Monday, March 25, 2013

Pigging out at Cochon 555 - Boston

I do love food and I consider myself a "foodie on a budget" because I just can't part with a couple of hundreds of dollars for each food and wine festival that comes around Boston.

I try to be selective and choose the free ones or pay a minimal $5.00 fee with a la carte food choices.  Of course there are the ones hosted by Phantom Gourmet with reasonable prices but the food selections are the standard pizza, fried chicken, whoopie pies, etc.

One of my good customers told me about a swine and wine festival coming to Boston. She mentioned she wanted to go last year but tickets sold out pretty fast.  I was a bit apprehensive about the ticket prices (a sticker shocking $125.00 for general admission plus additional handling fees).  If that wasn't steep enough, one could pay $200.00 for VIP tickets for early entrance an hour before general admission.

I asked my friend Jill if she was interested in attending and she got us tickets for the swine event during the Christmas season so we were guaranteed reservations.

The Cochon 555 tour visits 10 different cities and features 5 chefs, 5 wine makers along with other sponsors offering cheese, beer, bourbon samples to the patrons. The charitable event promotes sustainable and responsible farming across the country by shedding light on the agricultural industry and supporting heritage breed pigs and family farms.

"Each event challenges five local chefs to prepare a menu from the entirety of one 200 pound family-raised heritage breed of pig, nose-to-tail. Twenty judges (culinary luminaries) and 400 guests help decide the winning chef by voting on the "best bite of the day". 

When they say, "entirety", they mean ENTIRETY.  There were dishes made from pork's blood, kidney, brain, headcheese just to name a few.

This year's Boston tour was held at the new swanky Revere Hotel by Boston common.  We played it safe since booze was involved and asked the Mo to drop us off at the event.  The Chill (Jill) and I got there 10 minutes before the event and luckily we were among the first in line.  

They scanned our tickets and gave us wristbands that distinguished us from the Non-VIP guests at the event.  On the way in, there was a table full of wine glasses with a cool sign that read, "Hold on to your glass, you can totally have seconds"

After the let us in, I made a mad dash for the freshly shucked oysters as I knew this would be the first to go.  After slurping on a few oysters, I was pleasantly surprised to see my good friend Nat.  She was there earlier as her and her husband got the VIP tickets.  They gave us a runaround of all the food and drink stations so we had a general idea where to go.  

It was actually the Chill's first time eating an oyster so I had to get it on camera.

After a couple of more oysters, we made our way to the bourbon station where the bartender made custom mason jar punches.  You got to choose your own poison and she made a concoction out of ice, juice and berries, sealed in a pretty package.  I didn't drink mine, I actually hid it in my purse to bring home.

We headed for the cheese station and I sampled delicious, creamy cheese from Vermont.  I never had tasted non baked cheese with jelly before so I will definitely have to serve that at my next party.

The station next to the cheese left much to be desired, after all it was the vegetarian station at a pig festival.  I could have done without the kale, onions and African peanut soup.  

One of my favorite tables was Rialto.  Everything from the lasagna to the pork fritters was delicious!  My favorite was the oyster Rockefeller   The Chill even admitted she liked the bruschetta and almost had seconds until she found out it was topped with kidney.

I snuck in a few more oysters before getting in line for pulled pork, raviolis and a sweet carrot cake treat from the American Season table

We grabbed a cold beer by Anchor Brewing and snagged some cool anchor pins before making our way into the main room and got inline for the different stations.  At one point, I had a glass of wine, a beer and a bourbon drink.  I wished I had acquired the bourbon taste  because there were so many bourbon vendors at the event.

The first station we were at, Citizen Public House featured the familiar Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich. Although its not quite original, they did serve the sandwich in a long bread similar to 6' Italian subs they have for Superbowl. They also had a delicious pan seared wonton.

We found a really good Pinot Gris wine station as we made our way through the line. I am glad the line stopped for a while as we had the perfect location. I had three refills before the line moved again.  The line was delayed because the next station had induction burners where they cooked some of their foods on the spot.  They offered the most interesting creations, chocolate covered headcheese shaped piggies and pork blood and pork skin rice crispy treats.

Pork Blood and skin rice crispy treats
Chocolate covered head cheese

After another round of wine then some tasty spike apple ciders, we made it towards the other restaurant table.  This table had familiar sandwiches that resembled mini Cubans that were to my liking.

I was bummed to miss out on the TarTare Bar that my customer raved about.  I went to vote for my favorite chef ( I can't tell you who I voted for).

There was a living butcher demonstration where a whole pig was cut up into pieces.  The meat would be raffled to patrons who bought $15.00 raffle tickets. Our customer actually won one of the wrapped swine packages.  I think they mentioned the pork was retailed at $90.00 for each package.  I overheard a guest say, "Do you know how many health code violations they are breaking right now?"

The founder of the event, Brady Lowe spoke a few words about the tour and his presentation was followed by a couple of videos relating to the mission of the event. 

I was lucky enough to be standing in the perfect spot as when the video ended, the Heritage BBQ dinner was served by Sweet Cheeks.  The offerings included soup, smoked sausages, brisket, pulled pork, mouth watering biscuits, coleslaw, home made pickles served with a variety of habanero sauces in addition to the different BBQ sauces they had.

The night ended with iced brewed coffee and "dessert" which was just Tava chocolate and popcorn. They advertised "Pork-spiked" dessert so I assume there was probably some pork rinds as well.

It was a great experience and a lot of fun and I was stuffed for sure but I think I'll skip out next year and use the money towards the Billy Costa gala that I've been wanting to attend.