Fired-up for Cochon Heritage Fire

Photos by Huge Galdones

As much as I love living off the bounty of sweet vegetables from my garden in the summer, I could not wait to feast on the succulent and smoky wood-fired meats at Cochon Heritage Fire on Saturday.  The event took place on the wooded, riverside lawn behind the River Terrace Inn in Downtown Napa under near-perfect 75 degree weather.  Cochon Heritage Fire is a branch of Cochon 555, a nationwide series of consumer events and a professional culinary competition of “snout-to-tail” cookery using heritage breed pigs.

Chochon is such a delectable word, more mouthwatering than simply “pig”.  Cochon to me reverberates whole suckling pig, as in cochon de lait, which really represents what the Cochon 555 program is about:  educating consumers about sustainable, whole animal utilization.  The event celebrates local, family-owned farms who raise heritage breeds and the great chefs who support them.  The day’s provisions were supplied by Stemple Creek in Marin Country and Belcampo Meat Company in Oakland.

At Saturday’s event, their were over a dozen chefs from SF, LA, Chicago and from wine country, preparing a range of fish, fowl and meats over the fire.

Chef Andrew Zimmerman put their whole, jerk-spiced goats over the fire at 11:30 am, and it was taken off at just the right juicy “mid-rare medium” stage for this leaner meat.  It was served with a vegetable ketchup and mini corncakes.

Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia in Chicago.  My photo

Local favorites Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa roasted a yogurt-marinated Fallon lamb.

The fixings for the lamb below were mouth-watering.

My only regret was not getting a taste of their Black Pig bacon-wrapped fig.  Rumors swirled around their station about Duskie appearing on not just one, but two food programs in the fall.  Stay tuned!

Duske Estes of Zazu and her Black Pig-wrapped figs.

One of the day’s highlights was the spit fire roasted Berkshire pig stuffed with Perigord truffles, prepared by The King of Mushrooms Todd Spanier.  Really, too much of a good thing?

One of my favorite dishes of the day was Antica Napa Valley‘s bacon and french bread wrapped rabbit stuffed with mortadella, pancetta, prosciutto, fontina cheese and herbs of sage, rosemary and fennel.  It was wrapped in foil and cooked a la caja.  It was on par with a equally delicious and savory version I had at Oenotri.  Kim Wiss learned these recipes first-hand at the Antinori kitchens in Tuscany and it showed in its authenticity of pure Italian flavors.

There were plenty of libations and a great selection of wines from family-owned producers like the Zacherle Wines in Calistoga.  Friend and winemaker Nile served up his Carneros-style Riesling which is barrel-aged sur lie, leading to a richer style but still retaining Riesling’s characteristic acidity.  Perfect with the rich meats.  I also loved the range of wines from Robert Craig, who brought a super-dry rose, a Howell Mountain Zinfandel and a Cabernet.  All of them paired well with the days’ fare, but the very fresh, finely textured mountain Zin with its berry-ish fruit was most perfect.

For more information on Cochon 555, check their website.