Last year marked Cochon 555's first stop in Minneapolis. The annual pork competition that celebrates the small farm and heritage breed pork discovered that our chefs are well-skilled in the porcine arts when Thomas Boemer of Corner Table and Revival took home the crown at the national competition in Aspen.
This year, Boemer passed on his title to our newest emperor of the pig arts, but that was just one part of an obscenely fun event, capping off a weekend of celebrations.
The 2016 battle went beyond the food and booze and dipped a toe into the wine world by include a Sommelier Smackdown . Five wine experts: Nicolas Giraud of Meritage, Erin Rolek of The Bachelor Farmer, New France Wine Company’s Bill Summerville, Nick Rancone of Corner Table and Brie Roland of St. Genevieve. The Bachelor Farmer's Erin Roleck took home that honor.
The next competition was the Punch Kings. The Rookery's Dave Brown carried the theme of his cocktail through from his outfit (Johnny Appleseed: resplendent in a pot hat) to his punch, served in a cored out apple with a brown butter meringue on top.Elliot Manthey of Spoon and Stable was more subdued - as one would expect from a competitor from Spoon & Stable. Britt Tracy of Heyday was last year's winner, there to defend her title. Tyler Staples of Zen Box Izakaya served his lavender scented punch in a masu box. However, it was Blue J. Ballard of Scena's creative presentation that showed the three stages of his punch (at the beginning of the night and slowly diluted), perfumed with chai spices that brought out the Breckenridge Bourbon's flavor that won.
However, the main event everyone was waiting for was the judgement of the food. Zen Box Izakaya's John Ng's presentation did include a ramen (as we were all hoping it would), plus influences from Japan and his Chinese heritage. It was a five course study in subtle pork beauty.
Chris Nye of Spoon & Stable drew on Mexico for inspiration including a delicate pork taco and an astounding pork blood hot chocolate with a marshmallow that used the blood in place of gelatine.
Travail Kitchen and Amusements' Mike Brown, James Winberg and Bob Gerken are sometimes known for their raucous food ways. For the competition they toned things down (although, the meat umbrella did come out later). This plate was a serious contender including an utterly unique pork belly (no easy feat these days) served in an ethereal broth. The charcuterie was reminiscent of the early Travail days in the old location, except all grown up.
Surly Brewing's chef Jorge Guzman went right for the comforts of home: he dipped back into the flavors of the Yucatan, where he originally hails from. His tamale was little a tiny little flavor bomb with sexy, smooth cornmeal and the punchy, bold pozole demanded attention.
The final team to show was the Chef Shack, the only all-female crew including Tammy Wong of Rainbow Chinese, Brenda Langton of Spoonriver, Hannah Brenti of Brava led by the Chef Shack's Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer. The ladies brought the beauty with a towering croquembouche table scape and a tray reflecting worldly flavors, including Wong's brain broth and Brenti's sambusa.
In the end, there could be only one winner moving on to Aspen. This night belonged to Jorge Guzman. He best utilized the Lucky George Farm's pig (named for a certain wizardly book character's curly friend) to the most delicious and beautiful end.