This Little American Piggy Goes to an Old School Party
(Gerry Furth-Sides) It was a (rare) dark and stormy night in Los Angeles this past winter when Smithfield Foods brought in a Chicago-style party, part of a three-city tour, to introduce their take on Italian-influenced pork dish options to local chefs at Pistola-LA. The fashionable restaurant is fittingly a stone’s throw away from the Original Farmer’s Market – another historic name in farm products.
The contrast between farm and elaborate party stood out from the moment we stepped out of the car at a friendly valet service and heard the strains of the live New Orleans-style jazz band inside.
Pistola’s award-winning chef Vic catered the food stations offering Smithfield’s serving premium pork. Pork was even an ingredient in the passed cocktails. Who wouldn’t be in a party mood after a few sips of bourbon infused with a bacon infusion for a pop of a taste?
In this case it was a “PDT Old Fashioned” cocktail with bacon-infused bourbon, lemon juice, fennel-infused honey syrup — and did this smoothie ever pack a punch. The open restaurant bar added to the spirits.
The Smithfield Foods convention style “party” quickly filled half the double-store front space while dining customers filled the other half. Corporate Chef Frank Dominguez Chef from Kansas City was on-site. Below he greets Chef Cecilia de Castro, Founder-Director of ACE (Academy of Culinary Education), a Los Angeles culinary treasure who was at the side of Wolfgang Puck for 30 years.
Food stations were set up along the back in front of the kitchen, where Chef Vic of Pistola-LA. was overseeing the preparation, and in front of the bar that covers one side wall.
“Bicycle Thief” with subtitles playing on the bar TV echoed the Italian note of the menu. Both featured timeless classics.
Across from the bar, the menu was thoughtfully placed on one of the high cocktail tables.
Crispy Pork cheek “Milanese” with wild arugula, sweet 100 tomatoes, lemon & parmigiano-reggiano was a clever play on the classic Italian. Grazi for putting “Milanese” in quotes for the novel use of perfectly prepared pork instead of beef, although pork (or veal) was sometimes used in the dish originating in Milan. Sweet tomatoes were an invigorating substitute for a sauce, updating a classic by making it lighter while retaining the same flavors.
“Milanese” defines a dish with the beef or pork coated with flour or bread crumbs and browned in hot oil or butter with a sauce of tomatoes, mushrooms, grated cheese, shredded meat and truffles.
Italy “ruled” with Sicilian almonds in the Medjool Dates and blu di buffala wrapped inside Smithfield Log Smoked Bacon and the “Casarecci, Neapolitan DIRoC Pork Shoulder rage, chili & pecorino cheese.
Dessert Tortino with chocolate s’formate, bacon gelato & candied Smithfield Log Smoked Bacon proved bacon can star in every course.
Slow-Roasted DURoC Pork Belly – trendy in LA for years now – was the clear favorite and there was enough of it on the dish to satisfy any pork belly lover! The crispy skin, tender meat is evident even in the photo. Here it was prepared with beluga lentils, caramelized shallots & salsa verde.
Tuscan DURoC Spare Ribs with garlic, rosemary & tomatoes may have been cooked midwestern-style, chewy and dry.
We were happy to catch up with the dynamic Chef-Owner of Academy of Culinary Education (ACE)and on-site cafe in Woodland Hills, and meet friendly, small catering company chef-owners.
Smithfield Foods bid farewell to guests with a beauty of a bold red, durable insulated bag plus handy Smithfield meat thermometer and paring knife in a case. The company made a donation to the LA Regional Food Bank on behalf of every guest in attendance as well.
Pork belly entree is truly a wild “party dish” that lingers in the memory. The event also brought to mind a memory that has lingered even longer: my immigrant mom cooking a whole Smithfield Ham (mouthwatering and complete with cloves sticking up all over it) for the family – moist and flavorful and festive any time of the year. In our household of “eaters,” this favorite was a rare meal with leftovers. Part two of this taste memory: sandwiches simply made of ham, lettuce and mayo – white bread or week-end rye, on a plate with potato salad or coleslaw. Perfection in a regional American dish.
Smithfield Foods is a $13 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. The US leader in numerous packaged meats categories, popular brands include Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook’s®, Gwaltney®, John Morrell®, Kretschmar®, Curly’s®, Carando®, Margherita®, and Healthy Ones®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental, and food safety and quality programs. (For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com and www.smithfieldcommitments.com.)