Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sustainable Pork Tour 2012 (Part II)

To be honest, when the National Pork Board invited me to tag along on their Sustainable Pork Tour, I didn't really know what to expect a "sustainable pork farm" to be.

You hear "sustainable" bounced around in terms of agriculture but what does it really mean?  I wasn't sure. I kind of pictured pigs running around with rainbows and unicorns.  

Reading various definitions can be even more confusing but this is what I take away from it:  "Agricultural farming that is economically viable and maintains stewardship of natural and human resources."  [Legal definition here]

Our tour started at the Inn of Versailles located in the Village of Versailles, OH (pronounced Ver-sales unlike its French namesake).  The hotel was built after a fire devastated the downtown in 1901 and has a charming bed and breakfast feel.  Despite retaining the older feel of the building, the individually furnished rooms have all of the modern day conveniences.

Lobby (photo from their website)
We were treated to a behind (and under) the scenes tour of the kitchens at Michael Anthony's Euro-American Bistro.

It always amazes me how commercial kitchens can do so much in a relatively small space.

Click click click

The whole Delligatta family works in the operation, she said it makes it fun to work there.

I saw a large drum of split wood in the kitchen, my favorite ingredient!

Chef Delligatta explains a little about the sustainable practices that they use, including their own gardens.

Wood embers burning on the grill, now THAT'S what I'm talking about!  I wanted to grill right then.

When we went down into the basement, I couldn't help but say, "It puts the lotion on its skin..."

What happens when a bunch of food bloggers see an underground micro-green garden?  More clicks.

They are pretty though, right?

We went back upstairs to test out the coal fired pizza oven.

A horse designed by a committee is a camel - a pizza designed by a committee is a....HUGE pizza with everything on it.

Then we met with the Wuebker's for dinner back upstairs.  Chef Delligatta and his staff served us several delightful courses of pork. 

Niles was kind of creepy, I never saw him blink ;)

The dining room is decorated with murals reminiscent of a European street.

In addition to being a trained chef for the past 15 years, Delligatta also was a certified Honda motorcycle mechanic.
 The antipasti course included the pizza we all created, bacon wrapped figs with oregonzola bleu cheese, San Daniele prosciutto with fresh melon, and fried squash blossoms.  The squash blossom and oregonzola bleu cheese were two of many firsts for me during this tour.

The salad course was a roasted beet and goat cheese salad.  The pasta course was probably my favorite of the night, braised sausage and beef ravioli with kale, peppers, and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

The main entree was a wood fired pork chop with fig and cranberry chutney with a grilled summer vegetable spiedini.

Another first, I had not had capers like the two laying against the chop. They were spectacular when cut into little bites with the pork.

If you follow this blog, you know I do NOT care for dessert.  I don't like sweets much.  I even have a post tag of "holy crap I posted a dessert".

The dessert course was a salty caramel and bacon gelato.  I thought I would take one bite to be polite.  This was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten in my life.   I ate every single bite.  Yeah...me. 

After dinner, we sat around and Jeff Wuebker gave us a preview of what we might expect the next day.   He described their farm as an "ob/maternity ward for pigs".  Instead of being a "birth to market" farm that raises pigs from birth to slaughter, Wuebker Farms is under contract as a farrowing farm.  

In 1986, they only had 60 sows and have grown to 1,800 sows today.  Last year they produced enough pigs to supply 1 million pork chops.  But the focus was on how they won the Environmental Stewardship award with their sustainable practices.  He talked about how they use automation, policies, and practices to minimize consumption and keep waste streams onsite.  

More about that in the next post but it was clear the modern pig farmer is part businessman, part biologist, part nutritionist, part veterinarian, and 100% dedicated.

Funniest moment of the dinner: During dinner one end of the table exploded in laughter.  I debated about putting the reason behind it here since it is a little risque.  For a compromise, I will put it as the first comment.  View it at your own risk.

Jeff also mentioned that tomorrow we would have the opportunity to hold a freshly born piece of bacon pig and even participate in the artificial insemination of sows.  WHAT WHAT WHAT? Yeah, you'll have to wait for Part III about the farm tour for that part!  :)