In my fridge, there sits a small pack of pork shoulder, from a free-range acorn fed pig, as butchered by some indy shop up in the Bay Area. This was a Christmas gift from my brother and his girlfriend, both Oakland residents who are keenly aware they live very close to Urban Farmer‘s lot. Let it be said, I love San Francisco and the Bay Area for the food movement driven by Ms. Alice Waters. I also think the entire exercise of underground butchery is a bit hippie crazy, but I’ve also tasted La Quercia domestic jamon serrano on several occasions. Following that train of thought, everyone’s knows Spanish jamon Iberico as imported, also by La Quercia, as well as La Espanola, is just that much better than the plain jamon serrano. Why? An Acorn-finished diet

IMG_0143-sm

Mid main courses at Cafe Pierre, Manhattan Beach, chef Remi Lauvand came out to visit the chowing masses; earlier, a fellow diner, who actually read the menu, spoke of “acorn fed” pork being served. I, being the ignorant snob who failed to read the menu, asked chef Lauvand whether these were prized – and super cute! – Mangalitsas and he began rambling about “Jude” and “La Quercia”. A bit more probing and chef Lauvand started recounting the rare opportunity of actually receiving a 50 pound side of pork, from ribs down to belly, breaking down the entire cut in-house, then using all the fat and trimmed bits to make the headcheese, house-stuffed sausages, the pork rillette (constancy on Cafe Pierre’s charcuterrie menu), and an pork-centric entree utilizing the choicest cuts. Suddenly, the lightbulb lit: we were eating pork from THAT farm in.. Iowa… that supplies La Quercia with the only domestic Ibeirco-style jamon, what’s the name, what’s the name… Jude’s the renowned farmer, that Pollan talked about when he spoke of sustainable farming.. ARGH.. Google help!

Becker Lane Pork RiletteCafe Pierre Stuffed Squid

What most of the fellow diners didn’t notice, as indicated by casual dismissal of the dish with comments such as “the brussel sprouts were overcooked”, “I like the mushrooms”, etc., is that the piggy parts on the table were from the precious “Acorn Edition” pigs from… Ding ding ding! Becker Lane Farms

Cafe Pierre Market Menu

Every year, farmer Jude Becker of Becker Lane, whom LA Weekly Squid Ink Editor describes simply as “way up there on the hero list”, sets aside few (over hundred?) of his healthy free-range Berkshires, and finishes their feeding cycle on acorn, just like the pigs in Southwest Spain have been raised for hundreds of years. 2010 marks “Acorn Edition III” and Cafe Pierre happens be the swiney mecca of Los Angeles at this very moment. Don’t believe it? Google it. At this time, no one else seems to be serving acorn Berkshire in LA. Retail price of these fatty marbled pigs is $8 per pound, pre-shipping, pre-butchering, pre-curing, if you can get your hands on it. You can not, because you don’t call farmer Lane by his first name. Chef L does. Respect that, and haul your bacon loving friends to Manhattan Beach.

Cafe Pierre Jude Becker Trio de Porc

Due to in-house butchering, the lower portion of the “short rib”, which extended a bit into the belly, was served on top, blanketing some fennel infused sausages featuring house-grind pork bits, and neigboring a few tenderloin medallions. This cut of quasi-belly confused a dozen at the table. No one could even imagine the cut was still part of the rib. The fat had no swiney sow smell, but emitted nutty (pardon the acorn pun), aromatic flavor & texture akin to chewing butter. Yes, chewing butter. The pork trio was cooked simply, coupled to no fancy foam, no sauce reduction, no nitrogen, not even an emulsion. It was merely simmered/reduced, and served in its own juice, with the sausage not even carrying grill marks. There was not one iota kitchen trickery. This was pork, as country Spaniards might have cooked, as what you might see on TV if Bourdain visited Southwest Spain.

Click to read more about Acorn Edition III:

La Quercia Becker Lane Acorn Edition III

Then there’s the blessed maison jar of foie butter, ie, “foie parfait” for a measly $9. A similar jar of foie terrine at Church and State runs $19. That $10 difference should cover and gas for all the DTLA dwellers. This version is buttery smooth and topped with a slightly sour quince paste. No one is really sure how many percent of foie this parfait contains, but it matters not. Serve foie up torchon, pate, seared, terrined, and someone will eat it.

Just remember: 50 pounds of Jude Becker’s pork is all Cafe Pierre’s got. Ring them before visiting to make sure the market menu is still in effect.

Cafe Pierre
www.cafepierre.com
317 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Cafe Pierre in Los Angeles

Cafe Pierre on Urbanspoon

NB: this was a press/media/comped dinner. Free, gratis. Not even tip was left (per instructions). But I did thank God on the way home, and said a good night/thank you to tinynancer before going to bed, as if she could hear me. I am a lucky bastard.

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  • http://www.weezermonkey.com weezermonkey

    We had no such complaints on our end of the table. Just a whole lotta “oohs” and “mmms” about that pig. Glad to see I wasn’t dreaming about how great it was.
    .-= weezermonkey´s last blog ..Going Hog Wild at Cafe Pierre =-.

  • jlscribbles

    You mean Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm? Interesting…

  • http://www.djjewelz.com djjewelz

    In my never ending quest to get gout, I’ll be checking out the swine mecca, but hot damn, that’s drive from the eastside.
    .-= djjewelz´s last blog ..A survey – Lobster Bisque at Checkers Downtown in Los Angeles (Phototasting) =-.

  • TonyC

    Nah JL, Becker Lane Farm, not Polyface. Polyface doesn’t ship out West afaik.

  • http://www.thewanderkind.com Nancy

    Thanks for keeping it real. Remi is so humble and low-key that he didn’t even think that his getting a Jude Becker pig was something to shout from the rooftops. (Trust me, if we had known before that night, we would have.) But that speaks to Remi’s character and his finest quality as a chef: his respect for food.

    If anyone has any hesitations about driving to Manhattan Beach for Remi’s food, just go and check it out. If you hate it, I’ll pay you back the gas money.

  • http://estarla.com Esther

    The pork was awesome. And I think there was additional consideration paid to the brussel sprouts once it was known they were cooked “sous vide.”
    .-= Esther´s last blog ..Flock of Food Trucks: L.A. Street Food Fest =-.

  • http://shopeatsleep.com ShopEatSleep

    I like how I made it into this post without “making” it into the post. Granted, I am no food (or in this case, pork) snob, as you so rightfully admit yourself, but I notice things like side dishes. If it’s on my plate, I notice. And I, admittedly, am infatuated with brussels sprouts at the moment, so now everyone knows what I’m talking about — and that’s OK. I’m glad you enjoyed your meal, Tony!

  • http://dianatakesabite.blogspot.com/ Diana

    Let it be known – pig is gooood.

    That said, I was perfectly content chowing down on bread last Thursday night. :)
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Coriander-Orange-Scented Red Lentil Soup — I command you to make it =-.

  • TonyC

    Not quite convinced veggies such as sprouts need to be sous vide, but the chef must’ve had his reasons. Acorn Edition sausages are also available for purchase directly from La Quercia, and the rear legs, which chef Remi spoke of, are being cured as we speak thus won’t be available until sometime in late 2011. Personally, the sausages really drove it home. On our side of the table, I basically devoured the entire pork plate by myself, with impunity. Sorry Southbay kiddies.

  • http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/ Hobson’s Choice

    Hey Toni, Thanks for the link. It really is amazing pork isn’t it? I am about one year ahead of Cafe Pierre in the Acorn Edition process. Where Chef Lauvand just received the fresh product, I just received the spallacia. That is the prize I gave to Menu for Hope, on which you so graciously commented. Keep up the great work.
    .-= Hobson’s Choice´s last blog ..Market Watch – Winter 2010 =-.

  • http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com gourmetpigs

    I totally missed the connection to Michael Pollan’s book. I’m so bad with names I read in books! But thanks for pointing it out though, now I want to bust it out again and find that section.

    That “hog” dish was my favorite of the night, too bad he only got 50 lbs. Wonder if there’s any left ..
    .-= gourmetpigs´s last blog ..Chinese New Year Brunch at The Langham in Pasadena =-.

  • Lefty A

    Berkshire is such a sweet secret in LA, but hopefully not for long.
    My wife and I will soon have north Los Angeles county raised, free range, acorn finished Berkshires. People in the know are liking their lips waiting for this fall to get here

  • http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com H.C.

    I actually was foie’d out by the Cafe Pierre dinner; it was good, but more impressed by the potted/jarred pork stuff (trotters! head cheese!) I’m sure my share of that terrine is happily taken up by a table neighbor.

    And the rib did have a texture and flavor that’s closer to really good pork belly! Would’ve been fooled if I wasn’t menu studying at the front-door with my early arrival.
    .-= H.C.´s last blog ..Special Foodventures #153: Urban Hike and Eating Off Streets! =-.

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