Pig Feats: If you're into eating high on the hog, check out The Pork Shop, one of the more remarkable retail outlets I've encountered on this job.
The shop has been around since the late 1970s. Quite simply, it sells the best pork I've ever tasted.
What's the secret? Freshness. Unlike beef, which is best aged, pork is best when it's freshest. And it doesn't get much fresher than this, unless you live on a hog farm.
That's because The Pork Shop gets freshly slaughtered hogs from a Chandler supplier on Tuesday and Wednesday every week. By Thursday, the meat's in the display case. By Sunday, it's gone.
The variety is astonishing. So is the quality. The bierwurst salami is a knockout. Sausages are amazing, especially the gourmet models--maple syrup, green chile, apple cinnamon, pineapple teriyaki. The pork chops could tempt a rabbi. There are loin chops, pan-fry chops, end chops, butterfly chops and gorgeous, thick-cut Iowa chops.
Just about every part of the pig is put to use, except the squeal. Look for butts, legs, hocks, ribs, steaks, shoulder, three kinds of bacon and the softest, butteriest ham this side of Parma. You can buy half a hog, if you can fit it in your car. Even Fido is looked after--the shop boasts that dogs love pigs' ears.
Why hadn't most of us heard of The Pork Shop before? Because it's located on the fringes of the Valley, way out in Queen Creek.
To get there, take the Superstition Freeway east to the Ironwood Drive exit, near Apache Junction. Head south for 12 miles, until the road dead-ends at Combs Road. Turn left, and go two miles. The Pork Shop will be on your right, at 3359 East Combs. It's open Thursday through Sunday. Call 987-0101 for more info.
Wandering Chef: Valley foodies have followed the travails of Todd Hall, an immensely talented and immensely troubled chef, for several years. (See "Epi-Cured," Michael Kiefer, July 4, 1996.)
Hall has headed some of Arizona's swankiest restaurants: among them, La Hacienda at the Scottsdale Princess resort; Los Abrigados and L'Auberge in Sedona; 8700 in north Scottsdale; and his own short-lived enterprise, Todd's New American Cooking.
But the tragic drowning of his young son and a cocaine habit pushed him into a downward spiral. He left town, leaving creditors behind. He seemed to reach bottom two years ago, when he was shot in a seedy, drug-infested area of Fresno.
He looked like he was on the rebound late last year, when La Hacienda rehired him as its head chef. But the relationship lasted only a few months, for reasons nobody has been willing to discuss.
Now Hall has yet another chance. He's moving back to Sedona, to be executive chef overseeing three restaurants. One serves Mexican food; another American; and the third soon-to-open spot will feature--are you sitting down?--Jewish deli.
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Hall's grasp of Jewish deli fare seemed a bit tenuous when I talked to him. But if anyone can get the hang of it, he can. Maybe we'll be seeing corned beef on rye, topped with foie gras in a port wine sauce.
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