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Porking it up in Denver

By Dave Buchanan

Forget for now the Broncos, this weekend the porkers take over Denver.
Lovers of heritage-breed pigs are sure to enjoy Cochon 555, a unique culinary competition Sunday in Denver featuring five pigs, five chefs and five winemakers.
The event will be at the Ritz-Carlton, 1881 Curtis St. The VIP program begins at 3:30 p.m, general admission is at 5.
The chefs, who include the fabulous Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail (she, you remember, was the featured headliner who wowed the crowd at the 2010 Colorado Mountain Winefest), will be challenged to use the entire pig – head to tail, the squeal is optional – while the heritage-type winemakers will be pairing their small-production wines.
Other participating Front Range chefs include 2008 James Beard Foundation Award winner Laughlin Mackinnon of Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder; and Denver-based chefs Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant; Frank Bonanno of Luca D’Italia; and Jennifer Jasinski of Euclid Hall & Rioja.
Winemakers will include Domaine Serene; The Scholium Project; Elk Cove Vineyards; Failla Wines; and Chase Family Cellars.
Whew, what a lineup.
The premise behind Cochon 555, which makes similar appearances in cities across the nation, is to “promote sustainable farming of heritage pig brands,” according to PR whiz Lori Lefevre.
It’s not surprising that pork farming, like all industrialized farming practices from apples to zucchinis, has taken the “easy road” to mass production, breeding pigs that grow big quickly in what are euphemistically called “concentrated animal feeding operations” (CAFOs), which translates to factory farms (even to docking the pigs’ tail because cramped pigs will eat the tails off their pen-pals).
That mass-production means losing the flavor and appeal of heritage-breed pork in favor of lower production costs.
However desirable they may be, heritage pork breeds are not suited for today’s intensive farming techniques, says the website LocalHarvest.org, and some of the older breeds are in danger of being lost.
But there’s hope that events such as Cochon 555 (“cochon” is French for pig but I’m sure you already knew that) will remind pork lovers of the delights of eating real pork.
The winning chef (attendees pick their favorite) will compete in the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June.
General admission tickets start at $125 per person, VIP tix are $175 and include special wine tasting along with artisan cheeses, caviar and oysters.
Information here.

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