The Seattle stop of this year's Cochon 555 event, now in it's fifth year, took place last night at Cedarbrook Lodge near Seatac Airport. Five chefs received one of five, locally raised heritage breed pigs, and cooked up to six dishes each to impress guests and judges at the sold out event. Only one chef could take home the trophy however, and this year it was Jason Franey of Canlis who was crowned the "Prince of Porc." Franey will move on to the next round of the competition, competing against chefs from nine other cities at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Colorado in June.
Franey and the Canlis crew served up an impressive line-up of dishes (see complete list below) utilizing all parts of a Gloucester Old Spot pig from White Buffalo Ranch in Halfway, OR. There were smoked pork fat and bourbon caramel bon bons, chorizo sausages, and tete de cochon, or head cheese, all beautifully presented, albeit on paper plates. Judge Jay Friedman said, "The plates looked like you were dining at Canlis." Likely he was just talking about the food, not the serving pieces.
Other chefs competing for the prize included Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule and Revel, Shane Ryan from Matt's in the Market, Jason Barwilkowski from The Woodsman in Portland, Joshua Henderson of the Huxley Wallace Collective (including Skillet), and reigning champ Jonathan Sundstrom of Lark. Following the tasting and competitive portion of the evening was a Heritage BBQ presented by Chef Mark Bodinet of Copperleaf Restaurant, located at the Cedarbrook Lodge.
Crowd favorites of the evening included the chicharone "Nutter Butters" from Sundstrom; fried pork, fried shallots, peanuts, lime, and coconut wrapped in betel leaf from Ryan; and the "Red Hot" from Yang and Chirchi served with pork shoulder, sausage, kimchi, extra fat, and wild sesame. For palate cleansers between pork-tastic tastes, DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine had an impressive cheese table guests could sample from, and Hama Hama Oyster Company shucked fresh oysters throughout the evening.
This year's event also featured a cocktail competition with bourbon-based punches created by six local bartenders. I was so focused on the pork however, that by the time I finished sampling the food the punch was gone. Adam Fortuna of Artusi won the prize for the best punch. For non-Bourbon drinkers, there were five wineries serving up sizeable samples, plus beer from Pike Brewing Company and Anhcor Steam Brewing. The booze was flowing throughout the evening, with tastes of whiskey available from High West Whiskey, Templeton Rye, and Four Roses Bourbon, and mezcal from Fidencio, Ilegal and Mezcales de Leyenda. But in perhaps the most perfect pairing for the pork-addled guests, were shots of Fernet Branca.
Entertainment for the evening consisted of a butchering demonstration by Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats. Cuts of pork were raffled off after the demo, with proceeds from the $15 tickets benefitting the culinary program at Seattle Central Community College. Is Cochon 555 worth the $150 admission price (or $250 for the VIP entry)? Full disclosure, I was given a free media pass. It's expensive, particularly because there is little to no seating, and finding a place to set down your plate and glass can be difficult. The five chefs competing however, serve up some of the best food in the Pacific Northwest, and truly brought their A-game to the competition. The food, combined with the copious amounts of alcohol, provide a good value, even if it's served on disposable dishes.
Below are the menus each chef provided. Apologies to Barwilkowski, I did not find a detailed menu at his table.
Jason Franey: pork rind made with sauerkraut powder, fleur de sel and shigoku oyster aioli; tete de cochon (head cheese) with Dijon mustard gel; pate en croute with sauce gribiche, sauternes and pickled radish; chorizo served on a honey roll, with rouille and fermented Fresno chiles; pork pot de crème, with bacon brittle, cinnamon macaron and green apple espuma; bonbon with smoked back fat and bourbon caramel, garnished with whipped cream and pork jerky shavings.
Jonathan Sundstrom: pork belly onigiri with grilled scallion aioli; lard poached pork loin with chorizo and Rockwell bean ragout; chicharone "nutter butters." Judges also received corned pork brisket and cabbage tartine with beer bread and Guiness stout mustard; "green eggs and ham," pickled quail egg, fried ham, pea puree, and pea bacon fricassee; double pork broth with nettles, cilantro, basil and pork tenderloin, liver and crispy ear.
Shane Ryan: Confit pork belly with rice noodles, dried shrimp, scallions, tamarind, and rau rom; Smoked Vietnamese sausage with cucumber, chicharron, tomato, onion, and banana flower; Pork Broth with head cheese and prawn meatball, grilled riblets, basil, and mint; Fried pork wrapped in betel leaf with coconut, fried shallots, peanuts, and lime.
Rachel Yang & Seif Chirchi: Cochon tomato with kombu cured and roaste loin, seaweed mayonnaise, bonito; headcheese roll with headcheese sausage, lardonaisse, and scallion; Squealing noodle with pickled pig skin, green purry, and prik; Red Hot with shoulder, sausage, kimchi, extra fat, and wild sesame; kalbi bowl with Korean sweet shili marinated rib, oyster kimchi; Pig ala mode with chocolate chip cookie, lardo, Szechuan peppercorn ice cream
Joshua Henderson: Crispy fried pig ears, chicharon & chickpeas with Aleppo chili & fenugreek salt, fresh coriander; NW oyster Rockefeller with creamed stinging nettle, lardo crumbs; pork leg gravlaks inspired with pickled mustard seed gribiche; cappelletti filled with milk braised pork, testa brodo, hazelnuts and sage; crepinette with sultana mostarda and pistachio.
Jason Barwilkowski: mole braised pork belly; pork loin torta; posole; taco.