Homer: What?! Lisa, are you saying that you’re never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad! Those all come from the same animal.
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, maaaaagical animal... Heh heh heh.
Latent in Homer’s philosophically persevering words is the idea of an animal so miraculous that it provides us with a waterfall of pork-flavored sundries. The pinnacle, of course, is pork belly, the happiest pork product of all. [Dreamy sigh.]
As it turns out, pork belly is to a chef what Megan Fox is to a guy: Lusty delicious. So when Jenny mentioned a pork belly throwdown, chefs from the far reaches of the city (well, kinda) came scurrying to throw their hats into the proverbial ring. And the match was set.
Last night more than 100 of us gathered at Catalan to pork our way through a buffet of pig-product-n-beans. Kitchen camaraderie overflowed into the adoring crowd, creating an atmosphere of warmth contagious. And then Christmas came early for the intrepid panel of judges (one of whom claims to have had a hamburger beforehand), which made its way through the TWELVE pork belly dishes concepted and created by some of the city’s most inspiring chefs. The line-up included such all-stars as Cody Vasek (VOICE), Randy Evans (Haven), Randy Rucker (Rainbow Lodge), Jonathan Jones (Beaver’s Ice House), Manubu Horiuchi (Kata Robata), and Ryan Pera (The Grove), among others, all strutting their culinary stuff in a no-holds-barred, epic battle for burly greatness. Daaaaang!
When the smoke cleared, one contestant reigned supreme. First place went to VOICE’s sous chef, Cody Vasek, whose offering included sweet-and-sour pork and a mesmerizing “pork ’n bean” ice cream sandwich. Of note: Cody also won the fried chicken throwdown, so with this victory, he now officially owns the Htown Throwdown and can back up any verbal trash.
As one of the hovering beasts begging tastes off the ever-benevolent judges, my favorite offering was the pork belly torta from Randy Evans. This? Was a thing of beauty: a messy titan of a dish oozing with pork belly and fresh avocado on a pillowy bread vessel. Randy, if you can hear me, please put this on the menu at Haven. Please...?
Yes, sports fans, the Pork Belly Throwdown was a fun and hilarious event which showcased Houston’s amazing pool of culinary artists. Above all else remains the simple and indisputable sign of a successful food nerd event: it’s nearly 24 hours later, and I’m still full.
Shout out to my fellow mooching Chowhounds!