Last year around this time, I attended a dinner in a Rogers Park apartment that featured ham and pork rillettes from pastured heritage Red Wattle hogs raised by Wisconsin farmer and part-time Chicagoan Henry Morren. Butchered from pigs finished under sumac and apple trees, the pork was leaner than that of our mulefoots (in retrospect) but it was fantastic. So was the entire meal, highlighted by the first baby vegetables to poke their heads up that spring. It was the sort of pure, honest, expertly handled, top-quality food you'd expect from local heroes like Paul Virant, Jason Hammel, and Rob Levitt. And it was a relative bargain.
It was prepared in that tiny apartment kitchen by a group of young chefs from Madison's Underground Food Collective, who have continued staging these events in their hometown and beyond, such as a recent set of sold-out pig dinners that rendered the NYC food media gobsmacked.
This Saturday the UFC reprises their multicourse "preindustrial pig" dinner here in town featuring pork from Morren's animals. UFC's Jonny Hunter and company haven't finalized the menu yet, but he says to expect about a seven-course dinner with dessert featuring early spring vegetables such as radishes, asparagus, greens, possibly turnips, as well as ham, cured prosciutto-style for two years, along with Easter ham, pork belly, and pork liver paté. "We also might be doing some smoking," he says. "So maybe some smoked loins or hocks." These dinners are BYOB, but there's likely to be some home-brewed beer on hand as well.
I'm usually skeptical of these supper-club events, but this one is not to be missed, particularly if you're curious about what these old breeds taste like. Tickets are $65 a seat and available through Brown Paper Tickets. The exact location will be announced to ticket holders prior to Saturday. Full details here.