All words: Riley Croghan
All photos: Stephanie Breijo
Our photographer, Stephanie, can attest to the fact that one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to “eat more pork”. It was a resolution made partially in jest, largely under the influence of a wonderfully ham-heavy New Year’s brunch, yet it’s the resolution I’ve been most faithful to. And last night, I got a whole year’s worth of amazing pork in with one fell swoop, thanks to Cochon555, the annual, traveling pork battle.
Cochon555 is so named for 5 chefs (Nathan Anda of Red Apron Butcher, Erik Bruner-Yang of the always-fabulous Toki Underground and the soon-to-open Maketto, Mike Friedman of Red Hen, Dylan Fultineer of Rappahanock Restaurant, and Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple) making top-notch dishes from 5 heritage breed pigs (saddleback, large black, mulefoot, mulefoot, and ossabaw respectively) and 5 winemakers, creating the opportunity for an endless possible combination of pork pairings.
For my money, the best thing I ate all night– and, no exaggeration, one of the best things I’ve eaten in months– was an ice cream sandwich whipped up by Ripple’s pastry chef Vanessa Ochotorena. The rich treat featured bacon-butter pecan ice cream sandwiched between two pork-fat oatmeal raisin cookies, finished with a chocolate glaze. It was one of the most whimsical takes on pork presented that night, fitting right in with the other offerings executive chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley put together for ripple, including pig heart sausage and a fanciful take on pork bahn mi.
Another standout generated one of the longest lines at the event, an impressively comprehensive charcuterie whipped up by the always rock-and-roll Anda for Red Apron Butcher. In addition to salami “cigars,” Anda made one of the more decadent takes on pork, a “turpiggen” of thin slices of mortadella wrapped porkloin stuffed with a pork tenderloin.
Ultimately, though, it should come as no surprise that Maketto’s Erik Bruner-Yang brought home the bacon and won the night. Maketto’s pop-up—already a stand-out from across the room with giant gold balloons spelling out the name—had, perhaps, the longest queue the entire night. Bruner-Yang mixed up incredible Asian/barbeque fusion takes on fermented sausage and a barbeque pork bun with hoisin sauce—two dishes I sampled at least twice over the course of the night—in addition to a pork skin chili and, naturally, a pig’s blood cake. Erik will go on to represent DC at the Cochon grand finale in Aspen this June, battling the nine other regional winners for the title “King of Porc.” We wish him good luck; for now, back to the food porn: