Events — 31 August 2016
Napa’s COCHON555 ‘Heritage Fire,’ Where Eating With Your Hands is Encouraged

Blog: COCHON 555 Heritage Fire Napa

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Amid the rolling green hills rife with upward growing purple colored grapes, a sea of smoke would cloud the otherwise sun-filled setting. But the thick gray colored fog would hardly signal the threat of train on this otherwise, pristine August Sunday afternoon- instead, the wafting aromas of charred pork, chicken, rabbit, duck and beef would fill the air in a way that would make a caveman salivate. Cooking over open flames in the heart of Napa’s picturesque wine country air, the traveling pig-centric tour entitled COCHON555 would host “Heritage Fire,” a celebration of some incredible local winemakers and chefs, set in the backdrop of one of the west coast’s most highly respected wineries.

Situated on the back lawn of Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, some 3,500 pounds of whole animals would be cooked over life fire pits and served by more than fifty local area chef, each of whom was welcome to put their inventive spin on each culinary creation. Inspired by the promotion of honest food preparation, family farming and the raising of heritage breed animals, the COCHON555 stop on the west coast was not all that dissimilar to their most recent visit to our local area- just with far more space with which to work… and much better weather. Fortunately, the afternoon festivities offered just as much variety for the hundreds of guest to experience during the sold out affair.

“Heritage Fire” is perhaps best described as one-part cookout, one-part tutorial and one-part picnic- with each of the different elements available depending on one’s level of interest. COCHON 555 Founder Brady Lowe gladly took awaiting media members on a brief but informative tour of the fire stations, where chefs had meticulously assembled each whole animal to be cooked. Meanwhile, a Pop-Up Butcher Shop nearby allowed attendees to watch the physical break down of an entire hog, before being wrapped up and auctioned off to onlookers in the name of charity. And as a former winner of a generously portioned pork belly at a previous COCHON auction, this writer can vouch for both the quality of the butcher cuts as well as the finely bred animals being utilized. Other folks took turns throwing beanbags in friendly games of cornhole and grabbing a spot on the grass to kick back and relax in between unlimited helpings of all shapes, sizes and influences.

Our glasses were filled with some of the country’s finest wines and quickly gobbled down with stand outs coming courtesy of Silver Oak, Faust, Rombauer Vineyards, Del Dotto and hosts Charles Krug, whose 2013 “Cabernet Sauvignon” somehow managed to be smoother and smoother with each additional pour, despite the oppressive heat. For a change of pace, eventgoers could also grab frothy glasses of beer from Sierra Nevada and Magnolia Brewing, pairing perfectly with dishes like the “Grilled Guinea Hen with Mustard Butter” from Smokestack Chef Brandon Korf or The Battery Chef Nicolai Lipscomb’s “Whole Roast Asado Lamb” served with avocado, carrot and beet salad.

Overall the menu was quite extensive, broken out by the meat utilized for each team. Our photo gallery above will surely do the justice that our words simply cannot but some of the day’s highlights included Zuzu’s (Chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart) “Whole Hog Tinga Tacos,” CIA Chef Lars Krommark’s brilliant “Tuscan Beef Sushi,” and Chef Alexander Lovick of Inglenook’s excellent “Tea Brined Roasted Duck Lettuce Cups.” The day’s finest dish however belonged to Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman of Ramen Gaijin. The pairing’s “Northern Thai Rabbit Sausage” was absolutely mouthwatering, meshing sweet and savory with little gems lettuce and roasted peanuts amid a deliciously salty hunk of arranged rabbit meat.  We returned for trips two and three to this table with little in the way of hesitation.

From charcuterie to cheeses, goat dishes to desserts and literally everything in between- except of course for seafood- COCHON555’s latest happening was another sold out love letter written to some of life’s most primal indulgences. It’s an annual roadshow across the country that is classy enough to welcome in some high-end clientele, but conceptually designed for guests to eat with their hands and wipe the grease from their cheeks. And time and time again, each COCHON555 hosted event seems to be more delicious and more outrageous than the last.

- Dave Gendelson

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