Hops and Hogs Chef's Throwdown~ Buy your tickets today!

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There are few things I love more than pork prepared correctly. A whole hog, cooked snout to tail is in fact a fantasy dining experience for me. My prayers have been answered in the form of a new culinary competition and feast that is part of the Wine, Waves and Beyond event hosted by the Boutique Hotel Collection.  

The Hops and Hogs Chef’s Throwdown is a feasting event pitting the executive chefs against each other to create several courses each using a sustainable hog from Rancher’s Alliance, items from the chef’s garden, all paired with local breweries. The dinner (on May 3, 2014) will be set in the romantic garden at Sycamore and the diners will choose the winner of the Pork Award.

Chef Gregg Wangard
At the media luncheon, we got to sample a bit of the coming attractions for the Throwdown. We sat in the sunny garden, where the tables were set to impress and the food was one astonishing surprise after another. We were greeted with a hop infused cocktail made with gin, smoked mescal and peppercorn syrup. It was hot and refreshing. The charcuterie was a sampling of mind-blowing preparation including prosciutto, headcheese with pistachios, bacon jam with goat cheese and chutney, and loin butter all paired with delectable biscuits prepared by executive pastry chef Hannah Ingham of Marisol. Willette Vey executive pastry chef of the Apple Farm, made my favorite among the picked vegetables and pork inspired bites. It was a cheese and honey infused croissant with candied bacon. To say that I took a plastic bag from my purse and stuffed in six after I ate three, would explain just how good this tasted.

We sat down for our first course prepared by the NEW Corporate Executive Chef, Gregg Wangard. They made the announcement and those of the culinary world raised a glass in praise and respect. He started us with a liver mousse made with garlic, shallots and honey. Then came the trotter soup, a pig foot consommé made with garden flower petals and fennel herbs. Gregg has always been an innovator in the market driven cuisine movement and I am excited to see where his vision and passion will take the Gardens. It was paired with a Barrel House IPA that handled the earthiness of the mousse and soup.

Chef Casey Walcott
Next was a course by Chef Casey Walcott of The Sea Venture. He had boasted to me earlier about making the best carnitas around and he was correct. Called a Pork Confit Sopapillia, this delectably spiced and cooked pork loin was resting on a pillow of wonderfulness (the sopapillia) with pickled watermelon, roasted pico de gallo, cabbage and a house made sirracha. He now has all bragging rights, because this was the best carnitas I have tried, anywhere. It was paired with a Lucky Day IPA from Central Coast Brewing with a tropical fruit flavor.

Chef Michael Avila
Kuhla Pig
They then paraded an Earth Cooked Kahlua Pig around, as it was just unearthed. Wrapped in banana leafs and cooked for ten hours in a fire pit, this pork was served with purple potato poi, coconut rice, sweet macaroni salad and pork’n beans. It was an expert creation by Chef Michael Avila of an impeccable Hawaii luau treat and its authenticity flabbergasted and enchanted us all. It was served with a Figueroa Mountain Hoppy Poppy. I was ready to dance the hula with joy.

Our next course was a salad on steroids using Windrose Farms romaine lettuce sitting on a layer of avocado dressing with tangerine vinaigrette made by Steven Smeets of The Apple Farm. Laced throughout the salad was spiced chicharones (deep fried pig skin) that was something I had never tried. The freshness of the greens pared with the earthy chip-like element was a triumph. We had the Firestone Union Jack with this course, and I loved its honey and piney notes.
They brought out four stout beers along with the dessert selections. First it was an English steamed dessert. The Sticky Toffee Pudding consisted of a very moist sponge cake made up of finely chopped dates covered with a bourbon toffee sauce. The Sticky Monkey Stout ice cream accompanied the pudding, as well as a rosette of candied bacon. Made by Chef’s Willette and Hannah, they were also served with house made marshmallows and chocolate turtle bites. It was 3:00 pm and I was ready for a nap, dreaming of flying pigs.

The Hops and Hogs Chef’s Throwdown is Saturday, May 3rd at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. Held in the Chef’s Garden, this lively cooking competition features distinguished chefs who will face off to create spectacular dishes paired with local craft beers. Guests in attendance will sample outstanding cuisine, sip specialty craft brews and have a chance to vote on their favorite pairing. Information and tickets at www.hopsandhogsevent.com.
The 5th Annual Wine, Waves & Beyond: Central Coast Longboard Surf Classic returns April 30-May 4, 2014. Proceeds are donated to the Association of Amputee Surfers (AmpSurf). Tickets available at www.winewavesandbeyond.com or (805) 773-5000.

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