Monday, August 17, 2009

Four Chefs & A Pig: Braise on the Go Pig Roast at Pinehold Gardens

Summer in Wisconsin is often gone before it begins.
Or at least that's the way it feels sometimes.

By this time of the year, we often find ourselves hurrying to take advantage of all the warm weather activities -- the gardening, the State Fair, the farmer's markets and art fairs. After all, autumn is approaching. And soon, we'll be trading in our shorts for sweaters. And our garden trowels for snow shovels.

Milwaukee may not have the sunniest beaches... or the longest growing season... but, her brief summer bears some beautiful fruit. One of the most delicious of these is the annual Braise on the Go pig roast, which was held at Pinehold Gardens.

We thought that last year's pig roast couldn't be beat. That is, of course, until we experienced this year's feast.
The day couldn't have been more perfect -- warm and breezy, with just a few clouds in the sky. When we arrived on the farm, we were greeted by Aran Madden from Furthermore, who gave us an introductory pour of Proper Ale... which is, in our humble opinions, one of the best all-purpose brews out there. Light, toasty, and a bit sweet, it was just the thing to whet our palates for the feast ahead.
Of course the Proper Ale was just the first of four brews that we'd be sampling throughout the evening. The others included Knot Stock (a hoppy, peppery pale ale), Fatty Boombalatty (one of the best -- and most different -- Belgian wheats we've ever tried), and Oscura (a Mexican lager augmented with the flavor -- and killer aroma-- of freshly ground coffee).The tables were set in full view of Sandra and Dave's gorgeous Pinehold Gardens farm. We took our seats and waited patiently for the first course to arrive.
The first delicacy to make its way around the table was a delicious appetizer -- delicate pastry topped with goat cheese, chives, pork confit, and caramelized onions. If the satisfied groans escaping our mouths after nibbling these delicious bits were any indication, we were in for some serious treats.
The first course was the brainchild of Adam Lucks, the powerhouse behind our favorite local hang-out, Comet Cafe -- home of Lo's favorite artichoke melt sammich and Peef's dream come true, a bloody mary served with a slice of perfectly fried bacon.The art of charcuterie really shone in this dish -- a pork paté en croute. The bright pickled beets and kohlrabi kept this rich dish from becoming too overwhelming. And the addition of a few cooked fresh cherries lent the perfect fruity touch.
A surprise palate-cleanser followed the charcuterie -- a delightful carrot slaw with just a hint of cilantro. Crisp and refreshing -- this is definitely a dish we'll be thinking about recreating here at Burp!, as it would make the perfect side dish for all sorts of delicious summer fare.
Next up, we sampled some of the best satay we'd ever eaten -- thanks to our new friend, Peter Sandroni from La Merenda (a great little spot in Walker's Point where you can get some of the best global tapas fare around).
If it weren't tempting enough watching them prepare the tapas...
We couldn't wait to sample the first round as it got to our table -- delicious, Thai marinated pork accompanied by a spicy peanut sauce.
The pork was perfectly done... and it was a fantastic accompaniment for the peppery Knot Stock that was served alongside.
Chile-heads that we are, we reveled in the amazingly zippy cucumber relish that followed... although the Thai chiles made it a little bit too spicy for some at our table.
Our tongues had barely cooled when they passed around the next batch of satay -- Jamaican inspired pork with fresh mango salsa.
By this point in the evening, we could have hopped back into the car -- happy and perfectly satisfied. But, the third course took us for yet another delicious whorl.
The unforgettably tender fresh ham, plated with (delicious) nasturtium and accompanied by a rich, velvety barbeque sauce (made with a hint of coffee), took every single one of us over the edge with delight.
The corn pudding couldn't have been better. It was light and sweet -- made with fresh Wisconsin eggs and sugary August corn (which tasted as if it had been plucked straight from the field).
And, just as we thought it couldn't GET any better, we bit into the juicy delight of this fresh watermelon and cherry tomato salad. With melon so luscious it could have been a dessert in and of itself, this side was brought down to earth with the brilliant addition of savory goat cheese and fresh herbs. Sheer bliss!
By this point, we were seriously wondering if we'd ever be able to get up out of our chairs. But who can resist the promise of chocolate? (and, Peef would add, BACON)??!!
Chef Dave Swanson from Braise quite nearly outdid himself with this dish. Dark chocolate, freshly cured bacon, whole wheat shortbread, and a pinch of sea salt... it could only be made better with a swirl of dark caramel sauce and a dollop of fresh cream.

By the glow of candlelight, we relished every single bite. And yes -- we swooned a bit. I might have spotted a tear of delight rolling down Peef's right cheek. And Rebecca declared that she might just "have to hug Dave" (matter of fact, I think she actually did!)
A night so perfect. Really doesn't happen every day.
It was difficult, but we bid the evening adieu... walking through the grass, until only the faint glow of candles could be seen in the distance.

We thought last year's pig roast was a masterpiece. But, this year was absolute inspiration.

How can we help but give some serious kudos to everyone who made this event possible? Here's the list. Now, give 'em some love! Better yet, sign up for next year's pig roast and join in on the fun!!

Event Sponsorship:
Braise on the Go
Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast
Pinehold Gardens

Food Provided By:
Large Black Pig by Dominion Valley Farm
Beets: JenEhr Farm
Butter, Cream: Sassy Cow Creamery
Cherry Tomatoes, Watermelon: Tipi Produce
Cilantro: Afterglow Farm (
Cipollini Onions, Scallions: Springdale Farm
Chocolate: Omanhene Chocolate
Cucumbers: Piper Farm
Eggs: Jeff-Leen Farm
Greens: LotFotL
Kohlrabi: Wellspring Farm
Whole Wheat Flour: Jesse Lambright (Pristine View Farm)

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  1. Lo, I know I say this all the time, but you REALLY make WI look amazing. WOW that dinner looks incredible. what fun.

  2. If envy is truly a deadly sin, my heart will stop right about now. What a fabulous meal. I could gobble up the photos themselves. Pig roasts are a wonderful thing.

  3. This is one amazing looking feast!

  4. HOLY COW(or pig)! That's a feast. I can't wait to see the recreations.

  5. What an incredible dinner that was, but ok.... chocolate and bacon? Was that really good? It sounds not so good to be honest...:)

  6. Simone -
    Chocolate and bacon really is not as strange as you might think. Especially for this particular dish. The chef didn't have very much time to cure the bacon, so it was less "bacony" than a good double smoked slab might be. So, it might help to think of the best dark chocolate (and I mean Dark) your tastebuds have ever embraced and mix in some salty bits of flavor with just a finish of sea salt and dark caramel, and you will begin to imagine how fantastic this really was. SRSLY.

  7. Wow oh wow! How do I get onto next year's invite list?

  8. Man, this is NOT what I think of when I imagine a good pig roast. What a treat!! Hey, what was in the carrot slaw - was that shredded jicama? It didn't look too cabbagey.

    Ooh, and I need to ask about the bacon and chocolate as well. I've had chocolate covered bacon (YUM) and that's more what I was expecting to see, but it looked more like a brownie in your pic. Was the bacon in layers inside or chunks? I'm just flummoxed by the logistics of making it so purty :)

  9. wow!! looks like an amazing night. i love the farm dinners here in park city...and i love how each town/city is starting to do them more and more:)

  10. What a great way to enjoy a summer day! Slow food, good beer, great friends....It just makes you go to your happy place.
    A couple of months ago, we enjoyed the opportunity to participate in Slow Food Tallahassee with a great meal at a local farm called Turkey Hill.
    Thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh my word this is one amazing dinner. How fantastic!!!

  12. Tina - The carrot slaw was just carrots -- white carrots, orange carrots... no cabbage at all!

    Chocolate covered bacon was more-or-less a chocolate bar with chunks of hand-cured bacon inside. It was laid atop the shortbread, placed on the plate with a whorl of the bitter caramel and topped with sweet cream. The bacon had only been cured for about a week, so it was just a little bit salty... and the sea salt on top helped out the flavor quite a bit. Seriously good stuff.

  13. Wow, I'n so jealous you got to have that meal! I love Proper Ale too. It's perfect.

  14. Hey, my Mom and I were there too. YUM! OK, so maybe my brother was the one who raised the large black pig, but the entire event was spectacular... everything was truly organic, grass-fed, antibiotic free, etc. KUDOS Dave Swanson too.

  15. Very evocative photography. Pinehold Gardens will be participating in the new Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market beginning November 7.

  16. Awesome news about the farmer's market! Thanks for sharing.


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