Monday, February 06, 2012

Cochon 555

As soon as I heard about Cochon 555 coming to town, I knew that I wanted to go. Five chefs, five heritage pigs, and five wineries? Yes, please.

And then I saw the ticket price. And Warren told me that he was going out of town. So, I got over it. Sort of.

Last week in a last ditch effort I sent out some emails to friends in the know and by mid-week I had a free VIP ticket. Woot! Of course the only downside was going stag, but I figured I was sure to know somebody there, right? Of course, it turned out to be a who's who of the Memphis foodie scene. And from all accounts the foodies made the Memphis event the biggest and best to date.

The event was held at The Columns, which is what they are calling the lobby of One Commerce Square now. You know, the old NBC/Suntrust bank spot. It's actually a pretty nice place to have a party--especially a big party. Inside, half of the perimeter was lined with the five chef stations and the five wine stations. The other half featured a huge cheese and oyster bar. Tucked in the back was a bourbon bar. In the middle of the room was a large stage. It was a lot to take in.

Naturally, I got myself a glass of wine and headed over to Kelly English's station. There was a bit of a line, but Kelly made his way down passing out little Chinese take out boxes filled with 'Leftover' Lou Minh, a play on lo mein with pork belly and slow-roasted shoulder. While he told me about it, I took a very stealth and blurry picture of him.

Since it was packed up all cute and to-go, I actually took it home for Warren to try. (Who is the sweetest wife ever?) I did however, scarf down a nice serving of the "Heart, Grit, Grind" which was a ragout of pork offal over corn grits.

I felt like one of those people on Top Chef who gets to come to the big event style challenges and taste the chefs' creations. However, instead of going it alone, the Cochon 555 chefs got to assemble a team of helpers. Kelly had cookbook author and foodie extraordinaire, Paul Knipple, and the newly citizen-ized Patrick Reilly helping him out (among others).

As you can see, most teams had a crew of hardworking helpers.

Even though as a VIP I got in an hour early, things were still pretty bustling and the lines were kind of daunting. I ended up chatting and milling about with the foodies I knew and ones I just met, sipping wine along the way.

Admittedly, I was getting a little concerned about some of the offerings. Check out this head cheese. Great presentation, but uh, I couldn't do it.

Then I found Hannah (Sayle, of Flyer fame) and she directed me to the bourbon bar.

I'm not much of a bourbon drinker, but who could resist these cute little concoctions? I immediately cast off my wine glass.

(I know, great picture. Whatevs.) I of course do not remember what kind of bourbon it was, but I know I had to wait awhile for the ice to melt so I could even drink it. While the ice was melting, Hannah and I headed over to the cheese bar that Whole Foods set up. (This was one of about 15 spreads.)

After about half an hour of noshing and chatting (and drinking the bourbon), I felt ready to get back in the game. We headed over to the station that Andy & Mike of Andrew/Michael Italian kitchen set up. The line was crazytown, but we somehow managed to find our way to the front of it. The treats offered were really fun--minestrone, pork belly, head cheese croutons, chocolate blood tart with salted lard caramel over gelato, pork rinds, and who knows what else. By the time I cleared the line, I had a stack of plates.

It was kind of awesome. And believe it or not, my favorite was the head cheese crouton. I really wanted to like the pretty bacon infused bourbon, but it was too smoky to drink. But so pretty!

Oh, and Andy Ticer definitely won best dressed.

From there, I tasted a few other things, though I have no idea what they were. Kelly English recommended this one.

Unable to eat or drink anything else, Hannah and went about chatting people up and taking funny pictures. I wish this one of Michael Donohue and Don Perry comparing notes would have turned out better.

We spent a lot of time at the merch table, and not just because the merch guy was awesome.

Did I mention that the bourbon guy was awesome too?

Daniel hates being called a mixologist, by the way.

Hannah and I are ready to go on tour with Cochon 555 should the opportunity arise.

It was a great event, and I am so happy that I got to go. I have a feeling that had Warren been my date I would have done a much better job of tasting everything. Hannah and I didn't even make it to the final course, which was a full pig served family style. Three hours of eating and drinking is hard work!

Congrats to Kelly English for the big win, and kudos to Andy & Michael for going all out. I can't wait until the next event.

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