Cochon 555, a US tour that pairs five pigs with five cooks and pits the cooks against each other in a “friendly competition,” was in Des Moines again. Lincoln Cafe’s Matt Steigerwald (with a lot of help from his right-hand man Andy Schumacher) delivered a wonderful assortment of dishes and won again.
The competition, with a pair of chefs up from Kansas City and George Formaro of Django and Centro, was higher this year and, over all, the food was better. Deciding for whom to vote was a real struggle; a point separated my top three.
It’s interesting to see what themes get repeated. Last year, three of the five cooks served pulled pork and cole slaw on a buscuit. None of that this year, but we did get three pozole soups.
Favorites were Hal Jasa of Homage’s fried-pig-ear and quail-egg salad and his corned tongue. Cody Hogan of Lidia’s in Kansas City made my single favorite dish with a lovely pork ravioli. Steigerwald offered a great variety, but tops might have been the head cheese. Formaro went straight Mexican and the chorizo taco was lovely. And Howard Hanna of the River Club in Kansas City offered a passionately produced menu (including the only straight vegetables of the evening), but the best was his “Cuban.” By the time all was said and done, there was no way I could eat a single goddamn pork-based dessert.
Anyway, there was a lot of pork and wine and I had a great time. Seriously, you should make plans to attend next year. But it was also a crazy drive home in the driving rain and now I need sleep.