[Photos: R. Lopez]
The sixth installment of Cochon 555, D.C.'s most beloved sausage party, saw 600 guests noshing on 1500 pounds of pig at Union Market Sunday.
The 555 stood for the five chefs who had nearly a week each to take a heritage pig and then prepare a variety of dishes using all parts of the animal. Guests and a panel of judges weighed in on their creations at the event to determine a winner. Meanwhile, there were beverage stations around the room offering up mezcal, wine from five winemakers and even a "perfect Manhattan" that could be taken home in a sealed mason jar.
The Pop-Up Butcher Shop was a live demonstration featuring Red Apron butcher's Adam Musselman breaking down a 100-plus-pound pig in its entirety. Culinary students from L'Academie de Cuisine then walked around hawking kidneys, legs, ribs and other parts trying to sell them to the highest bidder on-site.
Among the chefs competing — Ripple's Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Rappahannock Restaurant's Dylan Fultineer, The Red Hen's Mike Friedman, Red Apron Butcher's Nathan Anda, Maketto's Erik Bruner-Yang — the big winner of the night was Bruner-Yang, who will go on to compete at Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, in hopes of becoming the "King of Porc." The butchered pig's parts sold for $1500, which went toward L'Academie. Read on for Hangover Observations about what else went down during this ultimate pig-out.
1. While Meek-Bradley served them pig heart sausage with slaw on a pretzel roll, one couple gushed over Ripple, saying they had just gone for his birthday. In particular, they praised the grilled cheese, a big draw during the Cleveland Park eatery's happy hour. "Oh yeah, they are good. I eat too many myself," the chef said of her restaurant's grilled cheese.
2. Friedman, as he manned The Red Hen's culinary area, was not short on enthusiasm, telling multiple customers he was "feeling fucking good." While plating a pasta pig dish he promised big — and channeled the 80s. "You're going to go bonkers," he said.
3. No calorie counting allowed: Host Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon555, when opening the festivities, told the mostly attentive crowd, "We're here for the same reason...flavor" and that the room was filled with "people who believe in the product from start to finish." Later, to spur voting, he coaxed everyone to eat and keep eating. "This isn't a dieting Sunday, is it?"
4. Pig party: The night was filled with accessories (pig snouts, masks on tables that guests snatched up and wore on every part of their faces) and a Yelp-sponsored photo backdrop with sassy phrases like "Gettin' Piggy with it" and "I like Pig Butts and I cannot lie" to help partygoers embrace the pigtastic theme. But the best T-shirt of the night just might have been a red "Keep Calm and Eat Adobo" number.
5. The question of the event (along with "What would a vegetarian possibly eat here?") seemed to be, "What couldn't you do with pork?" From porkorn to pupusas to a rich chocolate trifle that included lard pound cake topped with a pork rind, pig was in full effect.
6. Ballon favors: A brunette woman, nearing the end of the tastings, randomly asked the Maketto staff if she could home the decorative "E" gold balloon that helped to spell out the eatery's name. They obliged and took down the letter for her. Why an "E?" It was the first letter in her last name. But her husband equated the newly acquired possession to a stuffed animal earned at the fair. "Who knows what we'll do with it?" Regardless, they started a trend and soon all of Maketto's inflated sign had disappeared into the crowd.
7. Bibiana Chef Nick Stefanelli, out of nowhere, hoisted a bottle of red wine into the air and poured the remaining vino directly into the mouth of Scott Drewno, executive chef of The Source..because why not?!
8. It wasn't "white trash ramen," but rather "Redneck ramen" that Vidalia spooned out as part of "The Asian Speakeasy" featuring Vidalia and The Source. The distinction was subtle but important one the Vidalia cooks explained. The toppings in the Japanese-style soup they prepared were all of a Southern variety — butter beans, boiled peanuts and collard greens —hence the name.
9. Pig part bargains: A pig leg (dubbed "future prosciutto" on the paper on which it was sold) was a higher-dollar purchase among the pig parts butchered live. The leg went for $200, while the head, cut clean from the body to massive cheers from onlookers, sold for $100. "That was the real steal," culinary students touted as they sold the rest of their wares. "You can do so much with the head."
10. Erin Goodman, a bartender from newly opened Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, won the honor of "Punch Queen," or "Punch Princess," as Lowe corrected himself to amp up the alliteration. Goodman and a handful of other mixologists were tasked with using Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey to create a punch concoction. Goodman's rendition was called "Lei me Down" to refer to the tropical feel of her drink, which also included two kinds of tea and El Dorado rum. It's a punch she came up with a few weeks ago and is now being served on Roofers Union's rooftop.
11. Obvious puns:Culinary students, while cutting up sausage links to hand out as samples, used the task as an opportunity for ample sausage jokes. "I didn't need culinary school for a sausage fest; but it helped," one dead-panned.
12. Egg theft: Jeffrey Buben, of Vidalia, busted a guest who attempted to grab a deviled egg meant as a component of his ramen dish. Buben jokingly scolded her and then continued after she left the table. "Oh, I'll find her," while continuing to serve the full dish to everyone else.
13. Mike Isabella, last year's D.C. winner of Cochon555, was called on stage and given a sausage link necklace to wear around his neck over a shirt from The Red Apron with the phrase "Mikey Likes It" (actually a reference to Friedman) across the front. As Isabella opened up an Academy Awards-style sealed envelope, along with a flurry of swears, he announced Bruner-Yang had won." Then, all five competing chefs posed for pictures in front of a backdrop of the U.S. Capitol with a pig signal, in place of a bat signal, emanating from the sky. "I smell like pig," Isabella joked, as he posed with the chefs and Bruner-Yang gave his victory speech.
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