Last week we had a great time at the highly anticipated AR Times Hog Roast event. There were 16 teams of chefs, restaurant owners, and their friends from Central AR enjoying beautiful weather, roasting whole hogs, and enjoying each others' company in the friendly competition.
Luckily for me, I had access to the roasting area a couple of hours before the gates opened to the public. There were many prominent displays of pork, including the deboned, brined, and herb stuffed beauty by Chef Brian Deloney of Maddie's Place. I received a sliced sampling that was tender, moist, and mellow with hints of garlic that melted on my tongue. I could have swooned.
Many times if you tweet out to a chef on Twitter, your wish many be granted. My friend Brian Kearns of Arthurs and Oceans saved me a rib to sample per my request prior to the event. Brian was the winner of the event last year, and I felt from my tasting that he was a strong contender for the win again. I don't know what the judges on the panel were rating their tastings on, but I was looking for tenderness and flavor. I absolutely loved the abundant flavor that hit me when I bit into this rib. It was huge, and every piece of meat on it tasted of a delicious blend of spices.
One of my other favorite samplings came from Justin Patterson of The Southern Gourmasian. I've eaten many of Justin's pork dishes in the past, and I always love his usage of bacon vinaigrette from Benton's bacon. Here's his tasting packaged to be presented to the 5 judges Michael Roberts, Lee Richardson, Eddie Williamson, Denis Seyer, and Poolboy Adam Dunaway. The pork torchon was prepared with creamed tatsoi from Justin's garden, potato gnochhi, and pickled red onions. Although he came in 5th place, his Twitter wall was full of fans who believed he should have been the winner and he was their favorite.
Maybe next year there should be a fan favorite vote available.
I was fortunate enough to receive my own full - sized portion of the dish, and I was nice enough to share with my fellow volunteer friends at the front table. Writer of food culture and all other important news in Arkansas, David Ramsey took the first bite after me, then 9 other people dug in. We're pretty tight at the Times. We didn't mind sharing one fork. We didn't all get to taste all 16 of the roasted hogs, but among those we did get to taste, my AT friends also agreed at the end of the evening that they favored this dish the most.
I love the smell of meat cooking over an open flame. Travis McConnell of Butcher & Public has already shown off his superior skills in smoking with the AR Times before, so I knew I'd love whatever he planned to prepare alongside Chef Matt Bell of South on Main.
By the time the event began, I had a plate crammed full of food, and it wasn't so picture worthy. But I can tell you that the Pork Banh Mi prepared by this team was scrumptious. Especially to this picky Vietnamese banh mi eater of many many years. I'm also not a big bread eater, but the bread they chose for the banh mi reminded of me of what I grew up eating. The rice noodles with herbs were also one of my favorite side dishes served.
Another favorite side dish came from Crush Wine Bar. Some of their slaw got mixed in with some of the South on Main noodles, and it was like it was meant to be.
Friends at The Root also slid me a nice serving of their swine before the gates opened. If you ever get out to any of these types of roasts or barbecue competitions, try Gee Que BBQ. Some of the best I've had.
At the end of the evening, when I thought I could eat no more, I ended up with a plate full of pork rinds from Reno's Argenta Cafe.
As if last week's feast of pork wasn't enough, I'm attending The Buzz 103.7's Buzz B-Q today and I can't wait! More pork porn soon!