'Twas a marriage of alcohol and pork at last night's Revenge of the Pig dinner hosted by Citizen Public House in Scottsdale. At $75 per person, guests gobbled down six courses of Miss Piggy, and sipped on six pork-paired cocktails.
The pairings were meticulously thought out by chef Kelly Fletcher of Tempe's House of Tricks, Citizen's chef, Bernie Kantak, and in-house mixologist Richie Moe. Forks clinked, mouths watered, and yeah, the pigs were flying -- off the plates, that is.
Course after course, guests were dazzled by the food on their plates and the drinks in their glasses. Each of the six courses was designed around pork as the star attraction -- even dessert.
The first course of the evening was composed of a pork ceviche and pig cheek carpaccio sandwiching a scallop. Despite the dish's awkward plating, the pork ceviche stole the show. If you can think of a pork pico de gallo, you're on the right track.
ginlicious delicious libation pictured below was paired with pork ribs that had the slightest hint of pastrami. Could've been the cider in it, who knows, but they were great. The tender meat fell right off the bone with a swipe of a knife. A pickled donut peach stood out as the surprise of the plate. Unless you thoroughly read the menu and identified it on your plate, it could've been anything from a fingerling potato, to a dreadfully unpickled peach. As luck would have it, it was tart and tangy. A Kohlrabi slaw hid beneath the ribs. "You don't see it enough unless you go to a Chinese specialty market," says Kantak.
Another stand-out dish from last night's pork fest was (surprise surprise) pork belly. Yeah, pork belly is so over-played these days, but when it's delicious, it's delicious, and there's no denying it. Charred Birkshire pork belly over sweet-summer grits with a cherry cola gastrique. Amazing. And the pork belly was charred to perfection -- fatty, juicy, sure, not hot off the skillet, but I won't dwell on that. One of the guests was overheard saying, "now, these aren't your momma's grits," and boy, was he right. Momma would be so jealous. The corn added the perfect sweetness to the creamy grits. And the cherry cola gastrique? Essentially, it's cherry Coke reduced to the consistency of syrup.
The meal could've ended with that alone.
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While there were some great dishes, there were also a few I could've done without. The San Marzano braised, crispy pork tail, for example, was perhaps great in theory, but the execution simply didn't make the cut. It was difficult to eat (and yes, we did take into account that it's a bony tail). The bed of black garlic polenta on the plate had no flavor whatsoever. The menu said it would have some form of Spanish chorizo, but there was neither hide nor hair of it on the plate. The baby fennel also seemed to be missing. There was a red pool of mystery sauce that may have been a light tomato sauce, but even that didn't add to the dish in terms of flavor.
Revenge of the Pig boasted some real stars, and perhaps if the dinner pops up again, a little extra salt and taste-testing would do the pork far more justice. One major thing worth mentioning is despite the obviously positive response from guests (a standing ovation toward the end, even), Citizen might do well to cap the seats by half next time they host the event. Sure, the chefs buzzed around the dining room, and so did Moe, but with about 100 people there, the intimacy was lost.
But let's be clear -- I'd go back for more pork belly and grits any day, intimate or not.