This Little Piggy Went to…Cochon 555
That blog landed me a ticket to the main event. (Actually, I was VIP.)
My VIP status got me into a sort of “cocktail hour” an hour before all those not-so-very-important-people got there. Wine in every corner, a extensive buffet of cheeses -some handmade by chef Alex Seidel of Frution – and oysters on the half shell. We were also greeted with champagne. Frankly, this was enough to please me. Give me some wine and cheese and I am a happy camper.
The swine and wine festival began shortly thereafter. The Ritz Carlton’s ballroom was filled with photographers, foodies, journalists, and 5 of Denver’s finest chef’s (Alex Seidel, Jennifer Jasinski, Frank Bonanno, Lachlan Mackinnon, and Kelly Liken). The lines piled up at each chef’s station before I could even smell the pork fat.
Mason jars of bacon were scattered around the room, along with wine stations from 5 different vineyards. Frank Bonanno, the chef I was most looking forward to catching, was unfortunately not ready yet.
So I hopped over to Jennifer Jasinski’s station first. I was handed a menu, or a sort of map actually, that showed exactly which part of the pig each of her plates originated from. An interesting visual (although, I’d prefer not to eat pig liver).
Jennifer’s best: blood sausage
Next was Lachlan Mackinnon’s station. Frasca Food + Wine is an incredibly popular restaurant in Boulder. It’s just been named as a James Beard Finalist for 2011, and Lachlan even made a TV appearance on Top Chef Masters. Basically, this place offers rockstar food, a massive wine list, and from what I now know, an incredibly down to earth, technically talented, and friendly chef. Lachlan gets brownie points from me because instead of hustling, stressing, and frantically plating his pork, he stood in line with his patrons. He held a platter of his chicharones and explained to me how he created this potato chip thin masterpiece. He froze the pork fat, and vacuum sealed it. This made it much easier to cut paper thin, and then to delicately lay it down in hot oil to fry. Of course, chicharones were a commodity at every chef’s station at Cochon555. But Lachlan, hands down, had the laciest, lightest chicharones that I tasted. And the greatest personality…what a sweetheart!
Lachlan’s best: chicharones
Oh, Frank. I was so thinking you were going to win this race. I was looking forward to you the most. I’ve written of your Food Network accomplishments, your now six Denver restaurants, and I had been dreaming all week about what you’d plate up for this event.
I was deeply in love with Frank’s pork tenderloin. It melted in my mouth, like butter. No chewing necessary. It’s sweet, horseradish-y accompaniment of a potato salad was a superb addition to this fabulously cooked piece of swine.
Frank’s best: pork tenderloin
Kelly Liken was once a Top Chef contestant. So once again, here I was, waiting in line to meet greatness. But Kelly didn’t want us to wait in line. “Don’t stand in that line. Come up here and get some food!” Well, if you say so! Kelly named her hog Harold, and drew a map of Harold’s journey around the world. She served up a great variety of swine, from pork and beans to steamed pork buns.
Kelly’s best: steamed pork buns
Fruition is often named “the best restaurant in Denver”. So, it was not surprise to me that I had to juggle a few plates of food and a glass of wine while waiting in line for Alex Seidel’s genius creations. I watched him smile with his staff, as he joked around behind his station. He just looked so relaxed, so happy, so in his element. Alex boasted several different cuts of hams on his charcuterie plate. (Charcuterie is the technique of curing meats like prosciutto and sausage). He was also the only chef to try something sweet – his bacon almond brittle was out of this world. Based on his spread, it was obvious that Alex put in a lot of time and thought…and apparently that wins competitions. Alex Seidel was crowned Prince of Porc, and will be traveling to Aspen to complete at the Grand Cochon at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic.
Alex’s best: trotter tots (a piggy version of tater tots)
Now as for me…MUST.GO.TO.FRUITION!