July 25, 2017

Cochon555 Tour Chicago: 5 Chefs, 5 Pigs, 5 Winemakers- Battle for "Prince of Porc"

Cochon555 US Tour is a nose-to-tail culinary tour dedicated to support heritage pig farmers and breeders, and to educate chefs and foodies on how they can utilize and enjoy old world livestock.

It is a one-of-a-kind friendly competition for a cause of 5 chefs, cooking 5 heritage breed pigs, paired with fine wines from 5 winemakers- hence the name Cochon555.

Since the tour coincided with my recent trip to Chicago last April, it was an event I couldn't afford to miss. Luckily, I scored 2 VIP tickets for me and my cousin courtesy of Dining Out Chicago. The $200 ticket gave us early admission to the event, plus exclusive sommelier and cocktail competition tastings.

We went to Morgan Manufacturing in downtown Chicago where the event was held.

We enjoyed a spread of appetizers and free-flowing drinks of wine and cocktails from the event sponsors.

La Brea Bakery served some freshly baked loaves paired with artisanal cheeses from Pastoral.

The Truffle Honey on Truffle Butter by Sabatino Tartufi was the ultimate indulgence. It was a struggle controlling myself from getting more.

The olives from Divina and pate selections from Trois Petits Cochons were great wine pairings, as well as the charcuterie plate from Creminelli Fine Meats.

Didn't want to stuff ourselves with appetizers, so we went to the main hall for the event highlight- PORK.

The event featured 5 chefs who each used one whole heritage breed pig and came up with exciting dishes and recipes.

First on the list was Chef John Manion of El Che Bar in The West Loop of Chicago.

His cooking style is inspired by travels in Argentina interpreted through the Buenos Aires tradition of live flame cooking.

We sampled "El Che" Cuban Roasted Pork Loin Sandwich, Arroz y Feijao, Charred Green Chorizo, Pork Belly Rillon, and a Bacon and Pork Fat Cookie with Rosemary Ice Cream for dessert. They were also going around sampling some Pork Ragu Empanada.

We paired these dishes with The House of Angostura tiki drinks and punches. We also tried their Amaro Coffee Swizzle which was a concoction of Amaro di Angostura cold brew coffee with lemon juice, condensed milk, and Angostura Orange Bitters.

Next was Chef Nathan Sears of State and Lake Chicago Tavern at theWit Hotel.

His cooking combines traditional tavern dining with a contemporary American flair. We had Grilled Loin Tataki, Smoked Ham, Pork Floss Palmiers, Crispy Pork Head, and Crab Fat Braised Pork Belly. I loved the crispy pork head that was reminiscent of our local sisig dish.

The third competitor and the chef who got our votes was Chef Ricardo Jarquin of Travelle Kitchen+Bar at The Langham Hotel.

We loved everything he prepared that day, from the Massaman Curry, to the Honey Glazed Bacon Jam Bun, Peruvian Pan Con Chicharon, Pork Shank Wontons, Anato Braised Pork Butt, and Adobo Pork Fritters.  While Travelle is said to feature contemporary American cuisine, the dishes somehow had that Asian touch and taste. 

Some sweet encounters of Apple Bacon Macaron from The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley and a tartare bar from 2012 King of Porc Chef Jason Vincent of Giant Chicago

Had some bottles of Dry Sparkling Lavender and Vanilla Bean light soda to cleanse the palate as we moved on to try the other chefs' creations.

Land and Sea Dept. Executive Chef Pete Coenen of Cherry Circle Room at Chicago Athletic Association Hotel ran out of some dishes so we were left to try these Pork N' Beans and Pork Liver Mousse.

The last competitor Chef Tom Carlin of Publican Quality Meats also ran out of dishes so we were only able to try his innovative Pig Skin Noodles.

Aside from all the chefs' creations, I was also looking forward to trying the pop-up ramen bar by Chef Cory Morris of Ronero.

Everything was perfect from the noodles, to the broth, to the ajitama egg, and of course, the tender and melt-in-your-mouth pork belly slices. 

Finally, we cast our votes and waited for the announcement of winner.

In the end, our bet Chef Ricardo Jarquin of Travelle Kitchen+Bar was crowned "Prince of Porc". He will be competing at the Grand Cochon in Chicago this coming October wherein 14 chefs from 14 cities battle it out for the crown. 

Cochon555 truly was an experience to remember. I bet the Grand Cochon will be more than awesome and gastronomic. Thank you Cochon555 and Dining Out Chicago for this one-of-a-kind foodie experience, and for making my Chicago trip more memorable. 

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