POPSUGAR Celebrity

Porking Out at Charlie Palmer's Pigs & Pinot

Mar 23 2010 - 5:50am

On Friday, I hightailed it up to Sonoma County for Pigs & Pinot [1], an annual event held by renowned chef Charlie Palmer [2] to benefit Share Our Strength [3] and the Healdsburg School [4]. A Taste of Pigs & Pinot brought hundreds of guests to the Hotel Healdsburg, all of whom were prepared to sip some serious Pinot Noir in between heavenly bites of pork. A dizzying array of pork dishes, stellar Burgundies and Pinots, and a star-studded chef lineup easily made Charlie Palmer's charity event the party of the season. Feast your eyes on the food that was served when you keep reading.

The event had many impressive indoor stations. One of them was a charcuterie table, covered with platters of every salumi imaginable, from coppa to lardo to mortadella.

All of it was made in-house at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen [5] — including a leg of prosciutto that came from a pig raised by Charlie himself!

Tyler Florence was in tow, plating up dishes, greeting guests, and pouring bottles of his own TF Pinot '08.

His star dish was one called "The Relationship," which he made to symbolize the marriage between dairy and pork. The dairy-fed pork is served here with fresh cheese and miniature flowers.

My favorite dish of Tyler's, however, was a Jerusalem artichoke soup, topped with what looked like crispy guanciale, microgreens, and smoked olive oil that's sold at his Mill Valley shop. Every element added a key component to the soup.

Douglas Keane at Cyrus [6] made a pork cheek po' boy with green garlic mayonnaise.

Charlie Palmer had his own station, where guests were served glazed pork ribs.

The man himself, getting congratulated by attendees for such a successful event.

Bryan Voltaggio, who spent many years [7] working with Charlie Palmer, was plating his own dishes.

Bryan's Baltimore coddies with Jerusalem artichokes, smoked trout roe, and bacon "saltines." The bacon saltine with roe was a delicious combination!

Voltaggio's version of headcheese was dressed with about a thousand small components.

Bryan Voltaggio poses with Matt Hill, executive chef of Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington DC.

I was really looking forward to trying food from Kevin Gillespie, the winner of the Pigs & Pinot elimination challenge [8] on last season's Top Chef.

Kevin served a grilled pork belly with smoked peanut butter and marinated apples.

He also showed off his charcuterie skills by making a pâte de Campagne topped with a little mushroom salad and pickled cherry.

The 50 wines served at the event faced off in a blind tasting competition, The Pinot Cup. Around 8 p.m., everyone stood silent as the winner of the Pinot Cup was announced by Charlie Palmer and the panel of judges, which included Food & Wine's Ray Isle [9]. Woodenhead [10] took home top prize.

In case attendees weren't consumed enough by the wine and the food, there was a live jazz band on hand, too.

Bay Area talent Roland Passot, who owns the San Francisco institution La Folie [11], served something that looked like beef Wellington, only it was made with garlic pork sausage, and the wrapper was a truffle and pistachio brioche.

My friend and I decided the best thing we had all night was a suckling pork bahn mi from Healdsburg restaurant Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar [12]. I spoke to Chef Mark Stark, and I'm convinced his secret is fermented bean sauce and dried shrimp, both of which really bring out the flavor of the suckling pig.

Even desserts couldn't go without some added element of pig. My favorite was the maple bacon doughnut on the left.

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