Heirloom LA, the multi-faceted, market-driven company from Matt Poley and Tara Maxey, hosted a dinner celebrating Cook Pigs Ranch behind their Glassell Park headquarters. The dinner was originally supposed to be in The Salon, but they instead carved out a larger footprint out back, featuring communal tables under strings of Edison bulbs, upraised herb and vegetable beds, and a living wall of passion fruit lining the fence.
Krystina and Mike Cook, who run Cook Pigs Ranch with family in the famed apple hamlet of Julian, were front and center. The couple explained what distinguishes their pigs, including the elevation of their ranch, which is nearly 5000 feet high, close to Spain’s famed pork hotbed, Iberico. That helps to bolster prized marbling and fat caps. They raise 9 different heritage breed pigs, including KuneKune, Duroc, Great White, and Tamworth, for about 18 months, versus commercial farming, which normally takes six months. The Cooks feed pigs acorns, apples, macadamia nuts and masa, and some animals grow to a whopping 2000 pounds.
The pork I enjoyed at Heirloom LA wasn’t from a pig nearly that big, but the premium meat did factor into plates titled Sausage Heaven, Pork ‘n Beans, and Crispy Pork Belly, which all appeared on a pig-shaped blackboard menu. We passed family-style plates and drained bottles of wine with custom labels, and all told, my favorite bites were of Sausage Heaven. Poley, culinary lieutenant Tad Weyland, and the crew tossed ricotta cavatelli with big chunks of roasted Cook Pigs Ranch sausage crafted with belly and shoulder meat. Luscious jus coated the pasta, fennel and garlic heightened the flavor, hearty rapini, chilies, creme fraiche and scallions completed the flavor and textural balance. The heartfelt energy is what I’ll most remember most about the evening, and it’s that canoe of pasta I’ll continue to crave.
Note: Heirloom LA hosts special events approximately every 6 weeks. In September, they’re working with Poketo to transform their back space into a Korean and Thai street market, and October features Chef Gen of Sushi Yuzu. Check Instagram, Twitter and their blog for announcements and key details.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.