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Chef-turned-food-writer David Hagedorn gathered 12 of his closest friends — or the dozen of us who could eat and drink late into the night on a Wednesday — for pig roast on the patio at Poste Moderne Brasserie yesterday. Y&H was among the group that crowded around the outdoor chef’s table, itself tucked away among chef Robert Weland‘s wonderland of herb and tomato plants, and waited on our bronzed suckling pig to arrive on a giant platter surrounded by grilled stone fruits and the fang-dripping expectations of the gathered carnivores.
When the pig finally landed on the table, with the sort of ceremony that I imagined surrounded a Roman feast, most of us had already downed a cocktail and/or several glasses of viognier or rose, which had more than primed us for pig meat. We had plenty of pork flesh to choose from.
But before the sacrificial pig made it to our corner of the patio, Weland’s kitchen had soaked the young porker in a combination of soy honey, cardamom, and ginger, and injected some of the same mixture under the animal’s thick skin. He purposely limited the pig’s exposure to the flavoring agents, so as not to overwhelm the natural flavor of the pork meat. Weland also opted not to salt cure the skin, lest the pig lose moisture from the process and dry out while roasting over the open, hickory-fueled pit in the middle of Poste’s courtyard.
Perhaps as a result, the skin on our suckling pig had a chewy, almost leathery texture, not unpleasant but not the crisp crackle that I had been expecting. I related this to Weland, who expressed some dismay and humbly admitted that the “Poste Roasts” are still in the experimental phase. “It’s sort of a learning process each time we do this,” Weland told Y&H.
The best part of the meal, for me, was the chance to literally do some nose-to-tail eating — and, for once, not just read about this resourceful use of animal products. During the course of the meal, I sampled ham, loin, shoulder, and pork skin, but thanks to Stefano Frigerio, the former Mio chef who now sells his own jams and sauces, I got to try so much more. Frigerio secured a good knife from the kitchen and started breaking down the pig’s head.
Before I knew it, I was trying pig cheeks (fatty and still gooey with connective tissue), tongue (dense and livery), and even brains, which Frigerio had spread onto a crusty piece of bread as if it were pate. (The gray matter was indeed creamy, but also surprisingly livery.)
I told Weland about our head games, and he was delighted. “That’s very cool,” he says. “That’s true nose-to-tail eating.” He said that, in the future, the kitchen would serve the offal meats from the skull, should any Poste Roast diners want to take up the gustatory challenge.
The roasts are offered daily at Poste (except Thursday), and you don’t have to go the pig route. Weland’s team will also roast locally sourced duck, goat, brisket, lamb, squab, salmon or poussin as well. It’s a helluva deal at $27 a person (not including drinks, dessert, etc.)
It’s even more of an adventure for those who want to go beyond the standard animal cuts.