Pig Out

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So it was going to be on a Saturday, at 10:30 in the morning, with 20 F weather (relatively summer-like, though, compared to the past several days of 20 below weather) and massive snowbanks still blocking the alley behind my garage which restricted any conceivable ability to get my car out and running after a week.  But it was an event held by the Green City Market, one of the most essential fixtures of Chicago’s vibrant food culture and an organization I love to support, to celebrate their first year as a year-round market. It was going to have renowned Chicago chefs such as Topolobampo’s Rick Bayless, Blackbird’s Paul Kahan and Prairie Grass Cafe’s Sarah Stegner offerring tastings.  And the whole event, called “Snout to Tail: Showcasing Green City Market Pork” was going to be all about food which was near and dear to this Filipino’s heart.  So my friend Eric and I hightailed it to the Peggy Notebaert Museum in Lincoln Park, the site of the indoor Green City Market during the colder months, to partake of all kinds of pork tastings imaginable, on-a-freezing-Saturday-morning.  Well, I should have known, given the amount of food cooked and consumed at last year’s Green City Market Summer Barbecue, “tasting” was probably going to be an understatement.  Despite the massive crowds (the event was free, but you had to RSVP to the Market), there were boatloads of pork dishes on display which begged for not just seconds, but third and fourth helpings. My personal favorites were Bayless’ pozole, a luscious, pungent, seasonally-appropriate Mexican pork soup with chilis and cabbage, topped with a crispy tostada, which he was personally ladling on to tumblers; Kahan’s and The Publican’s Brian Huston’s surprising, hearty pork confit stew with chorizo and mussels; Stegner’s delicately grilled homemade pork sausage on top of sweet-savory pureed black beans; The Bristol chef Chris Pandel’s porchetta sandwich, the salumi wonderfully seasoned and finely sliced, served on a flaky brioche-like bun with mayonnaise; and Carnivale chef Mark Mendez’s robust, gut-kicking, system-shocking pork soup which employed all types of pork meat from all parts of the pig, from shredded pork to homemade chorizo to crispy chicharones to even crispier fried pig’s ears to tender pork jaw meat- it was wonderful!  My only relatively minor criticism, which hopefully the Market would improve in the upcoming tastings (there would be one every other Saturday at the Notebaert) would be to arrange the room flow and set-up better so that the Market’s vendors (who were all stationed at the outer perimeter of the room) would not be crowded out by the rabid, hungry, pushy foodies.  But it was a terrific event overall, which was a good way to spend a wintry Saturday morning.  With the heat generated by the passionate Chicago food community, chefs, purveyors, and consumers coming together once again, who needs Florida beach time?

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