The Pig: Choosing life, local food and friendship

When you see this walking down 14th St in DC, just stop and order “something with pork in it.” Doesn’t work so well for the veg set, but the roasted beets were good.

Scorned by the unavailability of a table at Rasika (likely brought on by the holiday Diwali), we turned to a dear friend to come up with a pleasant alternative for our fourth night in ‘the District.’  After some twists and turns (and traffic circles with five exits that make no sense), we ditched the rental car at 12th & Vermont, headed to 14th Street and settled in for great conversation and a tremendous tribute to all things bovine at this trendy-for-the-right-reasons spot with a very simple name. Thus was born our night at The PigWhat, you ask, is The Pig?  Apparently the restaurants of 30th Street in San Diego are not the only farm-to-table gems around.  The Pig is a medium-sized restaurant near Logan Circle (read: how did Logan Circle get it’s name).  The Pig is named for the obvious reason that it specializes in preparation of porky goodness.  My friend Rashida is exactly the type of friend every person needs at least one of.  Super thoughtful, worldly, knows a little about a lot and a lot about a little and never acts too much like either is true.  Rashida picked the restaurant based on a previous experience and her knowledge that wife and I like really good food.  We were joined by our other friend, Anna.  Anna, a fellow foodie and lover of adventure, is that career woman who cares about her work but it doesn’t define her, and she is one of those friends like John Stockton–great to have on your team but no fun to play against.  All this backstory is abnormal for my food posts, but relevant to this one.  Before I get started, here’s a slightly blurry glimpse at the menu (full menu)

This wasn’t even the “more Pig” section of the menu, so you can just imagine

As you can see, I highlighted the “Pig” section, not to be confused with the “more Pig” section nearby.  It was, after all, one of the most relevant sections on the menu.  First up were the drinks.  Rashida, Anna and my wife grabbed some fancy handcrafted cocktails–the Farmhouse Smash and a Ginger 5, I believe–and I went straight for the Raging B*tch.  Sort of.  The Pig offers 4 oz pours, which is really quite genius (are you listening, San Diego restaurants?!?!).  I paid more for the same amount of craft beer, got a chance to taste three items I wanted without feeling too much like a lush, and saved room for the festival o’ pork.  Everybody wins!  I ordered up a Victory Headwaters Pale Ale, Port City Optimal Wit (similar to a hefeweizen) and a Flying Dog Raging B*tch–all in 4-oz pours.  Cost me about $9, but I got what I wanted–variety and beer with flavor.  Then Aaron, our engaging and pleasant server, showed up to take our food order…and realized he needed to fetch more paper to write it all down!  Here’s where the fun began.

We left to my wife the extreme chore of running down the list for Aaron.  It went like this:

Aaron: (after returning with more paper) “What can I get for you tonight?”

Wife: “We’ll take the roasted beets, the wild boar ragu, the meatballs, the braised pork cheek”

Aaron: “-okay, great, we’ll get that–”

Wife: “–Uhhh, sorry to interrupt, not quite done.  We’ll also take the mixed greens, the porchetta and the pork shank with wild board and mushroom spoonbread…oh, and the cauliflower.”

Aaron: *pause for certainty* “Great, that’ll come out in waves and I’ll get you some extra share plates.”

The first wave started with this

The cheek might be the most underrated part of an animal. Very, very tender and flavorful

which was as tender and flavorful as anyone who has tried the cheek of an animal might expect.  If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t be discouraged it only sounds gross.  It’s actually quite good and looks just like any other meat–except it tastes way better.  Besides, eating cheeks is a thing these days, see.  At the same time that he dropped this off, he also brought out the porchetta and the wild boar ragu with pappardlele and pecorino cheese, and the Carolina smoked bbq with grits.  Here’s the porchetta

This is one for the adventuresome set. It’s pronounced por-ketta. Hint: it may make you smarter

The porchetta was one of those meat dishes where different meat is rolled in layers, tied and sliced so that it looks kind of like a cross-section of a nice pork cinnamon roll.  It was pork loin wrapped in pork belly with a thin layer of–wait for it–minced hazelnut and brains in the middle.  I realize how that sounds.  First cheeks, now this.  Trust me, it was a little bit out of my comfort zone so I understand.  I’ll call it bits instead for now.  The bits didn’t have any flavor that I could discern.  The texture wasn’t over the moon, as you might expect, but the hazelnuts added a slight crunch and really the other two layers were just lovely.  So if you’ve got bits on your bucket list (or your second or third-tier bucket list like me), you can try this and cross them off.  Or break the seal on a new brand of culinary adventure.  Your choice.  Moving right along, I’ll leave shock value in favor of ridiculousness.  There was this

The more important dish is the bourbon bbq in the background. I mean, H#$Y F#$% it was good. Local greens weren’t bad, either

which was just as outstanding and full of smoky goodness as one would expect slow cooked Carolina style barbecue to be. That little side of mac and cheese was a good–albeit gluttonous and unnecessary–accompaniment.  And this

These are two totally vegan dishes. Just kidding. Wild boar ragu and veal, pork and lamb meatballs. And something green to feign balance

which put wild boar we’ve had in Tuscany to shame. (aside: this is not a #humblebrag, there is nothing humble about writing that you went to Tuscany.  We saved our money and went, twice.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, lovely place actually.  I mention it here only because they are supposed to be known for preparations of wild boar and this really, honestly was better than any of the wild boar I’ve had there.)  The photo also has our meatballs.  I’m not crazy about meatballs, and no amount of pork can really change that.  These were as good as any meatball gets, but mounds of ground meat just doesn’t do it for me.  Still, solid contribution to the night, and enjoyed by the rest of the crew.

At half time we got into a very interesting discussion about women and pro-choice choosers of parenthood. (aside: here’s a very cool book I plan to read about several kick a%$ women who are running things in the entrepreneurial world).  Yes, I know I just wrote about halftime of our meal as though it was a football game.  I realized while watching the Presidential debate where one guy reminded the other that we have fewer horses and bayonets than in 1916 that many social events really would do well to adopt a halftime.  Debates, at least ones at Clem’s Taphouse in Kensington in San Diego with a bunch of very interesting and engaged people, are social events, by the way.

Moving right along, the conversation was about what whether one of our friends who will be having a baby within the next 9 months or so, could continue to be at the top of her career game with child.  Or, I should say, whether the rest of her job’s leadership will foster policies that enable such a thing.  I was having this conversation with three career women who have many friends with children.  All of them expressed the same relative level of disdain that this conversation is almost absent for most men.  Representing the blue team, I can’t say as I disagree.  Someone brought up the double-edged sword of having a person who does less work because of kid-related stuff versus being sensitive to family dynamics to foster a better work environment and retain better people.  This is a good point, both sides, actually.  For my money, I think the conversation is about to change. A lot.  And fast.  Here’s part of the reason why.  For generations ever women have had to sort of figure out the dynamic of a male-dominated world.  Sadly, this remains true for most of the planet.  Where it is going to stop being true is places like much of the U.S., where the only viable economies seem to be knowledge-based ones.  Men are getting dumber, fast.  We on the blue team are graduating from all levels of education in lower rates than women.  This is going to mean two things.  First, it will mean that women will very quickly stop making so much less on average for the same or similar work as men, which is already changing (note: to my friends who are reading this and preparing all of their “less time in the workforce” and “choices to stay at home” and “lower paying job” arguments, save them.  Of course there is truth to those points but they ignore the larger fundamental point about what our companies prioritize).  Second, it will mean that men become much more involved in child-rearing.  I don’t mean doing homework and having “life lesson” talks.  I mean struggling to figure out how to make it to daycare without the $25 charge for being a few minutes late because your work colleague delayed you.  I mean being the one who is first to leave when Johnny got sent to the principal’s office.  And on, and on, and on.  This will change, because it has to.  Anna, I think, made the point that women in positions of power can sometimes be worse than their male counterparts.  I don’t have a frame of reference for this one, but I thought it was an interesting point.  The halftime was much shorter during dinner than in this post.  But my soapbox is much bigger online–and I was mostly listening during dinner.  Speaking of dinner…

The last thing we had the pleasure to sample was this little Flinstone-esque entree

Pork shank with wild boar and mushroom spoon bread. It is too much for any normal appetite…but great for four to share

That would be a pork shank with wild boar and mushroom spoonbread.  I don’t know what the heck spoonbread is, and I don’t usually care for mushrooms (wild or otherwise), but this was outstanding.  For me it was better than the pork shank.  The shank was good, and tender, and prepared by someone who didn’t just find the kitchen.  But after the cheek and the bbq and the ragu it would have been hard for any final dish to compete.  Just to prove we actually ate some vegetables, here’s a quick look at the roasted beet dish.  Another helping of extremely fresh mixed greens with some sort of light creamy cheese mixed in.  Just outstanding.

See, even vegetarians can have some fun. And the greens in the middle of this dish were flawless and fresh

One final point.  When you walk through the door you find the sign below.

The simplest way to support local farmers is to support the restaurants who buy from them.

It’s a tribute to all the local farmers who supply the restaurant with its produce (and some of the meat, I believe).  I took this picture because the way to support local farms is to pay a little more for your food and support the restaurants that use them.  The government is great, and certainly has some role to play.  But we have these great opportunities to push the market towards responsible farming and quality ingredients.  Not everyone can afford to, but if its something you believe in, choosing a place like The Pig is a better option than some restaurant that puts the cheapest bulk price over quality, sustainability and the bigger picture of their role in our food system.  It’s why I support Edible San Diego and Suzie’s Farm in San Diego and an easy way to support responsible food-producers wherever you live.  Okay, two soapboxes in one post.  Jeez, thanks for hanging in.

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