Yesterday, the D.C. stop of Cochon 555 challenged five chefs in head-to-head competition in the name of heritage pork. This year's competitors included Spike Mendelsohn of Bearnaise, Victor Albisu of Del Campo and Taco Bamba, Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia, Danny Lee of Mandu and Jonah Kim of upcoming restaurant Yona. Each was paired with a heritage pork farmer and tasked with creating a minimum of six dishes utilizing the whole hog. The winner will compete for the title of "King or Queen of Porc" at the Grand Cochon tour finale at Snowmass/Aspen in June. Read on for Hangover Observations of the event, which was held at Union Market's upstairs Dock 5 space:
1. Getting into character: Victor Albisu really got into character for his Swineface theme, with a white Scarface suit and a black matte Super Soaker filled with alcohol. "It's a Super Soaker to the mouth," he said as he shot mojitos at guests' faces. The menu items had names like mojito pork shoulder tacos called "This town is like one big taco just waiting to get stuffed." Also, apparently cheese for empanadas got cut with credit cards, Scarface-style.
2. Animal Farm allusions: Meanwhile, Spike Mendelsohn built a barn-like structure for his corner of Dock 5, emblazoned with a quote from Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." He served chicken-fried pork and sourdough waffles, made with a starter he said that he flew in from a friend in Hawaii, as well as dishes like head-to-tail pho with meatballs and crispy head cheese, and pork belly and bacon ice cream.
3. Butterstick sighting? Someone in a panda costume danced on their own for a couple hours at Mandu's station.
4. A new Game Of Thrones beer: Brewery Ommegang passed out a sneak peek of their newest Game of Thrones-inspired release, the Three-Eyed Raven, a beer that won't be out until April. Other drink options included a plenty of punches from the Punch Kings competition (won by Taha Ismail of Kapnos), wines from Washington state, a Perfect Manhattan Bar and tastes of WhistlePig rye whiskey as well as a WhistlePig cocktail with vermouth, Campari and chocolate mole bitters. That was located right near Jeffrey Buben's booth, where guests grabbed bowls of hog jowl soup and pork and grits.
5. The Pop-Up Butcher Shop: The music for when Alexia Sutter of Red Apron Butcher started butchering a Spring House Farm Hereford pig in The Pop-Up Butcher Shop was pretty inspired. ODB's Shimmy Shimmy Ya played at first as the pig's head got separated from its body. And we're always going to associate Breezy's "Look At Me Now" with someone breaking down a pig from now on.
6. Pucker up: Spring House Farm's Andrew Crush carried the jowl-less pig head into the crowd near the Pop-Up Butcher Shop to show off its fat marbling, and guests gave the pig a kiss.
7. Dinner for tomorrow: Chefs from L'Academie De Cuisine walked around selling cuts of the pig to Cochon555 attendees, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the culinary students. Pork chops, anyone?
8. Pork blood cream puffs: Yona's booth was staffed with an army of people in pink piggy costumes, including Jonah Kim and George Pagonis. Some of the little piggies passed around cream puffs with pork blood and chocolate.
9. Too full to dance: After Barcelona Wine Bar chefs manned the BBQ Traditions booth and La Brea Bakery's bacon and bread pudding was served for dessert, guests assembled near the stage to find out the winner of Cochon555 D.C. 2015. A few couples danced while they waited, as did an adorable little girl, but everyone else seemed too laden down by pork.
10. And the Prince of Porc is: And the winner of this year's event, crowned D.C.'s Prince of Porc, was Danny Lee of Mandu. Lee, who was paired with Buckingham Berkshires farm, asked for his mom Chef Yesoon Lee to join him on the stage. And then the crowd started chanting, "Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom" until Lee's mother got up on the stage and gave him hug. She held the trophy over her head, and Lee said, "Everything I do in my life is because of this lady right here." Then he thanked his wife and his team at Mandu, saying, "To my Mandu team, I'll give you a raise. I'm a little drunk though, so that might not hold."
Video by R. Lopez