Cochon 555 is a pig tour. People that love eating pigs and drinking cocktails that benefit from pigs attend to eat copious amounts of pig. The well advertised tour hits all major American cities and garners positive press for the majority of the year. Of course protestors are going to show up.
We’ve been covering Cochon 555 for the last seven years. Each edition features new chefs to praise and new dishes to attempt to recreate. This year was no different. What was slightly odd was the setting. The Watergate Hotel is an interesting spot for a food event like Cochon 555. Unlike Union Market, it’s entirely indoors. Great for air conditioning, not so great for noise. It was difficult to escape the pointlessly loud generic DJ. It was also somewhat difficult to see the butchering, but these are minor issues that didn’t detract from the quality of heritage pigs.
The goal of Cochon 555 is to spread awareness of heritage breed pigs. Some proceeds go towards Piggy Bank, a heritage breed pig sanctuary that provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Is it a little odd that you’re supporting a 501(c)(3) that breeds the thing you’re eating? Absolutely. But all food is odd. What an amazing observation. Moving on to the food.
Kosta Kontagiannis of Kingbird won and will be representing D.C. at the Grand Cochon in Chicago on October 1. His dishes made from Saddleback pig were some of the most satisfying of the night, especially the G-Ro (pork gyro, mom’s pita, country tzatziki and heirloom tomatoes).
BJ Lieberman of Rose’s Luxury, using a Berkshire pig, served the best single dish of the night. His lychee salad made with ham sausage, habanero and peanuts has no real competition. It’s one of the reasons it’s on the Rose’s Luxury menu. And has been featured in Bon Appétit. Is it fair for a restaurant to trot our their greatest hits in a cooking competition? Absolutely. To not showcase your best would be absurd.
Another highlight was Ben Pflaumer of Osteria Morini’s tortelacci All’ Amatriciana made with Large Black braised pork shoulder-filled ravioli, cacio e pepe fonduta, scallion and anchovy. It was the most satisfying single bite.
The reason to attend an event like Cochon 555 is to remind yourself that there are wonderful restaurants and dishes you may not have thought of sampling. Yes, you know Rose’s Luxury is great but when’s the last time you had their lychee salad? Have you ever considered going to The Watergate to try Kingbird?
Kudos to the protestors. While I don’t agree with protesting at an event that supports sustainable farming and breeding, their stance is admirable. But their chants are not. “It’s not food!” is not a good chant. It’s literally food. It’s why you’re protesting. You would not be protesting an event in which I did not take home some pig hocks.