Cochon 555 is a feast for the senses. From the piggy small plates to oysters, to cheese cubes, to tartare, to ice cream, there are irresponsibly epic mountains of food. Some of it is really good. And from Anchor Steam bottles to wine tastings to single-barrel Four Roses Manhattans, there's enough drink to cripple an army of Keith Richards clones.
On Sunday, rap bounced around the rafters of the House of Blues on Sunset for the fifth annual installment of the touring food-and-drink festival. Women over 50 bobbed their heads to vintage Lil Wayne. Perfume collided with the smell of stewing meat. Slides depicting the faces of contestants and the logos of sponsors flashed across the projector screen. As you squeezed from table to table, your sustainable cardboard dishes and wooden utensils held aloft to avoid collision with another attendee's head, your body was constantly under assault, pinioned by elbows, brushed by shoulders. You felt not unlike a pig in a pen.
Every four minutes, the M.C. seized the mic and roared about the butchery demo, the next pop-up to appear on the floor, the criminal quantity of food the crowd was having the opportunity to descend upon. A woman screamed, "Hell yeah" at the top of her lungs in response to a rhetorical question (Something along the lines of "Are you still hungry?") and her companions slapped her on the back. It was a gently grotesque orgy disguised as a celebration of natural bounty and chefly talents, which probably says less about Cochon 555 than about what crowds generally expect from food events these days.
As far as the food went, you'd have been full -- if not entirely excited about all that you ate. By a long-shot, Joshua Whigham of The Bazaar produced the most focused and interesting array of dishes: among others, cups of chicharones slashed through papas bravas-style with pimentón and mayonnaise; fried head meat croquettes with a delicate slaw; a sausage-stuffed squid tube braised in black ink with shards of rice wafers and rosy slices of pork loin.
After a trip around the floor though, you might have tired of the blood sausage variations (at least three) and things tucked into miniature buns. You might have wondered why Cochon 555 can't find a greater diversity of chefs in Los Angeles (several of the contestants had previously participated).
We did leave full, as we'd been told we would. We did leave giddy (four kinds of alcohol and a few pounds of heritage pork will do that to you). However, we did not leave feeling as if we'd participated in a moment of even minor culinary importance. That was, one got the sense, far from the point.
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