Los Olivos has long been home to a restaurant from brothers Jeff and Matt Nichols, who previously ran historic Mattei’s Tavern and have run Sides Hardware and Shoes since 2012. They also own Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn in Santa Ynez, which debuted in 2013.
The name Sides honors Milburn Sides’s store, which operated in Los Olivos from 1901-1970. Now the space features historic black-and-white photos on tan walls, seven seats at a full bar, and wood tables indoors and on a covered patio. The logo depicts a pig holding a hammer in one hand, cleaver in the other hand. However, pigs are on the business end of both tools.
Chef de cuisine Michael Cherney explained the background of a memorable special: juicy fat-rimmed porchetta di testa plated with mache, dabs of whole-grain mustard, crunchy shaved radishes, and toasted Bob’s Well Bread pain de levain. The Sides team starts by deboning the pig’s head, “leaving the meat from the head in its true form, basically like a mask. After the meat is off the head, it is marinated with fresh herbs, garlic and lemon, tightly rolled and tied with butchers twine and poached in a seasoned stock for a few hours. When the meat is cooked and tender, we re-roll it very tightly and chill it overnight before slicing paper thin.”
“The porchetta di testa came from a simple theory of nose to tail,” says Cherney. “Over the past few years, I have purchased several whole animals that have been locally raised. It was my goal to use every single piece of the animal, and step back from the mass produced, individually portioned, center cuts of meat that provide little character to our guests and dishes here at Sides. I started a relationship with a local family who raised live stock just a half mile down the road from Sides. We would save all of our raw vegetable scraps and left over bread at the end of the night and feed it to the animals the following day. I was making everything from ramen broth to trotter toast and head cheese, literally using every ounce of usable product on the animal and educating our guests about whole animal cookery and supporting local farmers. My Sous Chef Kyle [Patzman] had been with me for about 6 months and was eager to get involved with this project and try out an idea of his own. I let him have free-range with one of the local pig heads and his first idea was porchetta di testa.” Free-range works.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.