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
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!
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
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.
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:
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.
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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