Driven by an obsession with "great bacon" and a farm boy's love and respect for heritage pigs, native Iowan Erik Duffy began to cure and smoke pork belly at home in his garage. The Scottsdale Culinary Institute graduate brought his bacon to his "local chef buddies" including his former Cowboy Ciao boss, Bernie Kantak.
With a positive response from the chefs and with his brother Shannon as partner, Erik launched Tender Belly in 2010. In less than a year, their maple and spice rubbed, dry cured, cherry smoked bacon joined the list of the best in the Bacon Hall of Fame.
Tender Belly is currently teaming up with local chefs for a once a month Roaming Roast Party featuring their Berkshire pork, belly, loin and bacon. This month's pork party took place Monday night at Chef Josh Hebert's Posh. The combination of the distinctive flavor delivered by superior marbling of carefully raised pigs and Hebert's deft hand in preparing the four featured dishes put me in hog heaven.
Posh's Tender Belly Menu and where to buy Tender Belly pork after the jump
Monday night's menu was tight and impressive with the variety of cuts and preparation Hebert chose for the four plates along with a choice of four cocktails and three beers. The BLT on an English muffin came topped with a fried egg. Once pierced, the runny yolk perfectly sauced the dish.
Slow cooked pork belly with plum sauce and a garnish of fresh vegetables and cilantro was served room temperature to ensure the melt in your mouth promise of the fatty belly was delivered.
Pink pork loin, sandwiched in the Bahn Mi, included a smooth chicken liver pate I would be happy to eat on its own.
Chef Hebert shared his cooking tips with diners at the counter: Cook the pork low and slow, use the rendered fat for a sauté of additional vegetables, and reduce cooking liquid before combining ingredients, as he did with the pork shoulder in the Pork Bolognese with house made Pappardalle.
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The Roaming Roast Party started out as an industry-only evening, but is now open for reservations; check the Tender Belly newsletter. Tender Belly products are featured at local restaurants in Arizona and Colorado, and good news for the rest of us cooks, the bacon can be ordered online and other products by special order from Hobe Meats in Phoenix. Let the pig roasts begin.