A Winning Lollipop: Bacon Toffee coated in Dark Chocolate and sprinkled with salt

Sitting across from Francis Coppola as he devoured a lollipop shaped like a pig’s head and made of bacon toffee coated in dark chocolate and salt was, at least for me, the high point of Cochon 555, which is saying a lot. There were many high points, from Hog Island oysters topped with Black River Caviar from Uruguay at the VIP reception to the extraordinary charcuterie of chefs Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde of Oenotri in Napa, the last of the five contestants to present their creations to the judges. I’ve known Mr. Coppola for quite some time and understand that it is always a good idea to pay attention to what he likes. Not only does he have a great palate. He also takes an almost child-like delight in things he enjoys. I find his zest for life and its pleasures to be utterly inspirational. I took a tiny nibble of the sucker and tucked it back into its plastic wrapper so I could take it home and enjoy it when there were not nearly four dozen pork dishes clamoring for my assessment. I wanted to stay at least somewhat hungry until the last dish was judged.

The sucker was made by the winners of the event, our very own Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu, Bovolo and Black Pig Meat Co.,

Duskie & John's Pig & Pineapple is inspired by Hawaii's traditional kalua pig

two chefs who know their way around a pig. They had a Red Wattle, which weighed in at about 180 pounds, from Walnut Keep Farm & Vineyard to work with for the event. I also loved their “Rookie of the Year” Pig and Pineapple, which you can read about here. Duskie and John will compete with the other regional winners at the year’s final competition in Aspen in June.

Also worthy of attention is the dazzling charcuterie Curtis and Tyler made using a Mangalitsa pig from Suisun Valley Farm. This breed, which has a lot of body fat, is raised primarily for charcuterie and salumi and these guys did both themselves and their pig proudly. A tiny crouton slathered

From the chefs at Oenotri (starting at bottom left), blood sausage, liver pate, two sausages, bacon short bread, braised pork belly (center), crouton with lardo and pate de campagne

with lardo is the stuff of dreams. And I devoured the pork belly. Yum!

There’s more to this story, including a couple of great wines that were extraordinary with the pork so stay tuned.