As always, COCHON Heritage Fire in Napa never fails to impress. This year’s installment, held at the River Terrace Inn, featured several Bay Area chefs showing off their skills in whole-animal cookery for a captive audience eager to chow down on everything from goat to lamb to pig to rabbit to fish. Heritage breeds were the star of the show, alongside the region’s best produce and — this being wine country, after all — glass upon glass of world-class beverages.
We started our afternoon with sips of Robert Craig‘s rosé of Zinfandel as we perused all the glorious food that was on offer. Team Toast was handing out simple pieces of baguette topped with fresh tomato, basil, mint and a little olive oil — not only a perfect first bite, but also a perfect showcase for some of the season’s best ingredients.
But then it was time for the meat.
Namu was plating up spicy cheddar/smoked pork sausage that paired perfectly with Magnolia Brewery‘s crisp, bold Proving Ground IPA, which conveniently was being poured right next door. Magnolia was also serving up chicken smoked under a brick along with a Meyer lemon salsa verde.
Next, we stood in line for delicious Albacore tuna tacos with pico de gallo, queso fresco and avocado from Jason Vincent of Nightwood in Chicago, Grand Cochon’s reigning King of Porc. It was the second fish dish of the day, following The Whole Beast‘s Chinook salmon glazed with a black pepper caramel sauce, and served with green papaya, white peach and green mango salad.
Throughout the day, we sipped wines from Antica, Barlow Vineyards and Buty Winery, and when it was time for something a little stronger, we stopped by the Templeton Rye table for lovely cocktails made to order in small Mason jars.
But we weren’t done with the food yet. There was jerked goat from Sepia in Chicago served with jonnycakes and spicy peach ketchup. Along with their wines, Antica had also brought “Bunnies Gone Wild,” featuring rabbit roulade, and rabbit legs and feet. During an afternoon of indulgence, a special announcement from Cochon founder Brady Lowe heralded one of the day’s most indulgent dishes: a whole-roasted Berkshire pig stuffed with 10 pounds of Australian black truffles, prepared by the King of Mushrooms. The ridiculously tender and aromatic meat had spent 10 hours on the spit after being brined for five days.
In the end, it was back to Team Toast, who circulated through the crowd with trays of cinnamon toast, the perfect bit of sweetness to cap of a day of savory pleasures. We’ll be back for more next year!