Cochon 555 San Francisco: Devouring the Whole Pig—If You Can Get To It

Cochon 555

What a great concept. A culinary competition and tasting event with 5 pigs, 5 chefs and 5 wineries. But these weren’t any pigs, chefs or wineries.

  • The chefs were from some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants: Michael Mina, Prospect, SPQR, Fifth Floor and Bar Agricole:
  • The pigs were five different breeds of farm-fresh heritage pigs, each from a local, sustainable, family-owned farm;
  • The wines included a couple from some of our favorite wineries, Failla and Peay Vineyards.

Each chef prepared and served attendees a selection of whole-pig creations. They then waited patiently for attendees and judges to select a winner who will represent the Bay Area against nine other regional winners, in the July 24 All-Star Cochon event in Las Vegas.

The pig and wine were complemented by a selection of cheeses, desserts and for VIP attendees, oysters with caviar and even more premium wines. The event ended with tastes of freshly carved roast pig and a selection of desserts (including the chocolate pig blood cake).

Although the tickets are certainly expensive (Starting at $125), what the heck: It’s all for a good cause—helping family farms sustain and expand their businesses and to encourage breed diversity.

Great Concept, Not Great Execution

That was the concept. The execution, however, left more than a bit to be desired. No one seemed to know where to check coats so we tied them around our waists. We were sent to 3 different locations for wine glasses, with the 3rd location being the charm—leading to a trove of the coveted vessels. Dump buckets were non-existent for the first hour and we had to search out abandoned glasses to dump unwanted wine.

These, however, were rather trivial, logistic glitches. The real problem was the crowd. Considering that the ingredients were farm-fresh, we did not really expect the event to feel like a zoo. True, it was a sell-out. But they could have had a larger venue.  Navigating the room was a challenge, especially when trying to protect a plate of food and glass of wine. Virtually all of the food stations had lines and, once you managed to find the end (a challenge of its own in the crowd), some took 15 to 20 minutes to arrive at the prize. (Luckily, we tag-teamed, with one “runner” keeping the “line-stander” stocked with wine and snacks from other, less crowded stations.)

To be fair, much of the food was wonderful (our personal favorites were the selection from SPQR and the concluding roast pig). The wines, while generally good, were primarily cuvees that combined grapes from multiple appellations. Premium, single vineyard selections were in short supply.

But for all that was good at the 2011 Cochon 555, our first event will also be our last. The next time we want great food, we will go directly to the restaurants. If we want to be packed into a mass of humanity, we will wait for the victory parade, the next time the Giants win the World Series.

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