Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Better living through pork

March 20,

Every year the National Pork Board invites me, my boss, and sometimes some other NRN editors to The Culinary Loft to meet their “Celebrated Chefs,” whom they select each year to tour around and cook pork. Theoretically we're supposed to cook with them, but mostly we just watch. But we meet new chefs and the food’s always good.
This year, they were all featuring Berkshire pork, a special breed that the Japanese call Kurobuta. It’s really not normal for commodity boards to highlight a boutique item in this way, but the pork people can be remarkably open minded about that sort of thing. I’m sure they get grief about it back in the home office in Des Moines, though, from the big producers of commodity pork. Really, they’re different markets. Berkshire’s quite a bit more expensive than mainstream pork and targets a different market. Ditto for wild Alaska salmon, which is far more expensive than the farm-raised stuff, and also tastes different. In fact, there’s no way that Alaska and other wild fisheries could come close to meeting the global demand for salmon.
But I digress. Today we met Michael Giletto, chef at the Federal Bank of Philadelphia; Johnny Hernandez, from True Flavors Culinary Planners in San Antonio; Shad Kirton from Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa, and Tim McCarty from the Mayo Foundation House — part of the May Clinic, in Rochester Minn. Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland, Maine, who also now has a place in Florida, also was listed as a Celebrated Chef, but she wasn’t at The Culinary Loft. I don't know why, and we didn’t ask because we didn’t look at the press kits until we were back in the office.
Many of these chefs hooked up with the pork board through the Taste of Elegance, a nationwide cooking competition.
People always laugh when I tell them that Taste of Elegance is a pork event, which of course is why the pork board decided to call it that. They want to give pork a more upscale image.

We ate:
From Michael Giletto: Adobo-scented pork tenderloin with banana-vanilla bean caviar vindaloo, hazelnut mascarpone pork tortellini, coconut cream, chestnut foam and a chorizo tuile.
From Johnny Hernandez: Roasted pork loin gorditas with guajillo chile and papaya cilantro slaw
From Shad Kirton: “BLT salad” made with braised pork belly, heirloom tomatoes, assorted greens and crostini, served with roasted garlic aïoli
From Tim McCarty: Pork & wild mushroom bisque with truffle oil, garnished with shredded pork and sautéed wild mushroom on puff pastry

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