Last week was a particularly good time to be a pig fan in Los Angeles, as the traveling pork show of Cochon 555 held its first L.A. incarnation, so to speak, in the lately unhallowed grounds of Vibiana's. In the aftermath of the show, dubbed Porkapalooza — read Jonathan Gold's review here — chefs, judges and participants fanned out around the city to recouperate, powered by accolades, possible hangovers and residual bacon fumes.
Herb Eckhouse, who with his wife, Kathy, owns and operates La Quercia, the acclaimed Norwalk, Iowa, prosciuttificio that supplied a goodly amount of bacon for the event, went to the beach. As any good prairie dweller should. At Catch restaurant in the Hotel Del Mar — if your experience of beachfront dining has been limited to the tinfoil ducks at Gladstone's, you might want to wander in here sometime — Eckhouse unfurled ribbons of lonza (loin) and Tamworth bacon on the Berkel slicer at the sushi bar.
“We've been extending what we're doing to more parts of the pig,” said Eckhouse, sporting an apron and a wine glass, as he trolled the dining room and stole glances at the Pacific. In addition to the prosciutto that made them famous (google Jeffrey Steingarten), La Quercia has a whole pig subscription program, called the Acorn Edition, now in its 5th year.
As Catch chef Jason Bowlin (previously executive chef at Grace) arrived carrying a tray of crisped bacon — “I spent hours crinkling them up,” said Bowlin, pausing to see if anybody believed him — Eckhouse discussed the joys of whole animal butchery with chefs Ben Ford and Neal Fraser, presumably a discussion they'd begun during Cochon 555. “I got a goat once from Bill Niman,” said Eckhouse when asked what other things he's been experimenting with out amidst the Iowa corn and tornadoes. “I did the same thing with it. I'd love to do a lamb,” continued Eckhouse, looking circumspect. “The issue is sourcing, and not getting too confused.” Although bacon confusion would not, one imagines, be a bad way to go.