It took me this long to recoup from a weekend of back-to-back chowder and pig. Booze was likely a factor in the slow recovery.

I just recently received the results of both the Chowder Challenge and Cochon 555 events that happened last Saturday and Sunday, respectively. I’m posting them here with a bit of comment.


"You call that Chowda?" photo courtesy Ian Goodrich

Saturday, I was happy to attend the Chowder Challenge at New Old Lompoc’s 5th Quadrant. Much to my chagrin, I was announced as a “celebrity judge” (celebrity being liberally applied in this sense) and spent much of the afternoon drowning my shame, confusion, and embarrassment, in stout. But the chowder was excellent, barring two particularly bad entries. Here are the contestants and winners:

Winner of the coveted Chowder Cup: New Old Lompoc
Most Flavorful: Rogue Ales
Best with Beer: Hedge House
Most Authentic: New Old Lompoc

The line-up

#2 Oaks Bottom Public House
#3 Alameda
#4 Hopworks Urban Brewery
#5 Rogue
#6 Eat, an oyster bar
#7 Horse Brass Pub
#8 Hedge House
#9 New Old Lompoc
#10 Fifth Quadrant
#11 Laurelwood
#12 Lucky Lab

The Chowder Challenge raised $3,300 for Locks of Love. God, I love beer people.

The Cochon 555 event on Sunday, national pig day, was an evening of unmitigated swine excess. Five chefs were given five pigs to do with as they saw fit, and the small ballroom at Ecotrust was absolutely crammed with wide-eyed eaters jostling about in a kind of pork stupor. The jocular competition between chefs produced some stunning morsels. Of particular note was Vitaly Paley’s crispy black pudding with bacon hollandaise. The small morsel had the odd characteristic of blotting out the madness of the room with an ever expanding flavor and richness that stopped you dead in your tracks—chewing slowly with your eyes closed, gently swaying to and fro. Needless to say: Paley was the big winner. His entire menu below:

Testarosa (rolled head sous-vide), 5 day cedar smoked prosciutto, Consommé royale (bacon and truffle custard, Oregon truffles, cured ham, chervil), Crispy Black Pudding and Bacon Hollandaise, Pig in a Sausage blanket, trotter and hock stew, elderflower braising jus, crispy skin and rocket salad (pork loin wrapped in bacon, sausage, and caul fat. Served with a hock and trotter stew, elderflower brazing jus, apples, and red onions. Topped with a salad of crispy cider syrup glazed pork skins, apples and rocket)

And a big “hell yes” for that bacon and truffle custard. So, why is this use of bacon okay with me? Because it’s not in a cheesecake. What can I say; I’m a complex person. Scratch that. I’m finicky. Deal with it.

The one use of bacon I could not abide was Bunk’s tasty, weird, and troubling avocado bacon milk shake. I told myself that I should pass, but I like what Bunk does and decided to take a chance. It was tangy, salty, sweet, rich, and okay for the most part. It was served in a plastic cup with a straw, which my mind equates with “refreshing beverage.” I slurped it absently while I wandered the tables, subconsciously thinking I would be refreshed. I was not refreshed. It was a vicious viscous cycle until I finally threw it away and picked up a glass of Sokol Blosser pinot, which was much better.

Between these two events, there was much drinking on Mississippi Avenue. I’m still smiling at the Obama sketch that I bought from the convenience store.