The pigs that were used at Cochon 555 were all "heritage" breeds, which means they're usually raised on small farms. These are the breeds that were once deemed unsuitable for the corporate supply chain. Now, heritage hogs are being appreciated, and their marvelously rich meat savored.
As part of this year's Pastoral Artisanal Producer Festival, which took place last Saturday, April 27, I was asked to judge this year's participants based on a number of criteria, including Most Likely to Become a Trend, Most Innovative Product and Best-in-Show. Here were my choices.
For the past three years, I've been judging Baconfest, a day-long celebration of the pig's tasty belly. Started in Chicago in 2009 by my friend Seth Zurer, thousands of tickets sell out in hours and Baconfest is now branching out to Washington DC and San Francisco. Since its inception, Baconfest has donated $130,000 – and a huge quantity of donated food – to the Chicago Food Depository.
Can there be any conceivable justification for this aesthetically offensive and clearly unhygienic practice? I'm not saying finger-lickers should be banned from restaurants or have their offending tongues and fingers cut off. That would, perhaps, be going too far. But somebody has to bring it to the attention of these slack-jawed knuckleheads that their behavior does not please me.
Outside Siena is Spannochia, a farm that, among other things, raises Cinta Senese pigs, so called because they have a white "belt" (in Italian, cintura) around their mid-section, and they come from around Siena (thus Senese).