Last winter I went to a tattoo/chef event at my boyfriend's tattoo shop by day and Acadia by night. During the day I interviewed eight chefs and eight tattooists. One of the funniest things I heard that day was a story Matt Reed of Tiger Lily Tattoo told me. When his daughter was three she said, "Do you know why I like pigs?" Reed asked why she answered, "Because they're pink and they make pork."
When I interviewed Morgan Brownlow, former chef of Clarklewis, briefly chef/co-owner of the RIP Cafe 401 and co-owner of Portland's Tails & Trotters, several months later for Willamette Week he had his own porcine logic. According to Brownlow, “Some people don’t like fatty pork, but in my opinion, pork is fat.”
Brownlow and Aaron Silverman, former owner of Greener Pastures Poultry and Creative Growers Farm, have been working for the past few years on a line of hazelnut-finished pork that launched this June as Tails & Trotters.
T&T pork is ribboned and capped with a rich, nutty fat -- all the better to sear, grill and roast with. The pigs are raised at Food Alliance-certified Pure Country Pork in Ephrata, Wash., and fed hazelnuts for the last six to eight weeks before slaughter. Prior to that the feed consists of whole foods such as lentils, peas and flax. Most pigs eat eight pounds of feed a day and gain about two to three pounds a day according to Brownlow.
On a hazelnut diet pigs eat less but gain more -- from five to six pounds of feed a day they gain about four pounds daily. Once the animals are slaughtered and cleaned on Monday and Tuesday the meat is trucked to Portland on Wednesday and processed by Brownlow and Silverman at Nicky USA. Most restaurants throughout the state get their T&T meat between Wednesday and Friday.
In the future Brownlow and Silverman plan to produce a full line of cured meats from their nutty hogs (some of which are shown here -- photos by Silverman), but for now they’re busy enough butchering, packaging and distributing an average of five animals a week (with or without the head — your choice) to restaurants and markets mainly in Portland, Eugene and Seattle.
Silverman likes to slow roast T&T pork. He recently took a seven pound coppa roast, rubbed it with brown sugar, salt and a little spice and took it to a barbecue. They made it very plain so that the kids would eat it and the adults could add spice and sauce. They roasted it in a slow cooker with onions, garlic and tomatoes for about 12 hours. It was tasty and fell apart beautifully. Brownlow’s favorite recent at-home T&T preparation: tender pork shoulder carnitas roasted with onions, garlic and sage. “It was so good,” he says, “I ate it right out of the pot.”
In Portland, Tails & Trotters pork is available at the Thursday Eastbank Farmers Market, Laurelhurst Market (in the butcher shop and in the restaurant), Chop, Pastaworks, Nicky USA and regularly at restaurants such as Toro Bravo, Nostrana and Paley’s Place. Various cuts are priced from $5 a pound and up retail.
This just in about a Tails & Trotters class at Foster & Dobbs on September 16th. Here's some info. from the press release:
PORTLAND, Oregon (August 19, 2009) – Foster & Dobbs is mostly all about cheese, but owner Luan Schooler also features a wide range of artisan charcuterie in her cheese case. The newest local producer is Morgan Brownlow and Aaron Silverman of Tails & Trotters. Inspired by the regional charcuterie of Europe, Tails & Trotters is dedicated to developing a truly Northwest prosciutto from quality pigs finished on hazelnuts, rather than acorns. Foster & Dobbs will feature a class led by Brownlow and Silverman to discuss this new venture and the European style of butchering. They will also explain the best ways to use various cuts of pork in the home kitchen and share their experiences raising the pigs. The “Going Whole Hog” class will take place on September 16th at 7:15 p.m. for $20 per person. For reservations, please call Foster & Dobbs at 503-284-1157.
Tails & Trotters 503.680.7697 www.tailsandtrotters.com