Saturday, December 13, 2008


If you believe the restaurant reviewers at the L.A.Times, you will learn what is "in" -- pig parts.

Meson G on Melrose features pig feet cooked in white wine and aromatic vegetables. The chef shreds the meat, cooks it with stock and butter and then cools it until it "sets." Then he cuts hockey-puck size disks, deep fries them and sells them as "Crispy Pork Trotters."

Sona offers a main dish of braised pig feet, stuffed with foie gras and served with lentils. The chef likes pig feet because they are gelatinous.

Spago often buys a whole pig head and grinds it to make sausage.

But the piece de resistance appears to be at Providence, where the chef does a warm salad of julienned braised pig ears and roasted squid topped with frisee, wild arugula and dried black olives. "They're soft and melting on the outside with a strip of cartilage in the middle that stays firm no matter what you do with it." He adds, "I think that's why so many people appreciate it: that snap between your teeth when you bite in."

Now LALA land is not the only place that features pig. I had my introduction to North Carolina Pig Picking from my transplanted cousin Shirlee. Shortly after she moved there her grandson wanted her to experience a "pig picking" - the equivalent of what we would call roasting a pig for a barbecue. She tried to describe it to me but for some reason my mind refused to conjure up a picture of what she was talking about. As it turns out, for good reasons. Here is a link to an authentic pig picking. Be prepared for a picture that, depending on your frame of mind, you'll either say "OH YUMMY" or "GROSS":

When I was back visiting her, luckily we did not get to attend a pig picking, but she did take me to a barbecue restaurant somewhere, I think, on the way to New Bern. In the window they had a written paragraph of just how the pig is chosen and prepared for their restaurant, and the coup de grace is all done in the back of that place. By the time the pig meat got to my plate, it was visually unappetizing and even as bad as my "taster" is, what with my dysgeusia, it tasted worse. They put some kind of vinegar on it, and it does not look at all like what we in California consider BBQ anything. Shirlee's sister Nancy had been taken there too, and she called it "indeterminate" meat. That is as good a description as anything I could call it. You might want to look up that word in the dictionary to make sure you fully understand what she called it.

Personally, for roast pig I'll take the pork sandwich as prepared at Felix's Cuban Restaurant in Orange, California. It has on it some roast pork, some ham, a dill pickle and a few other things that make it a cut above any other pork sandwich you'll ever have. I suppose like anything else, picked pig is something you are brought up eating if you live in the area and it doesn't seem so out of the ordinary. However, I am warning all of you travelers to stay away from picked pig in North Carolina, and if you are waivering in your choice of meat to try, take another look at that picture!

And try not to gag.

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