Cocktails, wine and swine filled The Curtis Hotel on Sunday for Cochon555. This nose-to-tail event was part of a 14-city tasting tour to celebrate and educate others on the agricultural importance of utilizing old world, Heritage Breed pigs. Diners feasted and voted on dozens of pork-centric bites, wines and punch cocktails while five chefs, five bartenders and five winemakers competed to represent Denver in the tour’s Grand Cochon culmination event in Chicago this fall.
With two full rooms of tasting tables, there was plenty to enjoy. But this year, a lot more happened than just eating. Read on to see our top highlights from this year’s Cochon555.
Fierce Competition & Camaraderie
Although there were more than 20 vendors serving bites and sips, only five chefs competed to represent Denver at the Grand Cochon: Bill Miner of il porcellino salumi, Will Nolan of Viceroy Snowmass, Darrel Truett of Barolo Grill, Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market and Burton Koelliker of Bonanno Concepts. Each chef brought a memorable, full buffet of bites featuring different parts of the whole hog, but only one could be crowned victorious. Chef Will Nolan took home the title and will head to Chicago in October to represent Viceroy Snowmass and the city of Denver. His winning array of six dishes included a bánh mì with char siu, a “Louisiana sausage party” with Cajun boudin blanc, a fried smoked-pork cheek and waffle, grillades and grits, and porc de crème.
“Chef Will’s winning dishes were bold, modern, thoughtful, and full of the kind of flavors that only enhance what heritage breed pigs have to offer,” Cochon555 founder Brady Lowe said.
Victors of the beverage competition included Somm Smackdown winner Kelly Wooldridge of Table 6 and “Punch King” winner Tim Hershberger of Mizuna for his cocktail the Linda Hamilton West, featuring Breckenridge Bourbon, pineapple rum, Earl Grey–coconut water sun tea, Angostura bitters and a chicharrón garnish.
Swine & Sips
Winners aside, all other vendors brought a buffet of creativity and flavor to their stations. Some of our favorites included Blackbelly’s gumbo with a three-day roux, il porcellino’s cured and smoked pork belly toast with lard brioche, gochujang, ginger, fermented spring vegetables and pickled seeds and Departure’s Thai-style pork cheek with herb salad, curry oil, crispy garlic and crushed peanuts. Attendees buzzed about all of the competing punch cocktails, and we couldn’t help go back for seconds of Green Russel’s “The Earl of Kensho” with Breckenridge bourbon, cognac, bacon fat-washed earl grey tea, Perfect Puree caramelized pineapple, vanilla, lemon, Pedro Ximénez sherry and orange Angostura bitters.
Live Pop-Up Butcher Shop
In the middle of the event, Kate Kavanaugh and Josh Curtiss of Western Daughter’s Butcher Shop broke down and live-auctioned various cuts of a whole hog while more than 500 participants stood in awe. Benefits from the auction went to the organization’s non-profit The Piggy Bank. The Piggy Bank’s mission is to build a heritage breed pig sanctuary that provides free information, genetics and business plans to emerging family farms seeking to raise swine sustainably.
Although Cochon555’s emphasis remains on sustainable and humane livestock farming, it still draws its own share of controversy. Animal right’s activist group Direct Action Everywhere snuck into the event to protest and speak on stage. They were swiftly removed and taken into police custody. According to Cochon555 staff, the organizers posed as hotel staff to get ahold of a microphone.
All photography by Brittany Werges.