Growing up in New Jersey, I never had picnics with jagerwurst, sardines, and craft beer. I also didn’t spell picnic with a K. Clearly, this picnic idea needs rethinking, and Eduardo Ruiz, a Corazon y Miel co-founder and James Beard Foundation semi-finalist in the Rising Star Chef category, might just be the man to do it. Ruiz and Pasadena restaurateurs Jack and Karen Huang recently flipped a sprawling restaurant at the western end of Old Pasadena into Picnik, a communal, multi-faceted dining destination featuring sausages from Electric City Butcher Shop craftsman Michael Puglisi.
During my first visit to Picnik, we piled on the aforementioned elements, along with fried chicken, sausages, mac and cheese, and a hearty, flavorful Three Bean Stew ($9). Ruiz starts with a base of roasted tomatoes, red, black and pinto beans. He builds flavor with a rotating selection of pork scraps and sausage trimmings culled from sausage-craft. On April 5, that meant smoked pork belly, collagen-rich trotter, ear, jowl, rough cuts of sausage and fatback, which added richness, but probably shouldn’t be eaten solo. Ruiz even graced my tastebuds with a spice kick from sliced jalapenos, and more punch from pickled onions.
Since we’re living in a new golden age of butchery and pork husbandry, of course the pigs came from Duroc hogs grown on blissful Beeler’s Farm, a 150-year-old, family-run operation in rural Iowa. Really, though, when I was dipping my spoon in the bowl at a clip that would give an Olympic kayaker pause, I wasn’t thinking about the origin story. I was just focused on feasting, which is important with any dish this addictive.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.