mark DeNittis, the high priest of swine -- and owner of Il Mondo Vecchio -- doesn't get a knife, we're going to feel stabbed. That same sentiment applies to Jimmy "the Butcher" Cross, who recently butchered a bison at MCA Denver's Art Meats Beast production.
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Tickets to the porkapalooza are $125 per person for general admission, and $175 for VIP admittance, the latter of which includes champagne cocktails, oysters, artisan cheeses, caviar, wine tastings and early admission to the tasting floor. "From five chefs doing tastings of the five pigs and the amazing wines, to the infamous pig roast and the swine-and-sweets dessert, people should expect to learn -- and have fun," insists Lowe.
To buy tickets, go to www.baconhalloffame.com/products-page/tickets/denver.