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BESPOKE Debuts in Napa on Saturday, August 26th at Charles Krug Winery


BESPOKE: An Exploration of Taste & Thought debuts in Saint Helena on Saturday, August 26 at Charles Krug Winery at 9 a.m.
 Renowned Food Scholars & Professors Dr. Ken Albala (Pacific U), Dr. Lok Siu (UC-Berkeley), and ROC United Founder/ Forked author Saru Jayaraman to headline day of keynote speeches, panels on labor, noodle-soup lunches, wine tastings, and round table discussions with theme of Origins and Authenticity.

The greater goal is to bridge the gaps between the worlds of academia, food culture, and hospitality through a series of inspirational keynote speeches and educational panels and roundtable discussions. The theme for the day is Origins and Authenticity, a way of measuring how we represent and interact with food cultures and, in turn, perceive what we eat, cook, and taste. Below, the line-up for the day:

Keynote Speech 1 – Renowned food scholar, Pacific U Professor, and author Dr. Ken Albala on food cultures, origins, and authenticity with a focus on globally-loved foods like noodles.

Keynote Speech 2 – Anthropologist and UC-Berkeley Food and Ethnic Studies Professor Dr. Lok Siu on food culture, hybridity, and authenticity through a series of culinary case studies.

Keynote Speech 3 Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United Director and author of Behind the Kitchen Door and Forked Saru Jayaraman on issues of labor in the restaurant business.

Themed Panel on ‘Issues of Diversity, Labor, and Power in the Food Industries’ – ROC United director/author Saru Jayaraman; food lawyer Michael Tenenbaum; UC Berkeley Food Institute Policy Director Nina F Ichikawa. Chaired by BESPOKE Founder Robert McKeown.

Round-Table Discussions w/Speakers – Guests will rotate through tables of 10-12 people, intimately engaging in debate and questions with at least 3 of the day’s speakers. This is meant to foster engagement and discourse beyond ordinary q-and-a format.

100% of the profits go will go to two charities: Piggy Bank (supporting family farms raising heritage breed animals) and the American Friends of the Oxford Food Symposium (student scholarships fund).

“We believe Napa Valley is the perfect place for us to debut this day-long food summit in support of two fabulous charities (Piggy Bank and American Friends of the Oxford Food Symposium),” says BESPOKE Founding Chair Robert McKeown. “By spending a day exploring food and thought for inspiration, education, and social action, we hope to both enrich and change the way our guests perceive not only food, but the industries that define it.”

Where: Charles Krug Winery, Carriage House, 2800 Main St. Saint Helena, CA.
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 26
Cost: $55 (students with ID)/$75 (general admission) can be purchased here – http://bit.ly/NAPAtix
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Heritage Fire Napa Serves Up a Blazing Food and Wine Feast

Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid at a BBQ? Growing up, we had so many family gatherings in my parent’s backyard and many times they were on my birthday and involved a pool.

Last Sunday at Cochon 555 Heritage Fire brought back those nostalgic smells, sights and tastes for me. The thick smell of smoke and various meats in the air and several blazing hot fire pits alongside the vineyard at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena. Though I did not ever see a vineyard for the first 25 years of my life (I was deprived, I know), my dad had an enormous garden back home and used to set bonfires in the area next to it.

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Before I get into the fun we had and the images I captured at Cochon Heritage Fire this year, I want to tell you a little bit about the man who organizes the event, Brady Lowe. He started Cochon in 2008 in Atlanta and quickly expanded the event as a tour across the country with stops in Napa, New York, Seattle and Miami.

He grew up in Iowa and as a child, grew a fondness for reading his mom’s cookbooks. She had everything from Martha Stewart and Betty Crocker to Mickey Mouse Disney cookbooks. He preferred browsing the cookbooks instead of reading books and loved the process of recipes. His mom was an experimental cook who liked to try out recipes and tweak them slightly. Brady’s father would cook recipes exactly as printed in the book and repeat them over and over until they were perfect. It sounds a lot like my parents, except my dad was the mad scientist and my mom was more methodical. Either way, food became a core and important part of life for Brady.

During college, he sold premium cigars, and then bought wine with the money he made. He became a sommelier of sorts to his college friends, who preferred beer, but he was able to open their minds to drinking wine. Brady enjoyed grilling and parties and continued throughout college and beyond.

It really struck me when he spoke this year during our media tour of the event. In a sense, he referred to the “good ole days” before the age of the George Foreman Grill. He even mentioned our ancestors and how they cooked with fire. It is our heritage to cook with fire. And we can cook anything (meats, vegetables, even fruit) with an open flame. It’s so true, and in my opinion, tastes the best!

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During the tour, Brady also spoke about Cochon’s beneficiary, Piggy Bank. Piggy Bank is a farm, a genetic sanctuary for heritage breed pigs, where all pigs are gifted to farmers in need. Piggy Bank helps build a future for independent family farms as a community working together to develop and share business plans that promote responsible farming practices.

Annual contributions help the organization give pigs to new and existing farmers in need of free genetics (breeding stock) and send pigs to culinary schools for research. Contributions are used to pay for a livestock facility, feed and labor to raise the heritage pigs in a safe and protected environment. All gifts are a 100% tax-deductible gift.

You can find Piggy Bank on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

I don’t know if you have ever tried a Heritage breed pig, but I can tell you the flavor is incredible. A common breed is the Berkshire, which was discovered over 300 years ago in Berkshire County in the United Kingdom. Berkshire pork (prepare to salivate) is sought after because of its texture, marbling, juiciness, tenderness, and above all its FLAVOR. Berkshire is also referred to as Kurabota. It’s important that we support organizations that help farmers who breed these pigs!

I’d like to point out that this particular Cochon had some of the best food dishes of all the past ones I have attended, but it really turned into a major wine tasting with several premium brands coming out to pour. This year, Del Dotto, Clif Family, Faust, Lake Sonona, Valley of the Moon, Silver Oak, Rombauer, Robert Craig, Inglenook, Rocca, Jigar, Wines of Germany, and of course Charles Krug (the location of the event) were there.

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As you can see, we tasted multiple dishes and had some really incredible food. Don’t miss the Cochon 555 Tour when it heads back our way (if you are located in Northern California) with the Heritage BBQ event on October 16th in San Francisco. Magnolia Brewery at Dogpatch will be the venue. You can purchase tickets here.

You can follow Cochon 555 and all of their events on Facebook here or on Twitter here.

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Cochon555 presents Heritage Fire Napa Lineup

Hello meat lovers! I’m working on a few blog posts myself, but in the meantime, here’s some information on one of my favorite food and wine events of the year from my friends at Cochon 555, Cochon Heritage Fire Napa, taking place on August 21st this year at Charles Krug Winery!

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 30, 2016) — America’s cult culinary event, Heritage Fire by Cochon555, returns to Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena on August 21st, 2016. Entering its eighth year of existence, Cochon555 events continue to attract sold-out crowds nationwide, most recently at Heritage Fire Snowmass during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The greater goal of the Cochon555 family is to promote honest food prepared by singular artisans; to celebrate family farming; and to shine the gastronomic spotlight on the hard-working people who are responsibly (though often silently) raising heritage breed animals.

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The Heritage Fire event helps foster the relationship between local farming and emerging chef and restaurant communities, which grapple with having to pay premium prices in order to serve their guests safer, responsibly raised and flavorful food that is also raised locally. Heritage Fire – a premiere, whole animal, live-fire, and outdoor food and wine event – features whole animals roasted over open fires by local and national chefs. The event also benefits Piggy Bank, a farm devoted to providing free heritage breed pigs to small farms in exchange for transparent business plans that are posted online. The all-inclusive ticket is now available online at cochon555.com for $125 (includes beverage pairings, tax and gratuity), along with a mouth-watering  Heritage Fire trailer and video.

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Heritage Fire Napa Valley will showcase over 50 notable chefs and butchers, each grilling heritage breed animals en plein air amongst the area’s impressionistic hills and vineyards. The event features responsibly raised food and traditional outdoor cooking techniques, paired with free-flowing wines from more than 35 boutique producers, craft beers from Magnolia Brewing, and small-batch Common ciders. The list of heritage and heirloom foods includes dry-aged beef, whole pigs, lamb, goat, squab, rabbit, duck, fish, chicken, artisan cheeses, oysters, and heirloom vegetables.

Participating chefs include Thomas McNaughton and Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water (SF); Adam Sobel of Michael Mina Group (SF); Albert Ponzo of Le Select Bistro (TOR); Andy Ricker of Pok Pok (NYC); Cristiano Creminelli of Creminelli Fine Meats (SLC); Rafael Barrera of Puerto Rico; Marc Zimmerman of Alexander’s Steakhouse (SF); John Sundstrom of Lark (SEA); Jose Mendin of Pubbelly (MIA); Timon Balloo of Bocce (MIA); Kim Wiss of Antica Napa Valley; John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina (CHI); Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi (CHI); Tiffany Friedman of Butter Root; Joshua Schwartz & Tony Incontro of Del Dotto; David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit (SF); Sacramento’s Ella Dining Room and Bar; Jason Kupper of Heritage Eats (NAPA); Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen (SON); Robin Song of Junju (SF); Peter Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards (NAPA); Michael Thiemann of Mother – Empress Tavern (SAC); Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (NY); Jeff Weiss, Author of Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain (SF); Lars Kronmark of Culinary Institute of America Greystone; Trevor Kunk of Press (NAPA); Sophina Uong of Calavera (OAK); Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery (SF) and many more.

“It’s always an honor to host Heritage Fire in St. Helena,” says Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon555. “And to have amazing partners like Charles Krug, and the Napa Valley welcome us for this special weekend means things are really heating up this summer. We’re putting the spotlight on heritage species, responsible agriculture, and amazing chefs. St. Helena is now home to Cochon555’s best expression of live-event immersion in the good food movement featuring the best chefs, farmers and sponsors around the country. Guests can expect an epic culinary experience paired with the region’s best wines; this is eating and drinking for a cause.”

In addition to the meat-laden feast, the event also features The Pop-Up Butcher Shop featuring Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder (CHI); Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats (SEA); and David the Butcher of Marina Meats (SF) alongside Master of Ceremonies Billy Harris (LA) leading the butcher demonstration which raises money for Piggy Bank. Guests can help raise $5,000 by bidding on packages including rare bottles of wine, monster steaks, etched cutting boards and custom knives from Town Cutler. In addition this year, Wines of Germany presents the Wood-Fired Ramen Bar featuring a notable chef, a delicious Tomahawk Pop-Up served with Faust Wines, Wood-Fired Artisan Cheese Bar with California Artisan Cheese Guild and Foie Gras from Hudson Valley amongst many other delights. This is the eighth year in a row Heritage Fire has made its way to California. It is the nation’s only hyper-local, whole animal, live-fire outdoor culinary event cooking and serving 3,500+ pounds of heritage breed animals in celebration of agricultural and animal diversity.

Where: Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday, August 21, 2016
VIP Admission: 4PM
General Admission: 5PM
Tickets: $125 General Admission
$200 VIP – 1 Hour Early Entry, Reserve Tastings, and Seminar Invitations apply
Purchase tickets HERE

Heritage Fire Napa would not be possible without our amazing lineup of sponsors including, Williams-Sonoma, Wines of Germany, The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley, DRY Sparkling, Martinez Lacuesta, Creminelli, Lake Sonoma Winery, Faust Wines, Magnolia Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Alysian Wines, Common Cider, Antica Napa Valley, Hedley & Bennett, Cypress Grove Chevre, Coach Farm, Parrano, Sun Noodle, Rappahannock River Oysters, 34 Degrees, and Gulfish.

About the Cochon555 US Tour
The Cochon555 US Tour executes a yearly host of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through the world’s first nose-to-tail pig cooking competition. Created in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage breeds, this epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually and stages over 60 events. The tour is comprised of an array of live-event expressions including Heritage BBQ (global cultures); Heritage Fire (live-fire event); EPIC Cochon (hyper-premium); All-Star Cochon (fan favorites); and Cochon Island; (agri-tourism). All Cochon555 events cultivate a long-term impact for heritage species raised by family farms, reaching the top culinary markets in North America, while promoting our sponsors’ messages to 16,000 guests by drawing from the biggest names in the hospitality industry, including 2,200+ chefs, 150+ family farms, and 16 culinary schools. Since 2009, 50,000+ consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time, more than $500,000 has been donated to charities, and over $750,000 has been paid directly to our farmers. Together with winemakers, brewers, distillers, and craft food makers, they create authentic culinary events celebrating champions of the good food movement. For more details about the events and to see videos referencing all the events in the Cochon555 family, visit http://www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.

About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015 by Brady Lowe – founder of the Cochon555 US Tour and Taste Network – Piggy Bank is a pig farming sanctuary. Harboring a Noah’s Ark-worthy selection of heritage breeds, it provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can come to learn about safer, more responsible practices, and can benefit from the sharing of genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to not just survive, but to thrive as small businesses. Piggy Bank is dedicated to creating the first Open Source agricultural platform of its kind. The Piggy Bank farm, located in Missouri, raises pigs to be gifted only to communities dedicated to elevating the cause and expanding through a model of social and agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank is a project of The Giving Back Fund, Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation with federal tax exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3). Follow the Piggy Bank conversation on Twitter @PiggyBankOrg. For more information about Piggy Bank or The Giving Back Fund, please contact Kerith at piggy-bank.org, watch the video http://j.mp/PIGGY_BANK or visit www.piggy-bank.org.


Cochon Heritage BBQ Sizzles into San Francisco’s Magnolia Brewery at Dogpatch 9/13/15!

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Cochon555’s Heritage BBQ announces the chef lineup and official venue for their second annual friendly competition promoting heritage breed pigs and global grilling cultures. The culinary competition challenges five chefs to cook one whole, family farm-raised, heritage pig for a group of 20 notable judges. Chefs have seven days to prepare one whole pig and present a “Judge’s Plate” consisting of 6 dishes scored on utilization, global influences, cooking techniques and overall flavor. The winner in San Francisco will be crowned the “BBQ King or Queen” and takes home over $3,000 in prizes. In addition to sampling the competitor’s dishes, the all-inclusive ticket includes “BBQ Traditions”, a tasting inside the event where 10 notable chefs prepare one dish from their favorite BBQ culture in non-competitive spirit. If you love global flavors and star-studded culinary events, this educational event is like a top chef classroom including grilling-styles like Hibachi, Korean BBQ, Asador, Braai from Africa, Char Siu, Caja China, Churrasco, Barbacoa, as well as regional American BBQ styles from Texas to Kansas City.

Magnolia Brewery at Dogpatch will be the Official Host and Exclusive Brewery of Heritage BBQ, this year’s competing chefs include Dennis Lee of Smokestack / Namu Gaji, Geoff Davis of The Dock, Michael Rafidi of RN74, Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery, and John Madriaga of Spruce. Each chef will be given a 180-pound heritage breed pig to create six dishes for a crowd of pork-loving enthusiasts. A group of respected judges including Dave McLean of Magnolia Brewery, David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit, and Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen will be led by Brady Lowe in selecting the winner. Non-competing chefs cooking BBQ Traditions include Jason Wittek of Stem, Jeffrey Weiss of jeninni kitchen and Joshua Schwartz of Del Dotto.

As North America’s only “World’s Fair of Global BBQ”, guests will have the chance to pair spectacular wines, brews, cider and spirits with globally inspired BBQ dishes. The tour motivates grilling communities worldwide to support responsibly raised animals from local farmers. Participation of chefs, partners, consumers and media help create motivation for the BBQ restaurants to support the hyper-local movement and give us something we can sink our teeth into, honest food from real farmers.

The all-inclusive stand up tasting event features 1,400+ pounds of heritage pig, “pop-up” culinary experiences, premium wines, artisan cheeses, sustainable seafood, hand-crafted spirits, fine cocktails, and a very impressive selection of whiskies, ryes and bourbon. The stunning lineup of sponsors behind this celebration of heritage species include Williams-Sonoma’s local butcher demo, WilsonArt’s “Perfect Manhattan Experience” featuring Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Breckenridge Bourbon, Hirsch and Luxardo cherries, Magnolia Brewing Co, Common Cider, Creekstone Farms, Krave Jerky, Creminelli Fine Meats, California Olive Ranch and La Brea Bakery. A portion of the proceeds always benefit the local culinary school while building opportunities for local food producers. All tickets include endless drinks and tons of food and are limited to only 250 tickets per event.

“We’re incredibly excited to bring Heritage BBQ to San Francisco for the first time and pay tribute to global cultures by consuming local food the way BBQ was intended to be. Today’s BBQ restaurant doesn’t give us a choice to buy local, safe food with our hard-earned money and we’re on a mission to change that by hosting incredible events that honor the greatest social traditions on the planet, cooking over fire. This event returns the BBQ conversation to the original context of local meats, cooked with native spices, over fires and shared with a community. Therefore, the event will tilt the scales back towards creating long-term relationships for family farms and big protein buyers like BBQ restaurants. It’s only a matter of time until people demand better food choices when standing at the counter.” explains Brady Lowe. “We are standing right there with them, promoting honest food and a choice to buy safe food.”

Tickets for general admission start at $100, and VIP tickets for early admission are $200. To purchase tickets, visit the website here.

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Where: Magnolia Brewery – Official Host of Heritage BBQ: 2505 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
When: Sunday, Sept. 13, VIP doors at 4 PM; General Admission at 5 PM

About Heritage BBQ by COCHON 555
Started in 2012 in an effort to bridge the gap between family farms and all categories of BBQ restaurants, Heritage BBQ by Cochon 555, is the first national BBQ competition dedicated to supporting a new direction for heritage breed pigs by expanding the conversation to a global economy. Created by Cochon 555 Founder Brady Lowe, Heritage BBQ engages existing BBQ restaurants in the local and sustainable food conversation taking place nationwide while simultaneously breaking ground on a new hyper-local, globally-themed, farm-supporting BBQ.

About The Cochon US Tour
The Cochon US Tour executes a variety of unique, local food events that are focused on raising enthusiasm for supporting family farms with the world’s first environmentally conscious nose-to-tail pig competition. The flagship Cochon 555 event is celebrated as the world’s first nose-to-tail pig competition in the fine-dining community. Created in response to the lack of consumer education around “heritage breed pigs”, this epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually. The US Tour also includes other live-event festivals, these focused culinary expressions include Heritage BBQ (global cultures), Heritage Fire (live-fire event), EPIC Cochon (hyper-premium), and Cochon Island (agri-tourism). The events feature top chefs preparing locally raised heritage breed proteins. Together with winemakers, brewers, distillers and craft food champions, they create authentic culinary events celebrating the good food movement. Since its launch, the tour has supported responsible family farming by sharing heritage breed pig experience with over 50,000, by donating more than $450,000 to charities and culinary schools, and buying more than $1,000,000 in food raised by local farmers. For more details about the events, visit www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter.


Heritage Fire Napa Delights Guests with an Exceptional Display of Artisanal Cookery

It was a meat lover’s paradise at Cochon Heritage Napa, an event in the Cochon 555 series that took place on August 2nd, at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena.

One highlight for me included Tyler Florence’s Fried Chicken (mainly because I don’t always eat fried chicken, but when I do, it’s made by Tyler Florence.) I smiled and giggled like a schoolgirl when I picked up my portion of juicy crispy poultry garnished with garlic and herbs and a lemon wedge and Tyler urged me to “squeeze that lemon all over it”. Pretty tasty for sure.

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Sorry to gush over celebrity chefs there for a moment. Anyway, it was also great to see Sacramento’s own Michael Thiemann, who is just about ready to open Empress Tavern on K Street. Here he is preparing meats that would go into a special Hawaiian-themed plate with turkey, rice and macaroni.

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Here’s a shot of Brad Cecchi, formerly of Sacramento restaurant, Grange. Good to see him out there as well.

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It was fun to visit the “Tartare Bar”, where I got to participate in the “Tartare Hand Job”, um…their title, not mine ;)—raw meat was placed on the back of my hand, seasoned with a “chive bomb!” and I was supposed to eat the portion all at once. Let’s just say I’m not that good at shooting food in one big bite, but the tartare was excellent. 🙂

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I can’t fail to mention some of the fabulous wineries present: Cameron Hughes, Inglenook, Lombardi, Del Dotto Wine, Wines of Germany, Faust Wine, Prager Port Works, Clif Family, Leaf and Vine, Antica Wine, Cornerstone, and of course Charles Krug.

Some other favorite bites of mine came from the charcuterie station… plenty of prosciutto and sausages to be had, as well as several fresh figs and smoked almonds. I also enjoyed some artisan cheeses and an assortment of heirloom vegetables. By the time Andy and I left the event, we were stuffed!

All pictures except for the one of Tyler Florence were taken by Catherine Enfield of the Munchie Musings website. Thanks for allowing me to use your photos, Catherine! 🙂

Next up for me in the Cochon 555 series is Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 05:00pm at Magnolia Brewing @ Dogpatch in San Francisco. You can purchase tickets for Cochon’s other upcoming national events here. More information on the San Francisco’s Heritage BBQ event to come soon.

You can follow Cochon 555 and all of their events on Facebook here or on Twitter here.


Cochon Heritage Fire Napa’s “Meat Up” Takes Place on August 2nd!

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Heritage Fire is an annual wood-fired meat-laden feast featuring chefs and farmers working together to spotlight traditional outdoor cooking techniques.

This event takes place on Sunday, August 02, 2015 at 03:00 PM at Charles Krug Winery and features over 45 chefs + 3,000 pounds of sustainably raised, wood-fired meats! The event will also showcase over 40 wineries.

A portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the St. Helena Farmers Market and The American Institute of Wine & Food. A group of celebrated butchers will host a Pop-Up Butcher Shop where 100% of the proceeds will benefit the students of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Heritage Fire features chefs and farmers working together to spotlight traditional outdoor cooking techniques paired with amazing wines, ice-cold brews, and crisp ciders. While Cochon’s flagship event, Cochon 555, brings chefs together in a friendly competition, Heritage Fire is a collection of culinary champions cooking together for a crowd of meat and wine loving gourmands. The list of heritage and heirloom foods to be featured include dry-aged beef, spit-roasted sturgeon, whole pigs, lambs, goat, lobster, squab, rabbit, duck, chicken, artisan cheese, oysters and heirloom vegetables.

“I’m passionate about promoting food sources that support a more natural, sustainable food system,” explains Brady Lowe, creator of Heritage Fire. “One event cannot change the system, but together we can celebrate the chefs and farmers who continue to tilt the scales back towards responsibly grown food.”

Tickets are $105.95 per person and are available here.

You can follow Cochon 555 and all of their events on Facebook here or on Twitter here.