After a decadent afternoon of feasting on over 1,500 pounds of heritage-breed pork raised on family farms, almost 500 guests gathered with glasses full of everything from Franciacorta and Pinot Noir to Breckenridge Smoked Old-Fashioneds and Angostura Rum Swizzle cocktails at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach. From cooks and guests to winemakers and distillers, all were waiting for Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe to crown Miami’s “BBQ King or Queen,” bestowing not just the title but a place in the national finale, Grand Cochon, in October.
Representing the Hereford breed of pig raised by Palmetto Creek Farms, Chef Paula DaSilva, executive chef of Artisan Beach House at The Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour, was crowned Miami’s BBQ Queen. DaSilva will represent Miami this October at the national championship in Chicago. Kirsta Grauberger of Market 17 took home honors in the Somm Smackdown competition for her pairing of pork with Cleto Chiarli, NV “Centenario” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Ben Jewell of El Grito was named “Punch King” for his cocktail, Haza Yo Faza, featuring Breckenridge Bourbon, Tepache, Mezcal Espadin, chocolate, and banana syrup, Angostura Aromatic and Orange Bitters, garnished with Canela and a pineapple leaf.
Cochon555 offers guests a unique way to sample food cultures near and far, putting the focus on creating a safer, more honest, and delicious food system. National in scope, the culinary tour will go to some 14 cities in total in 2017. The event also benefits a greater – and absolutely delicious – cause in the form of Piggy Bank (www.piggy-bank.org), a farm-in-the-making devoted to sharing free heritage breed genetics and business know-how with family farms. This year’s competing chefs included Clark Bowen of DB Bistro Moderne, Rene Reyes and John Gallo of PINCH Kitchen, Tito Vargas of Bazaar, Jeremiah Bullfrog of P.I.G, as well as Paula DaSilva of Artisan Beach House. The chefs prepared boldly flavored dishes using heritage breed pigs from family farms in a nose-to-tail, whole-animal showcase for a crowd of pork-loving gourmands.
The Hereford pig used by DaSilva is a rare, but well-known breed. Originating from the U.S. during the 1920s, this pig resembles Hereford cows and has a distinguished reddish-brown coat and white face. It is known for its calm disposition and ability to thrive on pastures. The breed yields richly colored and marbled meat. These aspects worked in tandem with Chef DaSilva’s six winning menu items, including a carrot vadouvan bavoire, a BBQ rillette with pimento cheese and benne seed cracker, a pork consommè, pork belly nachos, a feijoada with pig sausage, black beans, farofa, and collard greens, and shoofly pie.
A culinary competition featuring 5 chefs cooking 5 whole, heritage breed pigs with innovative flavors and timeless cooking techniques, Cochon555 challenges chefs to use every bit of their accumulated knowledge and inspiration. Each chef is given a 200-220 pound heritage breed pig and tasked to create, prepare and present a “Judge’s Plate” of 6 dishes scored on utilization, global influences, cooking techniques, and overall flavor, among other categories. This year’s expert speakers and celebrity judges included local luminaries such as Anthony LePape of The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach; Jose Mendin of Pubbelly; Diego Oka of La Mar by Gastòn Acurio; Aaron Brooks of Edge Steak and Bar; Darren Brass and Jose Santiago of Miami Ink, and Kiko Suarez, producer/editor/on-air talent of Telemundo Television.
“The national competition gets more intense and dynamic every year, and the performance of the Miami chefs, somms, and barkeeps shows precisely why the city is at the forefront for culinary excellence in this country,” said Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe. “Chef DaSilva’s winning dishes were bold, modern, thoughtful, and full of the kind of flavors that only enhance what heritage breed pigs have to offer. We owe a big thank you to The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach – the setting was spectacular.”
Communal feasting is an integral part of the Cochon555 culinary fabric. Beyond the 30 chef-competitor dishes – all told, some 1,500-plus pounds of heritage pork from family farms – guests also sampled beef tartare prepared by Chef Timon Balloo featuring truffles from Sabatino Tartufi, paired with the wines of Antica Napa Valley; a farmhouse cheese spread from Gourmet Foods International; a pop-up bakery from La Brea; a Salami Snack Bar from Creminelli and Divina; a ramen noodle soup bar with Drunken Dragon featuring the racy wines of Germany; organic pâté offerings from Les Trois Petit Cochons; a Luxury Butter Bar featuring Sabatino truffle butter, foie gras, and more; and an innovative take on pastry presented by Perfect Puree of Napa Valley and Maria Orantes of Pubbelly.
Cochon555 events are also theaters for innovative spirit, wine, and cocktail experiences. Libations included Smoked Old Fashioneds with Breckenridge Bourbon; The Manhattan Project presented by Poached Jobs; the Tiki Bar featuring Angostura Rum and Perfect Puree of Napa Valley; a Courvoisier Cognac “neat” tasting with hand-crafted chocolates; and a Heritage Rum Cart. New pours incorporating the historic bitters and luscious rums of Angostura were unveiled at the Swizzle Bar. And an array of wines grouped under the “5 Winemakers” banner featured Kosta Browne, CIRQ, Scholium Project; Pax Wine Cellars; and Silver Oak. Other experiences included the Welcome Lounge featuring Buffalo Trace; non-alcoholic sodas from DRY Sparkling; Wines of the World and Azzurro Wine Company.