Posted by: Travis | May 5, 2009

Meatpaper Pig Party (Camino Restaurant, Oakland, CA, April 27, 2009)

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About a week ago Rachel and i experienced the bad-ass-ness of a pig party put on by Meatpaper at Camino in Oakland. I found out about it from one of the San Francisco food blogs that i follow, immediately emailed Rachel and bought tickets that day. I’d never been to anything like this, so i was pretty jazzed (enough to go into work early so that i could leave early and drive up to Oakland in hellacious traffic).

We showed up, stood in a short line, got our name checked off the guest list and then were admitted to my own personal heaven for a few hours. The restaurant had a huge open kitchen in the back with an enormous fireplace for grilling and roasting, showing the chef’s connections to Chez Panisse. Separating the kitchen from the restaurant was a huge butcher block work table, and sitting on top of that was a 180lb Prather Ranch pig ready for a show.

The restaurant had booths in the middle for seating and was flanked by two long tables on either side. On one table was the free booze: beer, wine, aguas frescas, and special cocktails. The other table had a spread of porky hors d’oeuvres that included:

  • Chicharrones – spiced with just a touch of cayenne pepper that gave them just enough heat to make them interesting. These were ungodly good.
  • Grilled crepinettes with Becker Lane Organic Pork.
  • Pork Terrine – not really my thing, but this was pretty good.
  • Assorted Charcuterie
  • Bacon Marshmallows
  • Mixed spring veggie salad – because you have to eat something other than pork.
  • Crostini with fava bean paste or artichoke hearts and goat cheese
  • Assorted Prather Ranch encased meats that were delicious
  • Corn dogs – people were freaking out over these
  • Pig tails

Rachel and i grabbed a beer and made a pass through the hors d’oeuvres table, filling up a plate each and grabbed a seat at a booth before things got too crowded. Pretty much everything was great.

But who are we kidding? We were there for the butchering demo. Honestly, i was half way expecting some goof ball with a microphone like the ShamWow guy doing a half assed and cheesy demo of how to break down a pig that we wouldn’t be able to see and wasn’t all that informative.

I underestimated this thing big time.

We saw the guys (Russell Moore of Camino, Chris Kronner of Open Restaurant, and Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats) sharpening knives and gathering around the pig. We took the cue that it was on, cleaned what was left on our plates and grabbed a front row spot for the demo, hands on the butcher block.

The guys broke down the pig and used everything. Though the trotters and belly ended up not being served because they take too long to cook. Most cuts got a sprinkle of salt and pepper and got thrown on the grill. A whole leg got tied up and hung above the fire to roast. The belly and everything else got put in an oven.

While it would have been easy for them to just break down the pig, it was obvious from the beginning that they too were having a blast. Russell happened to be working right in front of us and made it clear that he was happy to engage people and answer any questions people had. We took advantage of the opportunity and picked his brain quite a bit over the next few hours.

The original plan was to serve most of the pig on flat bread with a fennel/garlic/olive oil spread, but the pork was so good that it quickly devolved into taking the pork off the grill, cutting it into reasonably sized pieces, loading up a plate, and sending out into the crowd.

At first, when a plate of anything went out there was a frenzy. But as the night moved along and more and more people had had their fix, things calmed down considerably. Except for the corn dogs, that is. Once all the shoulder meat was gone it was mostly the hardcore pork-ophiles left. The guys behind the counter seemed to really have a good time after the crowd had been pared down. Tongue, kidney, head cheese, and pork skin chips drew outstretched hands and enthusiastic begging like a scene from Willy Wonka. Russell joked about how he never thought he’d see the day when people freaked out (in a good way) about eating such ofal cuts.

I was amazed how good the pork was using such a simple preparation: salt and pepper, throw in the grill. I was eating pieces of shoulder with my fingers. It was so blatantly carnivorous, but so awesome. The 4 people that comprised the two couples on either side of us were all foodies and we were all in heaven.

In retrospect, considering we stood there shoulder to shoulder with these people for upwards of three hours, we didn’t really do a whole lot of talking. It was more sharing looks of sheer joy with each other after popping yet another piece of meat in our mouths.

Three and a half hours, a handful of beers, and about 4 pounds of pork later Rachel and I just couldn’t go any longer. The last of the meat had come off of the grill, most of the crowd had filed out and gone home, and the staff started cleaning up. The belly and trotters hadn’t been served, but they were going to be another hour or two before they were ready. I was full, tired, and really content. This was definitely one of the coolest food experiences of my life.

Anyone want to go in on a 200lb pig with us?

And now, for some pictures!

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Encased meats!

Encased meats!

The guys get to work

The guys get to work

Half way done!

Half way done!

One guy throws the belly across the other's shoulders.

One guy throws the belly across the other's shoulders.

Lots-o-pork

Lots-o-pork

Helpers doing hors d'oeuvres

Helpers doing hors d'oeuvres

Ribs were delicious

Ribs were delicious

Tongue and trotter

Tongue and trotter

Everyone gets involved

Everyone gets involved

The crowd

The crowd

Fried pork skin chips

Fried pork skin chips

Honey graham crackers with lard

Honey graham crackers with lard

Head cheese

Head cheese

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Responses

  1. […] from Blue Bottle Coffee, it was time for lunch. Ryan Farr, one of the guys who helps organize the Pig Parties we’ve been to, runs a business called 4505 Meats that has a booth at the Ferry Building […]


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