Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Special Foodventure #87: Suckling Pig Dinner @ Ford's Filling Station (Culver City)

Sometimes, food dreams do come true! Once upon a time (ok fine, mid-October 2008), there aired a Los Angeles Bizarre Foods episode featuring L.A. foodblogger Deep End Dining, who joined Andrew Zimmern at Ford's Filling Station to eat a suckling pig prepped in various fashions, including confit-style in goose fat. I am no hemp 'n granola vigilante PETA vegan, but even I had a tinge of "Poor Baby Pig!!! It hasn't even weaned yet!" Of course, that quickly got displaced by thoughts of how incredibly delicious-looking the dish was.

Fade in, fade out to early November, when FoodDigger (yep, the same folks who hosted the Jinpachi omakase) sent along an invite hosting that very same meal at Ford's earlier this month (and again for disclosure purposes, hosting here = free meal for me). So I RSVPed and eagerly counted down the days and the hours for this 8 p.m. event.

Of course, it's not a good fairy tale without a villain. This time, it's the evil stepmother of double-booking myself for dinners. And the other dinner was hosted as well. In Pasadena. At 6 p.m. (Oh yea, did I mention it's work-related too?)

Cue one of most insane, sitcom-esque stunts I've ever pulled; being the polite guest that I am, ordered a drink and an appetizer at the first dinner that didn't sit down till 6:30 p.m.; after excusing myself at 7:15 p.m., I drove faster and crazier than any pumpkin-transformed coach to make it to Culver City in L.A. peak hour traffic, aiming to get there before the clock strikes eight. Paul Walker, eat your heart out - I'll show you fast 'n furious! In a Corolla!

Thankfully I was only 10 minutes tardy, barely making the "fashionably late" mark, early enough to be a surprise (I emailed the hosts for a planned arrival of 8:30 p.m.), and, luckily, just in time before the pig came out. After a short break in the restroom to wipe off sweats of L.A. traffic fear, I joined fellow foodbloggers Sarah of The Delicious Life / Tastespotting, Ila of I Nom Things, Matt of Dig Lounge, another Matt of Mattatouille, Kevin of KevinEats, Javier of Teenage Glutster, Fiona of Gourmet Pigs and of course, FoodDigger's Marshall, Thi, Will (who also writes for LA Food Hunt) and Aaron (also of Food Destination.)
Like any meetup with foodbloggers, we had no shortage of culinary things to talk about (especially when given the social lubrication of red wine 'o plenty), but all became silent when Ben Ford came out and graced us with his presence, and a frickin' huge platter of the chopped up and beautifully laid out pork.
Once again, I got a wee little bit of hesitation -- especially with the pig positioned at me like this! But I quickly succumbed to chomping down after seeing the others (particularly the fellas) doing the same.
I literally pigged out on the swine like a big bad wolf, and definitely give kudos to Ben Ford for his use of almost the whole animal and preparing the different parts in a variety of ways. Everything was decent, but the preparations that particularly stood out were the succulent and moist smoked pork legs, the salad with pig tongue and cracklin' crispy pig ears and the pulled pork whose leftovers would make the perfect sandwich! Of course, paying homage to the show that started this, I also ate half a fried pig eyeball that looks surprisingly like a falafel. It wasn't bad at all and reminiscent of McNugget with a better breading; then again, being deep-fried and stuffed with ham-hock may have muted whatever "eye" flavors there were.

We also had some wonderful side dishes, brussel sprouts with bacon (one of my favorite side dishes to make at home!), cavalo nero (Tuscan kale) with escarole, roasted carrots with pomegranate seeds and a roasted kambocha risotto that I didn't get a snapshot of. Again, all delicious, but I was seriously craving a side that's on the lighter side (notice the nice glossy sheen on all of them? yea, that's flavorful fat!)
And despite stuffing myself silly, the moment desserts were served my second stomach opened shop! The duo that came out included a creamy Hawaiian bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream (loved the contrast from the tart apricots and the spicy edge from the dusting of anise), and a chocolate torte that's very rich and dark but also very dry (though eating it with the ice cream helped moisten it).

We were wrapping up our dinner and bouncing options on where to sober up from all that wine . . . only to wound up at Rush St. for some cocktails across the street (with Sarah buying the first round! and Will the second!) I had an orange bitters manhattan that was tasty but unfortunately came shaken, and a very girly lemon meringue "martini" that tasted just like the pie liquified and alchyed up! So after an hour (or was it two?) of "sobering up", crazy photos snapping and further mingling with foodbloggers to discuss all things edible and potable, we bid each other farewell with plans to meet up again soon. It was, indeed, a wonderful mid-month meal that kicked off the holiday season right and I am sure the others agreed.

Ford's Filling Station
9531 Culver Blvd.
Culver City

P.S. Here's my previous experience with Ford's Filling Station earlier this year. Given that this was a special dining event, I can't say my opinion changed a whole lot -- but I am grateful to Ben Ford for accomodating us and definitely open to checking out his restaurant again. And of course, kudos again to FoodDigger for setting this up and hosting.

Rush Street
9546 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

Ford's Filling Station on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

.....looks so good....maybe i'll go there one day buddy.

jepot said...

Nice post! Ever since I saw that episode in Zimmern's show I've been wanting to try that glorious looking suckling pig. Soon piggy soon ... :)

Anonymous said...

so is it better than Chinese suckling roast pig?

that's all I really wanna know..

H. C. said...

Tu, It's definitely on my list (amongst dozens of other places, eep!) to try and re-evaluate.

Jepot, If you can herd together a group of roast pig enthusiasts, you can actually place an advance order for this dish (I'd suggest a party of 8-10 for a 15 lb. piglet). About $80-90/person but def. not your everyday dining experience.

tonyc, oooh I do love that crispy crunchy skin with the layered block of fatty and lean meats in the Chinese places. I think I like this version more only because of the assortment of preparations (not that I could ever do this alone or even with a small group 'o friends).

Aaron said...

Wow, I didn't know you ended up going to both dinners that night. No wonder you looked so rushed. I'm glad that you showed up at Ford's though. It's always great to see you.

FoodDigger said...

H.C., you walked in like you were taking your time. Very smooth!

Thanks for coming out and joining us. To clarify, Chef Ford provides a 15 lb pig for up to six people. We had two that night :)

It's not on the menu, but due to so many special requests like ours, he said he'd make it available for Mon-Wed on a special request basis for dinner parties.

Even though we gorged, I craved that pig the next day. I'm thinking I may have to order one to go soon. What a and a suckling pig. That's love. Take care,


H. C. said...

Aaron, likewise -- and hopefully see you again at the Jungle Marathon crawl

Will, thanks for the clarification on the deets! Given the amount of leftovers we had with two pigs (and we're all foodies!) I'd think each 15-pound suckling can feed more than six! And once again, thanks for setting it up :)

Exile Kiss said...

Hi H.C.,

Great review! :) Sounds like you had a delicious time enjoying all parts of the Suckling Pig (I saw that episode on TV, too :). I thought Chef Ford only made it for the TV special, but good to hear that he makes it now, upon request.

Khoi said...

The Brussel + Bacon dish looks fantastic... reminds me of the simple Chinese dish of bok choy and garlic/ginger... mmm. Thanks for writing on this!

H. C. said...

exilekiss, Yep! Can't wait to hear what you have to say about it ;)

Khoi, this is like garlic + bok choy times 10 (in flavor, and calories!)

Chubbypanda said...

Envy envy envy envy...


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