When Go Carnivore asked Tish Sullins and I to guest-blog and attend one of the most beloved event competitions that may ever happen in a Memphis foodies life, we felt like we had won some sort of pork lottery. The Cochon Heritage BBQ & National Bourbon Month event took place on a hot hot HOT day in late August, on the bluffs of the Mississippi in Memphis, TN. Created by Brady Lowe of Atlanta, Cochon 555 is focused on promoting Heritage breed hogs and the farmers that provide them, donating hundreds of thousands dollars to charities and directly supporting farmers across the country. There were six teams competing against each other in this event, and to win-over a panel of twenty-two carefully selected judges is no easy feat. So we were ready to be impressed. The teams were:
1. Rick Farmer and Miles McMath of St. Jude Culinary Team. What they did was pork-centric Asian style dim sum, and the plate was definitely the most organized and fun to look at. Highlights of Rick and Miles team: “Buttermilk and cornbread parfait”, and “Ribs & Spaghetti”
This was one of my favorites. Highlights: Berkshire Pork skin pizza, and a Peach Jam and Al Pastor Biscuit sandwich. “Angel Lard Biscuits” to be exact. Heaven.
4. Craig Blondis and Chris Taylor of Central BBQ in Memphis. Somehow, Craig and Chris managed make better what they already do best: Tamales and BBQ sandwiches. The sandwich was called the Memphis “McRib”, and the Tamale was smokey and hands down, the best one of the competition.
5. Jackson Kramer of Interim. Kramers offerings were all on one plate. Solid Charcuterie, but I wasn’t sure what was what.
And then there was Husk. I’m salivating just thinking about it…..
6. Travis Grimes of Husk in Charleston, SC.
This team’s menu was stop in your tracks good, and noticeably a notch above the rest. They had me at fried bologna and made sure to tell me to try the “lemonade”. Well, the “lemonade” had tequila or moonshine in it (or both) and who can compete with that? Here is the Husk menu. It was all too memorable to leave anything out:
Peach BBQ Glazed Fried Bologna
Confit Pork Neck Corn Fritters
Country Time Lemonade
Pork Skin Noodles with Red Pepper Dashi Broth, Pork belly, and Pork skin “Wonton” Crackers-Dusted with Pork Heart Jerky Powder
Smokey Sea Island Field peas
Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder with Marinated Heirloom Tomatoes, Raw Milk Ricotta ,and TX Olives.
The Pork wontons, were puffed cracklings and when you put them in the Dashi broth they made a loud crackling sound, like pop rocks in your mouth. Talk about sensory eating!
May we emphasize the National Bourbon Month part of the night, and the fact that it was 110 degrees outside, and an all inclusive event at an outdoor/indoor venue. We were thrilled about the pig, but we drank our share of refreshments.
The “Perfect Manhattan” bar was a hit, as they were serving Luxardo Cherries and served Eagle Rare Bourbon as an option. The cherries though, just get them!
Memphis’ own star bartender Evan Potts, of The Cove, and Laura Mitchell were serving up our absolute favorite cocktail of the night. It was called Open Season, featuring Four Roses Bourbon, nutmeg, brown sugar and black walnut bitters.
The night ended with the releasing of wish lanterns in honor of the late Mark Newman of Newman Farms. He left a huge impression on the Mid-South, and his Berkshire hogs were the best around. At the end of the night Mark Newman’s son, David Newman, gave a small speech and said that a friend of his fathers remarked, “If there is such a thing as Hog Heaven, that’s where [Mark] is.”
Just when we thought our fairy pig mother was gone, Chris Taylor from Central BBQ passed around a lard nougat filled Chocolate, Pork and Peanut Bonbons. Happy as Hogs.
-Jayne Brooks & Tish Sullns