Monday, May 17, 2010

Cochon 555

Good, good, good, good, good, REAL GOOD!

Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW! What a way to spend a Sunday evening. I have been to a ton of foodie events in Portland and around the United States, but the Cochon 555 event held at the Governor Hotel far exceeded my expectations......and with tickets at $125-175 a pop the bar was set pretty damn high. The food quality at these kind of events can be spotty, but in this case this group of decorated chefs (and crews) upped the ante. felt like the set of Iron Chef, too bad I don't look like Alton Brown. The crowd was also packed with industry people and nobody wanted to not put their best food forward. In a single word: "Outstanding"!

The venue was the Historic Governor Hotel and the celebrity chef list included:

JASON BARWIKOWSKI – Olympic Provisions
CATHY WHIMS – Nostrana
Butcher: RYAN FARR - 4505 Meats

Special Guest Chefs:
GREG DENTON - Metrovino
DAVID ANDERSON - Genoa Restaurant

Hog Butchering Demonstration.............Check!

Great wine........Check!

Ass Kicking Food........Check!

The food as one might imagine pretty much too advantage of the theme ingredient (Pig) from snout to tail. Charcuterie, blood sausage, pate as well as a host of Asian and Mexican influenced stews.

Olympic Provisions "Meat" sign

To be honest as much as I love bbq and whole hog roasts, the single item that stood out for me was the Posole, Cilantro Puree & Cabbage Cotija. It may have been the reason that when the final tally was done by the judges and the eating public the winning chef was Jason Barwikowski. When his name was announced his sous chef's rushed the stage and hoisted him like he was Tom Brady and had just tossed the winning Super Bowl pass! It is great to see that Portland has so much talent and passion when it comes to pushing the locavore you gotta love kitchen geeks getting star treatment!

I had a friend who just got back from three weeks in Italy and she spent time in and around Rome. Her thoughts were that Portland has a much stronger food scene than what she encountered in Rome.

The highlights for me were the offerings form Jason Barwikowski at Olympic Provisions and Andy Ricker of Pok-Pok (and their respective and sizable crews)..

In the wine category, when you have both Domaine Drouhin and Domaine Serene show up for a tasting event like this the competition usually feels like they brought a knife to a gunfight. Actually, while DDO and DS were great, I was impressed by the offerings from Elk Cove (the dry Reisling was fantastic). Soter was right in there and made an impression with their Mineral Springs Ranch (MSR) Pinot………..but, for my money

Ben & Mimi Casteel-Cute enough to be the King and Queen of this Pig Prom

Bethel Heights Winery brought some serious thunder and having the second generaton winemaker & vinticulturist (Cousins Ben & Mimi Casteel) sharing the love with four single vineyard Pinot Noir offerings was a special treat. This is a 30 + year old winery in the Central Willamette Valley. I love these family owned and operated wineries (note to self, get on the mailing list).

Nostrana Menu


What is not to love about Naomi Pomeroy's Beast Restaurant?

The Posole, Cilantro Puree & Cabbage Cotija was the best dish I have eaten all year (scouts honor)

Whole Hog.......are you freakin kidding me?

Okay, the event is over, the wine has flowed and we have all had pig from snout to tail and what do they then wheel in on a rolling table? Answer: A whole roasted hog that Adam Sappington of Country Cat carved and served BBQ style. I got some pulled pork and some potato chip crisp skin.....I told the server "I love you".......and I meant it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

1 1/2 Men BBQ

The only guy at my house that enjoys real BBQ more than I do is my son Connor.
I am going to venture a guess and say he has been exposed to more grilled protein than just about any other budding carnivore in Portland. My son has a very adventurous palate and with the exception of a vegetable aversion he will eat almost any you can grill (including liver) I have been traveling a bit lately (actually I had spent 1 day in my own bed in the last 10 days) and this past weekend I offered to recreate some of the authentic Texas BBQ I had the opportunity to sample in Central Texas. With that offer, lets just say I got no argument from my son.

Connor (future Master Sommelier?) - helping me bottle my 2007 Pinot Noir
*Note: These ribs would beat Pinot Noir like a rented mule....think Zinfandel (Turley if you can get it)

While I wish I could say that I sourced the ribs from heritage bred hogs or acorn finished swine, the reality was that I went to Cash & Carry and picked up a commercial sized pack of back ribs.

I have the Steve Raichlen BBQ Bible Cookbook and I did a variation on his basic dry rub......Chile powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes and some celery seed. I added the rub and let the ribs sit overnight. The next day I smoked the ribs in a a Weber grill that I added a full chimney of mesquite coals and a log of apple wood. I piled the coals on one side of the grill, added a pan of water (moisture) under the meat and set the ribs to one side. I also nearly close the vents (top and bottom) and then tried to leave everything alone for about 5 hours.

Ribs, Slaw & Beans

While I didn't get a chance to sample the ribs at Louis Mueller BBQ (they ran out), I will say that these ribs at least matched the product at 2 Bros. BBQ Market-nice bark,decent smoke ring, good tenderness, but not mushy. The cole slaw and beans were both a step up on either venue. Next time we go after the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ and try smoking a whole brisket.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Two Bros. BBQ Market

This past week I was in San Antonio for a conference. I was fortunate enough to be staying downtown near the Alamo and the Riverwalk, so there was plenty of activity.
I made a point of contacting my blog friend Daniel at Full Custom Gospel BBQ to ask his advice about BBQ in the area. My intention was to rent a car and head out to either Luling to City Market or up to Lockhart to Kruez Market. Unfortunately due to timing both of those options were out of the picture. Plan "B" ended up being a local BBQ joint called Two Bros. BBQ Market. Two Brothers is about 12 miles from downtown and with the help of my handy Blackberry we were able to navigate from the hotel to this out of the way BBQ joint without a hitch (thank god for technology).

Pork Ribs, Beef Brisket, Sausage & Fixins
Okay, so how often do I get to have "real" Texas BBQ? Not that often (actually until this last month, never!). I made a point of skipping lunch because I knew that moderation in ordering multiple smoked meat options was not on my dinner horizon.
I ordered up a 1/2 lb. of the brisket, a couple of ribs and a sausage.........oh yeah, and Shiner Bock too (don't you love that a whole bunch of Germans decided to settle in Texas). The brisket had a tremendous smoke ring and the bark was great. With just a dab of the House BBQ sauce this was really good. I would make a point of ordering the moist brisket next time (personal preference). The ribs were very good as well with great smoke flavor and good tenderness. I think that many people misunderstand what a great rib is.
A perfect rib is tender enough that if you take a two rib section, you should be able to pull the two rib sections apart without pulling the meat off the bone (really fine line).
The sausage reminded me of the Portuguese Linguisa I cook at home. This was smokey and succulent. All in all this was a great night out and the guys who operate this place were awesome hosts! If you are in San Antonio in the future make the trek out to see Two Bros.