Friday, March 30, 2007

Laura knows "All About the Pig"

Last week, I went to my very first Slow Food Dinner: “All About the Pig” at Boston’s South End local foods landmark restaurant, the Garden of Eden. The evening was full of surprises, not the least of which was the fact that my favorite menu item was a delicate pastry puff filled with bits of organ, tongue and stomach meat. A happy first for me! They even featured two heritage breeds, a Yorkshire Reed and Gloucestershire Old Spotted, facing off for the title of “yummiest pig.” The menu featured a lot of non-traditional cuts of meat and parts of the pig. Why? The restaurant buys directly from two local farmers who sell their meat in half-pig allotments and to be fair to the life of the pig and the budget of the restaurant, everything goes! And for certain, Garden of Eden chef/owner Robert made magic with that “everything.”

I posed for a picture next to a complete half pig, thinking it would make an excellent addition to this post but the combination of a funny smile and a whole lot of red eye created a not so pretty picture. Instead, I managed to capture another highlight of the evening, which was a guided tour showing the making of fresh mozzarella. Cheesemaker Lourdes Fiore Smith turned loose farmhouse cheese (made with milk from an organic dairy in Vermont) into light fluffy boules of cheese that were still warm and dripping with an intensely flavorful salt brine. I have never had anything like it. Time briefly stood still as I contemplated the intersection of fresh warmth, lively salt layers and the light, smooth delicacy of this just made cheese.

Getting together with people who enjoy food, care about where it comes from and who want to talk about it can only be a good thing. By the end of the night, I had met a farmer who can sell me a quarter pig, made a deal with the restaurant to score some sustainably produced sausage casings (this year’s Valentines Day present was a meat grinder) and my boyfriend made a provolone to take home. Nothing like a good meal to reinvigorate my desire to make sure that there are plenty of family farmers out there to raise heritage breeds and produce fresh milk for me to eat!

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