4th Annual Cochon 555 Highlights, Mandarin Oriental, Back Bay, Boston

The fourth annual Cochon 555 was held at the Mandarin Oriental Boston, where chef Jamie Bissonette, from Coppa (BMH Review) and Toro (BMH brunch and dinner visits to Toro), took home the golden pig trophy and title of “Prince of Porc.”

The national event series embarks on a 10-city culinary competition and tasting tour where 50 chefs are selected to prepare a snout-to-tail menu. The 10 winners of each event are flown to Aspen for the final competition, Grand Cochon. Bissonette will now go on to compete against other regional winners at the finale Grand Cochon even at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June. This year’s winner was decided by attendees and by a panel of judges including chef Will Gilson of Bridgestreet and Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks.

2012 Boston competing chefs included Jamie Bissonette of Coppa and Toro (BMH reviews of Coppa, and brunch and dinner visits to Toro), Tim Cushman of O Ya (BMH review of O Ya), Barbara Lynch of Menton (BMH review of No. 9, Drink and Sportello) , Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, and Steve “Nookie” Postal of Fenway Park.

Chef: Jamie Bissionette Pig: Old Spot

Bissonette was inspired by his recent 21 day vacation to Southeast Asia and cites that as his main reason for doing his own renditions of classic Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Our favorite item that Bissionette prepared was his banh mi, which had coppa, head cheese, ham, kidney pate spread and aioli. This classic Vietnamese sandwich with a twist was lip-smackingly porktastic with every bite. We unabashedly went back for seconds and thirds.

Our second favorite dish was his la lot Vietnamese sausage with the red curry pork skin. The herbacious “la lot” or betel leaves gave lent their lemony-green taste to the sausage. Typically this dish is made with beef in Vietnam, but the pork rendition was also very close to traditional grilled la lot sausage. The red curry pork skin over jasmine rice was homey and comforting. I could have eaten it any time I craved the familiar taste of red curry. He also served up a pig foot rillette and pork belly pho.

Bissonette used Blis fish sauce in his winning dishes. This is a limited edition special fish sauce that is barrel aged for seven months, made by Blis and Red Boat that costs $17.95.

Chef: Barbara Lynch Pig: Large Black

My favorite item Lynch made was her pork pastrami reuben on marble rye with “brain-naise” (above right) It’s the “brain-naise” that did me in. I would willingly smear it on any sandwich or meat going forward. It’s rich and velvety, like a un-set pate on crack.

A close second was her hay cooked ham and ramp biscuits with honey and ricotta (above left). The sweet honey and creamy ricotta paired well with the salty fresh ham. She also made chicken fried head cheese served on a bacon waffle with maple syrup which seemed like her porky take on Roscoe’s chicken and waffles, blood sausage tortellini with spring-dug parsnip puree, hazelnut and onion ring, Chicago-style offal hot dog (above rear) and polish sausage with honey mustard.

Chef Tim Cushman Pig: Hereford

Cushman’s menu presenation was the most interesting and unique of the five chefs competing. His was laser printed onto an actual piece of pig skin. He said it would turn into a chicharron, or fried pork skin, if dropped into hot oil.

Our favorites from Cushman were the ham and fatback sugarcane pork with thai basil, culantro, kinh goi (above right), buta niku spicy backbone stew with jalapeno and kinome (above rear), and his rilletes croquette with dashi braised smoked hock, yuzu kosho avocado (above left). The sugarcane pork was an instant flashback to childhood, only substituting pork for shrimp paste.  On special occasions, our mother would make chao tom, a Vietnamese appetizer consisting of grille shrimp paste wrapped around a small sugarcane skewer.

He also made liver mousse with sesame mostarda, dashi pickle, crab chip, and chicharrón bits, blood sausage with caramelized kimchee, gochuchang suace, shiso tempura,  tea-brined pigtail ballotine with foie gras kabayaki sauce and peppercress, smoked mortadella with wasabi tare, bonito flakes and nori and  banh xeo cone, soy-sake braised belly and jowl, coconut lemongrass sauce. What was surprising was the number of Asian as well as Vietnamese influences used by Cushman here as well.

Chef: Steve “Nookie” Postal Pig: Tamworth

What blew me away at Postal’s station was dessert- pork blood ice cream with coffee, chocolate and “pork crispy treat” that is. You couldn’t really tell that there was pork blood in the coffee-chocolate ice cream or in the “pork crispy treat.” I literally made off like a bandit with a plate of these lovelies to share with my dining companions.

His Boston baked beans with pork belly two ways and brown bread was my other favorite and it was a huge crowd pleaser prior to the opening of the main ballroom. The small square of slow roasted rich decadent pork belly was full of flavor and left me wanting more.

Postal also made head cheese with grain mustard, pickled radish and brioche, pork dumpling with ginger, scallion, soy and Chianking vinegar, carnitas tostadas with cilantro, queso fresco and tomatillo salsa, as well as roast pork with Roxbury Russet butter and sauce Robert.

Chef: Barry Maiden Pig: Large Black

Clearly, Barry Maiden had some clever signage as well. We like that he injects the Hungry Mother personality into all of his displays. There were even little pins like at Chefs for Obama. He plated his five of six dishes on this white rectangular cafeteria tray which made it easier for everyone to make sure they got to try everything.

Our favorite item was Maiden’s porky belly “buttered” biscuit with cracklin’s and Kentucky Worcestershire glaze. It was a little piece of heaven on a biscuit, even though the “butter” was really lard I think. The half-dollar sized biscuit was perfectly flaky and light as air.

He also served pig’s head crouton with shaved heart and bacon grease-wilted greens (above center),  deviled ham tea sandwich terrine with pickled okra and pain de mie, pâté with lard roasted pecans and smoked maple mustard, Lexington-style bbq pulled pork shoulder with grits and bread & butter pickles and loin and fatback pastrami with collard green kraut and “special sauce”

Maiden also made my second favorite dessert of the evening (I guess I can’t say no to ice cream, huh?) lard ice cream, sorghum marshmallow, smoked chocolate, sugared chicharrones. Again, I really could not tell that there was lard in the ice cream. The homemade marshmallow and chocolate sauce really ramped up the dessert a few notches.

I loved how Maiden’s team came with a sense of humor and some fun, whimsical decorations.

In the ballroom, there was a staggering cheese display by Formaggio, oysters from Island Creek, and amazing vegetables by Clover. Other amusements, delectable bites and vendors included:

Joshua Smith from Tico held a Heritage BBQ whole hog family meal after the voting. Can I just mention he seems to be one really friendly and happy guy? There were some very good bites here despite the all the overeating around us. The pulled pork tacos were lovely.

Three time Boston Cochon winner Matt Jennings of Farmstead & La Laiterie (BMH’s review of La Laterie) held a Le Creuset contest where he was serving “3 Beast Beans” and contestants had to guess all five ingredients. The winner won a Le Creuset pot. The ingredients were- beef bone marrow, pork, chicken, beans, and tomato paste.

We noticed the only bacon we saw openly used at Cochon 555 was as table decorations. We stopped by craft brewery Anchor Brew to taste their three best-selling beers. They were serving up entire bottles of Steam Beer, Liberty Ale and Brekle’s Brown. Our favorite was the brown beer, hands down because of the earthy malt taste and hint of citrus.

There was a custom “Perfect Manhattan” Cochon555 Bar with Daniel Hyatt of Alembic featuring five craft American spirits. I went for the version that included Angel’s Envy whiskey because it was the most sweet port-like of the five whiskeys offered and topped it off with lots of Luxardo cherries.

We counted two whole Iberico De Bellota by Fermin that evening. It was delicious to have several slices of a luxurious treat. They even served up their own special version of ribs below. They were tender, juicy and had a pleasant sweet and smoky taste. I could have easily had made a meal of these alone if allowed.

There was a whole Berkshire hog butchery demonstration by Lemay and Sons Beef from Goffstown NH. They are the only federally licensed slaughterhouse in NH.  Brambly Farms, located in Norfolk, only forty-five minutes from Boston, provided the beautiful pig.

To end the night, there were three dessert samples of exclusive chocolate bar flavors from Xocolatl de David, paired with cold-brew Safari Cup coffee. I loved the cold-brew coffee. I keep going back to drink another shot glass several times and will be definitely looking into getting some for personal use.

The chocolates were definitely unique. There were three kinds- Eggs, Ham and Iberico de Bellota. Eggs was a bittersweet chocolate that had a puffed rice kinda of crispy crunchy texture that actually came from Black River caviar. There wasn’t much of a salty briny caviar taste, just more of a popping sensation when you bit into it. Ham, which turned out to be my favorite of the bunch, was also a bittersweet chocolate but with crispy bits of country ham. Iberico de Bellota was basically a bittersweet chocolate that had lard added to it. I couldn’t tell that there was any porky taste at all.

If you couldn’t attend, you can still support heritage breed pigs. New to Boston, Cochon 555 is offering a Chef’s Course which rewards diners in 2012 for supporting heritage agriculture and local food producers.  It’s simple, dine at Coppa, ToroFarmstead & La Laiterie or Harvest Restaurant (or any other participating restaurant in the US) and mention you have the card and spend at least $50 while there. Then before your meal is over, the chef will send out something special for every member of your party, an amuse bouche, a half-sized appetizer or a 2-3 bite-sized tasting portion created to complement your meal and dietary preferences. This one-of-a-kind dining experience can be yours every time you choose to dine at any of the four participating restaurants. As a member, you will also receive exclusive offers from Cochon wineries and discounts with their national partners, including Le Creuset, Murray’s Cheese, and many more to be announced. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Cochon 555.

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tickets to this event and all opinions expressed are our own.

4th Annual Cochon 555, Mandarin Oriental, Back Bay, Boston

Do you love pork? Do you love bacon? How about pork chops, pork tenderloin, ham, prosciutto, or pork sausage? Does the thought of eating anything related to delectable porcine-goodness make your heart go aflutter?

Then Cochon555 is the pork event for you. This coming Sunday is a pork fest that focuses on bringing swine and wine together! Cochon555- five chefs, five pigs, five winemakers- is a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting even to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs. The Boston event will be presented by Inifiti and Boston Magazine. The competition challenges five local chefs to prepare a menu created from heritage breed pigs, nose-to-tail, for an audience of pork-loving epicureans.

This competition  was created by Taste Network’s Brady Lowe in 2009 in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage pig breeds. Cochon is a national event series that takes in 14 major US markets. Every January, Cochon555 embarks on a 10-city culinary competition and tasting tour where 50 chefs are selected to prepare a snout-to-tail menu. The 10 winners of each event are flown to Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic for the final competition, Grand Cochon.

2012 Boston competing chefs include Jamie Bissonette of Coppa and Toro (BMH reviews of Coppa, and brunch and dinner visits to Toro), Tim Cushman of O Ya (BMH review of O Ya), Barbara Lynch of Menton (BMH review of No. 9, Drink and Sportello) , Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother, and Steve “Nookie” Postal of Fenway Park. With an amazing Boston chef line up like that, why would you ever want to miss it?

Guests will be treated to an epic pork feast of five whole heritage pigs prepared by five chefs and wines from five family wineries, including Buty Winery, Elk Cove Vineyards, Syncline Wines, Sokol Blosser, Chehalem Wines, and K Vinters. The evening will also include wines by SALDO, and interactive tasting contest with Matt Jennings of Farmstead & La Laiterie (a 3 time Cochon Boston winner and BMH’s review of La Laterie) and Le Creuset, Anchor Brew, tastings of Chinaco Tequila and the “Perfect Manhattan” Cochon555 Bar with Daniel Hyatt of Alembic featuring five craft American spirits, and Domaine Serene of Oregon paired with Iberico De Bellota by Fermin. Joshua Smith from Tico will host a Heritage BBQ whole hog family meal after the completion of the voting. The night will conclude with a special 25th anniversary champagne toast to the James Beard Foundation, sponsered by Laurent-Perrier Champagne, and dessert samples of exclusive chocolate bar flavors from Xocolatl de David, paired with cold-brew Safari Cup coffee.

At the end of the night, attendees and local judges will select the Prince or Princess of Boston Porc. The winning chef will go on to compete against other regional winners at the finale Grand Cochon even at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on June 17, 2012.

Cochon555 will be held:
When: This Sunday, March 25th, 4pm VIP opening, 5pm general admission
Where: Mandarin Oriental Boston, 776 Boylston St, Boston MA

Tickets: $125 per person for general admission, $200 for VIP (which includes one hour early access to sample dishes from three of the competing chef stations, welcome cocktails from The King’s Ginger, artisan cheese from Formaggio Kitchen and Murray’s Cheese, and Island Creek Oysters.  Buy your tickets HERE.

If you can’t attend, you can still support heritage breed pigs. New to Boston, Cochon555 is offering a Chef’s Course which rewards diners in 2012 for supporting heritage agriculture and local food producers.  It’s simple, dine at Coppa, ToroFarmstead & La Laiterie or Harvest Restaurant, mention you have the card and spend at least $50 while there. Then before your meal is over, the chef will send out something special for every member of your party, an amuse bouche, a half-sized appetizer or a 2-3 bite-sized tasting portion created to complement your meal and dietary preferences. This one-of-a-kind dining experience can be yours every time you choose to dine at any of the four participating restaurants. As a member, you will also receive exclusive offers from Cochon wineries and discounts with their national partners, including Le Creuset, Murray’s Cheese, and many more to be announced.

We hope to see you there as BMH will be covering this wonderful porktastic event as VIP press.

Disclaimer: BMH will be receiving complimentary entrance to the event. Images used are from the Cochon555 website.

Coppa, South End, Boston

Co-Owners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette have racked up positive commentary for Toro (BMH review of Toro). Since Coppa’s opening in October 2009, the South End has welcomed the Italian tapas eatery with glowing reviews for its salumi, pig terrine, burrata and pastas. You must be amenable to nose to tail dining including hearts, ears, sweetbreads.

Chef Bissonnette (Food & Wine’s 2011 People’s Best New Chef Award) served oysters escabeche using moon shell oysters from the Cape, with cava and vinegar at the Chef’s For Obama Fundraiser. Ever since we sampled Jamie’s clever oyster rendition, we knew we would be visiting Coppa.

The main constructive comments we have heard is the wait. Perhaps due to Coppa’s popularity and its quaint, 40 seat size, friends reported more than a 2 hour wait time. This issue is now ameliorated and a moment of the past. Since early 2011, Coppa takes reservations for dinner.

The restaurant’s Italian wine list is extensive and the cocktails look fantastic.

Our server was very warm, sweet-natured, constantly filling our water glasses. She was very apologetic that the two items we wanted to order, the pig terrine and pig’s tail were not available. She suggested alternatives and her favorites, which we enjoyed, but was not the perfect substitute. The soft bread was fantastic in the lightly salted olive oil.

Berkel slicer and Viking panini press

The paper-thin duck prosciutto ($10) was melt in you mouth and had a lovely ducky flavor. I was alternating between laying a slice of the prosciutto on a bit of the rustic bread to savor the experience even longer. I wanted another order for myself and would definitely get this again.

The Bruschetta di Girasole, toasted crostini with roasted sunchokes, tasso ham butter, anchovies and garlic for $5 was tasty. Each of the components were enjoyable independently, but the tasso ham butter really tied the bruschetta together into a greater dish.

The Brussels Sprouts al Forno, wood roasted mini brussels sprouts with horseradish and pecorino ($9) had a nice bite from the horseradish. My dining companion commented that this dish was a bit heavy-handed on the salt. I agree.

Our final dish was the Fettuccine di Brambly, al dente house made chestnut pasta with wild boar and roasted chestnuts for $16. The rich wild boar heart with the smooth chestnut flavor was delicious. We ate this plate clean.

Although there was gelato and bread pudding for dessert, we did not have room. I would definitely be back to try the pig ear’s terrine, roasted pig’s tail and bone marrow pizza. I would also try Coppa’s brunch because I love pressed sandwiches, both savory and sweet. The Nutella Panino, Nutella and banana for $5 and Panino di Mattina, pressed proscuitto, fontina and farm egg for $10 are both beckoning me.

Coppa on Urbanspoon

Chefs for Obama Highlights, Cyclorama, Boston

Chefs for Obama, a group of 14 cooks, held a private cooking competition and tasting, at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts, on the evening of January 31st. The competition was judged by Governor Duval Patrick, First Lady Diane Patrick and award-winning Chef Ming Tsai (BMH Review of Blue Ginger). Each chef had an individual table set up with their food and guests were allowed to taste as much as they please.

Ryan Fleury did an amazing job organizing the event. The event raised $135,000 and the majority of it will go towards the Democratic National Party, as well as the President’s 2012 campaign.

Jody Adams, Rialto and Trade served spiced chicken ravioli, figs and orange. Freshly made pasta surrounding tender chicken and greens were bathed in a light orange cream sauce and dressed with grated cheese and fig. Suprisingly the pieces of dried fig were not too sweet, but semi-tart.

Jamie Bissonnette, Toro and Coppa (BMH Review of Toro) served oysters escabeche using moonshell oysters from the Cape with cava and vinegar. The oyster were chilled, fresh and had a nice mouth feel from the cava.

Chris Coombs, Deuxave and DBar served seared Maine diver scallops over black quinoa, delicata squash and maple aioli. Underneath you found  a sliver of roasted pork belly and tart apple. On top, there were thin slivers of crispy lardons. The scallop was executed well and the aioli and quinoa and a great texture. This dish was aesthetically pleasing and complex with multiple layers of flavors and textures.

Evan DeLuty, Stella served slices of a quattro funghi whole wheat pizza. There were shiitake, oyster and crimini mushrooms, drizzled with white truffle oil. The various flavors from the three types of mushrooms and truffle oil were delicious.

Tiffani Faison, Sweet Cheeks (BMH review of Sweet Cheeks) served a farm salad of brussel and farro. It is similar to a dish she currently serves at her barbeque restaurant.There was raw and roasted brussel sprouts, candied chestnuts, hazelnuts, and farro. This would make a great starter.

Will Gilson, The Herb Lyceum served parsnip hummus, fried chickpeas, and crispy parsley. It was a healthy twist on a great appetizer using produce from local farms.

Gordon Hamersley, Hamersley’s Bistro was very warm and charismatic and served a fresh duck salad with wheat berries. The texture of the grain was fantastic, the duck was juicy and a classic Hamersley-style dish.

Barbara Lynch, No. 9 ParkB&G OystersStirThe Butcher ShopDrink and Sportello (BMH Review of SportelloDrinkNo. 9 Park) poured spicy tomato soup topped with a crispy grilled cheese. The soup had a nice spicy bite and the grilled cheese added a lovely crunch.

Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother served a fresh catfish taco with a collard green kimchi. The collard green kimchi was something unique we had never had before and paired wonderfully with the lightly sauteed catfish.

Seth Morrison, The Gallows (BMH Review of The Gallows) served a vegetarian delight of mushroom bordalaise on top of roasted spaghetti. It was served in a bamboo spoon. This was a comfort food type of dish that was perfect for the winter evening.

Rebecca Newell, The Beehive paid homage to her beloved grandmother by serving potato and cheese pierogies with truffled creme fraiche and housemade salmon. The pierogies were filled with the truffle scented cream, however a bit limp, but the homemade salmon was fresh and had a great flavor.

Marc Orfaly, Pigalle and Marco plated dishes of healthy mac’n’cheese made with roasted butternut squash, whole wheat pasta, gruyere cheese, greek yogurt and herbed panko breadcrumbs. The mac and cheese was quite tasty and light.

Brian Reyelt, Franklin CafeThe Citizen and Tasty Burger (BMH Review of Tasty Burger) served up a homemade s’more. The graham cracker and marshmallow were homemade and tasted wonderful drizzled with chocolate sauce. The soft marshmallow was the best part of the dessert.

Oishii (BMH Review of Oishii) served 3 pieces of sushi, Kobe beef with spinach, salmon topped with a slice of strawberry and tuna. Our favorite was the melt-in-your-mouth kobe beef. Chef Ting Wen was greeting attendees and helping add soy sauce to plates.

The participating chefs  created a cookbook featuring original recipes titled “Massachusetts Chefs for Obama.”

The winner was Chef Evan DeLuty of Stella, who will have the opportunity to meet with Mrs. Obama. Judge Ming Tsai announced the rankings were as follows:

1st: Evan DeLuty from Stella

2nd: Jody Adams from Rialto

3rd: Ting Wen from Oishii

Our tastes did not follow the judges’ exactly. We thought Chris Coombs from Deuxave, Gordon Hamersley from Hamersley’s Bistro and Ting Wen from Oishii had some of the best dishes of the night.

All leftover food from the campaign event was donated to Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a Boston-based food recovery program. The Lovin’ Spoonfuls’s team are very passionate about their work and partners with supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s to feeds about 40,000 people a day at crisis centers.

Please note we received complimentary tickets for BakingMeHungry. All opinions are our own.

Obama Victory Fund 2012 – Cooking Competition & Food Tasting Chefs for Obama, South End

Getting ready for another Tuesday night curled up on the couch with a glass of wine watching NCIS, Glee and the Biggest Loser simultaneously? (Oh, that’s just us? Awkward…)

Can you think of any better way to spend a Tuesday night then sampling food from some of Boston’s best restaurants while enjoying a libation or two surrounded by Boston’s food-loving community? No? I didn’t think so.

Come out next Tuesday to support the President’s re-election efforts! Chefs for Obama, a group of 14 cooks doing a private cooking competition and tasting, will be putting their best plate forward just for you. The competition will be judged by Governor Deval Patrick, First Lady Diane Patrick and award-winning Chef Ming Tsai (BMH Review of Blue Ginger). Each chef will have a table set up with their food and guests will be able to peruse/taste as much as they please. Which chef do you want to win?

The fundraiser will be held at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts. It is a beautiful historic venue in the Boston’s stylish South End and more than appropriate for this fun foodie event. Check it out, we promise it will be a great time.

Chefs for Obama, next Tuesday, 1/31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Boston Center for the Arts. This competitive cooking fundraiser will feature dishes from these local celebrity chefs:

Jody Adams, Rialto and Trade
Jamie Bissonnette, Toro and Coppa (BMH Review of Toro)
Chris Coombs, Deuxave and DBar
Evan DeLuty,  Stella
Tiffani Faison, Sweet Cheeks
Will Gilson, The Herb Lyceum
Gordon Hamersley, Hamersley’s Bistro
Barbara Lynch, No. 9 ParkB&G OystersStirThe Butcher ShopDrink and Sportello (BMH Review of SportelloDrinkNo. 9 Park)
Barry Maiden, Hungry Mother
Seth Morrison, The Gallows (BMH Review of The Gallows)
Rebecca Newell, The Beehive
Marc Orfaly, Pigalle and Marco
Brian Reyelt, Franklin CafeThe Citizen and Tasty Burger (BMH Review of Tasty Burger)
Ting Wen Yen, Oishii (BMH Review of Oishii)

The 13 participating chefs have also created a cookbook featuring original recipes to raise cash for President Obama’s 2012 campaign, titled “Massachusetts Chefs for Obama.”  It features handy-dandy pull-out recipe cards, which you can perch on the unique cookbook box that folds into a stand. The cookbook is being sold for $100 by OFA will be available for sale on the night of the event.

All leftover food from the campaign even will be donated to Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a Boston-based food recovery program.

Ticket Information:
$1000 – General Admission plus a Chef Cookbook, a chance to guest judge, and a pre-reception
$500 — General Admission plus a Chef Cookbook and a chance to guest judge
$250 — General Admission
Or if you can’t attend, just donate to a good political cause.
Buy your tickets here. Buy your cookbook here.

Please note we received complimentary tickets for BakingMeHungry. All opinions are our own.

Images: Cookbook from Barack Obama website, Lovin’ Spoonfuls website, Cyclorama from the Boston Center of for the Arts website.