Pork, Pork, Women, and Pork at Cochon 555

The only thing that makes pork better is when you can get a sustainably raised, heritage bred pig, which is exactly what Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon 555, thinks. “Buying into heritage pork is synonymous with putting your money directly into the farmer’s pocket and creating a diversified landscape of flavor for the future, and that feels good to me,” he said. “The best part, heritage pork is not super expensive, it just takes time to find a local farmer, butcher shop or restaurant buying from these farms.”

Cochon 555 takes place on February 10th at Chelsea Piers, and there, you can see chefs showing off their skills at taking down a whole pig, and preparing a menu of pork-centric dishes for the audience. This is the fifth year they are doing it, but this time, the butcher block is made entirely of women, including Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, Elizabeth Falkner from Krescendo, Leah Cohen of Pig and Khao, Shanna Pacifico of Back Forty West, and A Voce’s Missy Robbins.

“Five years ago it was hard to find five chefs taking in whole animals, or would stand behind their teams while they prepare a whole pig in competition for their peers,” said Lowe. “Now, look how far we’ve come, in one of the best culinary food cities in the world, an all-female cast can stand behind family farms, with their teams and turn out 36 amazing dishes of heritage pig for a good cause.”

Lowe dubbed the event 555 for, five chefs, five pigs, and five winemakers, which this year showcases Scholium Project, Elk Cove Vineyards, Greg Linn Wines, Turley Wine Cellars, and Buty Winery. Also, in honor of their fifth year anniversary, they are adding five bourbons to the list including Templeton Rye, Breckenridge Bourbon, High West, Four Roses, and my favorite, Buffalo Trace. In between sips, watch a butchering demonstration by Sara Bigelow from the Meat Hook, sample artisan cheese at the cheese bar, or root for your favorite bartender at their inaugural Punch Kings competition.

Of course, the focus is the pig, and bringing awareness the heritage breeds, of which there are about 30 (Lowe’s favorite is the Large Black), and this is just one of the 10 cities Lowe brings his snout-to-tail event to. “My goal is to provide choices to chefs and to diversify the pig landscape so life is more interesting for those of us who care,” said Lowe. “It’s important to let family farms know that we care about the choice to buy a better, more flavorful product, even if cost is higher.”

MONDAY FUNDAY: Tonight’s Top NYC Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. We get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And we’re here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

Eat something fried & delicious:
Celebrate the third night of Hanukkah by honoring that beautiful fried potato pancake at the Fourth Annual Latke Festival at BAM. Chefs from favorite Brooklyn and New York restaurants – like Blue Ribbon, The Vanderbilt, Balaboosta, Veselka, and A Voce – will fry up and compete for the coveted top latke award. For a $55 ticket, you get to eat the winning latkes and jelly doughnuts from Dough, and drink beer, wine, coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company, and kombucha from Kombucha Brooklyn.  It’s Brooklyn, b%#%@. 6:30pm, $55 at BAM. For tickets, call BAM at 718-636-4100.

Hear something deep & brooding:
Get existential and transported to communist Russia at East Village red-swathed literary den KGB, where their longtime poetry night debuts aspiring and surprisingly prolific and lauded authors. Tonight marks the season finale of readings by Mark Strand, former Poet Laureate of the US, and published author Malachi Black. Damn. Grab one of KGB’s famous $7, big bottles of Baltika beer – that beloved Eastern European brand that’s hard to find anywhere but in this second-floor, Russian dive – and get ready for some brooding and wordy seduction. Poetry night starts at 7pm, every Monday. All the details here.

Watch something disturbing and sexual:
We all love a good confession, especially when it involves a half-naked, excessively good-looking human being confessing from the get-go that he’s, since the age of six, “enjoyed a rather delightful sexual relationship” with his father. Which brings us to tonight’s event: an autobiographical play by Cuban writer-director-producer Michelangelo Alasa called Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict. But since tickets are free – and this show is riddled with actors, smoke, smoking-hot actors, and incest – reservations are highly required and tickets are scarce. Show runs tonight and next Monday, 8pm, at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center. All the details here.

Be on the radio & meet sexpert Dr. Ruth:
NPR’S most puzzling show Ask Me Another” comes to Brooklyn’s beloved and intimate events space The Bell House, where the show will be live-taped – and you can be too. Get quizzed by the trivia-and-brainteasers-centric show’s host Ophira Eisenberg, meet tonight’s special guest & sexpert Dr. Ruth , and maybe even end up in the contestant’s chair, facing trivia games customized specifically for you. This show is so intimate, it’ll trick you into thinking you’re at a game night in your friend’s cramped and messy living room – until your buddy tells you the next day, “Hey! I heard you mess up on the radio!” Show starts at 7:30pm, $10, at The Bell House. All the details here.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

New York Openings: The Guthrie Inn, The Flat, Donna

The Guthrie Inn (Upper East Side) – Smart cocktail menu shaking up upper Park Ave.

The Flat (Williamsburg) – Punk rockers drop secret gentlemen’s club off the Hewes Street station.

Donna (Williamsburg) – Central America meets Billyburg in “an elegant space for dirty kids.”

Industry Insiders: Christopher Gilman, Latin Lover

West Village hotspot Yerba Buena Perry isn’t co-owner Christopher Gilman’s first rodeo. He’s been in the business for more than two decades, but his first ownership role came with this top-notch Latin staple. Gilman met his partner Julian Medina (Toloache, East Village Yerba Buena) out of pure coincidence and the two have been working together successfully ever since. Read about Gilman’s menu recommendations, attempts at going green and making friends in the new neighborhood after the jump.

Yerba Buena backstory: I worked at The Palm steakhouse for 23 years. I was most recently the general manager at the 50th and 8th location. A tiny little restaurant opened up across the street called Toloache, which is Julian Medina’s. From day one, I was blown away by how amazing and flawlessly they opened the place. They did everything perfectly except for one thing, they didn’t have their ice machine down pat. So, they’d come and borrow ice from us daily and Julian and I became really good friends. I needed a change, and we eventually partnered up.

Point of Origin: I was born in Boston but I’ve been all over. I started at The Palm as a bus boy in 1984 in Dallas. I’m not from Texas; I want to make that clear. I just made a wrong turn. I was only there for a couple years, got moved up and I relocated to New York to become their food and beverage buyer back in ’91.

Day-to-day at Yerba Buena: It’s very casual and wonderful because our clientele here is all neighborhood people. It’s not the business high-end. We’re building a neighborhood clientele, and we just get to take care of people. It’s so hands-on. The chef is my partner so everything is done immediately.

Uptown or Downtown: I live in the Upper West Side, but I’d love to move downtown. I’ve just been too busy, so I may move this year.

On giving the regulars preferential treatment: We’re so new that everyone who comes in is a new customer. The hardest thing for me is to say no to a reservation on the phone because it’s definitely not arrogance. We just don’t want to lie to people and have them come in to a packed restaurant. It’s a tricky game, because the first time guests are going to be regulars one day. The great thing is that we have a big bar so people who walk in can eat there. And the bar is a scene because we are making some famous cocktails and it’s always a show to watch.

Best meal: The ceviches are amazing, and we have a wide variety. My personal favorite is the Grilled Black Cod, I think I eat that everyday. I like the Parrillada which is a combination plate of steaks as well.

His biggest reality check: Opening night in August of last year was the best night for me. Seeing the decisions we made for the past eight months all coming together and finishing all the construction was surreal. Watching the crowd come in on opening night was just a huge sense of relief and a dream come true. That was the craziest night for me so far, just seeing it all in play.

Go-to joints: I like A Voce in the Time-Warner building, and Marea. I love that place. My girlfriend is a ballet dancer for the Metropolitan Opera, so a lot of times we’ll just meet at P.J. Clarke’s, after her shows.

Hobbies: I ride my motorcycle 12 months out of the year, it’s a Vespa 250. I have to do yoga three to four times a week. All we do is deal with people all day long so just to go into that room and not think about anything is pretty amazing.

On chef/partner, Julian: Julian is an artist. He’s traveled a lot, and when he was building the menu, he just picked out his favorite dishes from all over South America, and put the Julian Medina flair on them. We have a ribeye ceviche which no one else has, and his arepas are just amazing. From the Ropa Vieja de Pato to the watermelon fries, everything has his distinctive touch.

Worst habit? Parking my bike on the sidewalk. And probably overdosing on those watermelon fries.

Going green gone awry: We went and ordered metal straws to try and get rid of the plastic ones, but for some reason some people still want plastic. We’re not an organic restaurant, but we’re trying to do the right thing with everything we buy.

Industry Insiders: Andrew Carmellini, Verde with Envy

Andrew Carmellini, head chef at Tribeca’s Locanda Verde and co-author (with wife Gwen Hyman) of home cooking-savvy cookbook, Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food, has cooked at some of the finest eateries around the world but remains modest about his culinary experiences. In New York, he’s gone from the kitchen of Le Cirque to Café Boulud to A Voce, and rumors of “all you can eat’ pasta night” at Locanda have been turning heads recently. We’ve been told that dinners such as these are not planned to start until January … we’ll see.

How is business at Locanda? Locanda is jamming right now and it’s a lot of fun. No complaints business wise … right now we are just trying to maintain and keep people happy.

What made you choose to serve family-style food on this menu? Before we opened, I was kind of talking about serving family style and how we were going to do it, and then we started and it morphed into a sharing concept. I actually bought these huge family-style platters in Italy and then realized that my tables were too small. It’s not really family style as much as we encourage people just to order a bunch of stuff for the table. That’s what most people do. People like to get a little bit of cicchetti, a couple of appetizers and pastas. Maybe afterwards, people will order individual entrees.

What are some of the most popular dishes? The blue crab crostino, we sell probably the most out of everything. We sell a lot of chicken. We’re doing chicken in the wood fire oven, just really simple.

What’s the secret to delivering quality products at low price points? We are cooking the same way I used to when I was at Café Boulud and at A Voce and more higher, star-rated places that are using maybe more high-end ingredients, and they cook the same. So you’re getting quality ingredients, just not super luxury ingredients. We’re cooking to order. We’re going to the market four days a week. We’re getting a lot of the same stuff; just making choices along the way. Instead of having pork four ways on a plate like we did before, we give you a great pork chop or great homemade sausage.

What are you favorite markets? Down the street, we have the Tribeca market on the weekend. Mostly, I’m at Union Square. The green market thing, I’ve been doing that since the green market started. I think if you’re an American chef now, it’s just part of being an American chef. It’s like saying you’re market-driven or talking about that as a selling point for your restaurant, if you have a restaurant in a moderate sense — that is what you’re doing anyway, or you should be at least.

Advice for cooking at home? You have to think ahead a little bit and plan a little bit and don’t panic if you think something went wrong. You see that a lot … something goes wrong and you think “oh my God what a disaster.” Almost any problem can be fixed. I make 50 mistakes a day.

How is Locanda succeeding where Ago failed in the same location? I just don’t think there was a lot of love there. I think they didn’t engage the neighborhood. I’m not going to really dwell on their mistakes, but New York is so neighborhood-driven now. If you don’t embrace the neighborhood a little then you’re kind of screwed no matter where you are. We always keep a good chunk of tables for walk-ins and especially locals. And if we don’t have something for good customers we’ve developed so far, we’ll say, “Oh yeah we will give you a call at home and tell you when something opens up.” We try and embrace that.

Where are your favorite New York spots? I really like Mercadito Cantina on Avenue B. Usually, I’m going to go the ethnic route if we’re eating out, because I’m always cooking French and Italian food. I like PDT, Pegu Club. I used to spend a lot of time at d.b.a. back in the day.

Photo: Emilie Baltz

Billy & Devon Gilroy: Peas in the Pod Hotel

Sometimes I find myself far away from home. The other day, I was on 51st between 2nd and 3rd . I came to interview nightlife legend Billy Gilroy (Nell’s, EO, Macao Trading Co.) and ended up having lunch with Billy, his son Devon, and publicist Alan Rish. We met at the Pod Hotel and ate in the Pod Café. I sometimes forget that Manhattan nightlife isn’t just between Canal and Chelsea and that other types of venues like hotel lounges and rooftops are viable and vibrant alternatives to what is often the same-old same-old of downtown. For me, sitting in this outside, art-oriented space with Billy and the prodigal son — Devon happens to be the Pod Café chef — was like a mini-vacation. Years ago, uptowners would flock downtown, but it was rare for a downtown hipster to venture north. Exceptions like the summer parties at Tavern on the Green have always existed, but are still rare. A downtown sensibility in design, service, staffing, and music does find its way into the breeder areas of our town though. The Pod hotel and café recognize that downtown is a state of mind — and that the boutique hotel, which so often embraces downtown aesthetics, is a worldwide trend.

This is a very artsy place for 51st and 3rd. Billy: Yes, that’s the faux-Liechtenstein.

Since you just fed me, I have to say nice things about Devon’s food, which is actually great. Billy: He was at Chanterelle with David Woltocks — my chef now at Macao. I actually met David through Devon. Devon was at EO for a year, then he went to apprentice and went on to the staff at Chanterelle for a year, then he went on to A Voce for a year under Missy Robbins. He’s a serious food person. Another fun thing about Devon is he grew up working for David Barton and Susanne Barsch. David Barton is one of my best friends

David Barton of David Barton gyms — he’s a Chelsea icon — and Susanne Barsch still does those great parties over at Vandam. She is one of my mentors. Devon you worked in this club kid, fashion, gay, party-crowd club world. Which world did you want to live in — the chef world or that fabulous club world? Devon: Well, I was a teenager. I grew up in the country, and I would come to the city and be exposed to all this stuff, so as a teen it was great. I don’t know about pursing it as a full-time career. When I was getting over that — that’s when I started getting into food, around the time I was 18.

What are you trying to do here with the food? Devon: I’m trying to do a simple farmer’s-market-oriented menu. So everything is made in house … probably 85 percent of what we have here is local, so it’s pretty cool. All our jams are made here, we make all our own chocolates, we make all our own cheese.

I just had your mozzarella, which you made in-house. And now I’m having a — what is this? Devon: A strawberry rhubarb truffle.

It’s really good. The food’s great. I feel like I’m in a sanctuary. It’s very peaceful back here Devon: Yeah, it’s quiet here. You can’t hear anything from the street, especially when the jazz is playing. It’s really cool.

Beer and wine? Devon: We’re trying to move towards using microbreweries. So everything is local, American, and then you have the East Coast microbreweries and Finger Lakes wines to kind of compliment wheat we’re doing . I think it’s kind of a fun little foodie place, but it’s very, very simple. Billy: Artisanal.

What’s it like working for your dad? Devon: It’s great.

Good answer.