Saturday, November 12, 2011
As a Filipina, pork is a definite food love since it does play a good part in Filipino cuisine. So when a friend asked if I wanted to check out the Whole Hog Family Dinner at Scuola Di Pizza, I jumped at the chance and when I saw the menu, I was even more interested.
For those of you unfamiliar with Scuola Di Pizza, it's part of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza and is a private dining room with an open kitchen and seated family-style dining. It can be rented for private events, but it's also used for cooking classes and themed dinners open to the public. Currently, Chef Chad Colby is the one who teaches the classes as well as cooks the Whole Hog Family Dinners every Saturday night. Considering that he won Cochon 55, the heritage pig competition in Los Angeles last May, I knew we were in good hands.
The Whole Hog Dinner is basically a six course menu featuring Heritage Foods USA Hogs and ours started with a complimentary glass of Prosecco and two types of Focaccia Bread. One was with Hot Peppers and Sage and the other, which is the one you see below, is with Green Olives and Cheese. No pork yet, but that will soon be remedied.
While we were enjoying our appetizers, we could admire the plated items that would consist of our first course.
We could also watch the chefs as they were prepping and cooking some of the ingredients that would go into our second course. Being able to see the chefs at work is definitely a perk of dining right in front of an open kitchen.
Finally, we were asked to be seated and then 2-3 sets of our first course dishes were put at opposite ends of the table so that guests could take their share and pass the plate(s) to the person beside them. One of the items consisted of Crispy Bread Sticks Wrapped in Pancetta. Then there was Pickled Fennel, Carrots and Sweet and Sour Shallots.
The star or should I say stars were actually the 3 types of Pate that we got to enjoy. The first pate was head cheese pate with pork butter with the second one being a “butcher’s pâté" that was made of ground heart, liver and kidneys. Finally, there was a bacon wrapped tenderloin terrine. With the pates came grilled crostini and a spicy grain mustard. The pate was quite rich and buttery, but the pickled vegetables really helped to cut into that richness. I also enjoyed how the spicy mustard also gave the pates a kick of heat.
Our second course was Pork Belly Sausage and Rib Confit served with Trotter-Stewed Butter Beans. We actually saw the Pork Belly Sausage being grilled earlier. I wasn't sure how I would feel about the pork belly being ground up, but I have to admit that its fattiness added some really good flavor to the sausage. The rib meat was tender and I really loved the porky flavor of the butter beans. Chef Colby, who introduced each course, jokingly said that this dish was his version of "pork and beans". Chef, you can cook at my campfire anytime.
Next up was the Souffle of Parmigiano Reggiano over Pork Leg Ragu. The souffle was perfect. It was soft, and pillowy and I loved the sharp and nutty flavor coming from the cheese. However, I didn't really understand the role of the Pork Leg Ragu with the Souffle.
I know it was meant to be eaten with the souffle and I did do that, but it felt like two separate entities that were forced to be partnered with each other by virtue of being on the same plate. I felt like I was just eating meat sauce. Now, if that was tossed with pasta, I could have gone for that.
With all the rich courses we've been having so far, I was really craving green vegetables and luckily, our next course was Roasted Pork Shoulder with Chicory Salad and Salsa Verde. You can see that beautiful piece of meat below.
The open kitchen again afforded the chance for us to see Chef Colby cutting into the Roast Pork Shoulder so that it can be served to our table.
The chicory salad which had a tart viniagrette was a perfect foil for the fattiness of the pork, which also included pieces of crunchy skin. I also liked how the salsa verde or what seemed to more like a chimuchurri added herbacious flavors to the entire dish.
Our last savory dish of the night was the Milk Roasted Pork Loin with Caramelized Ricotta and Sage. The pork was moist and tender and I liked how the ricotta and sage added balanced notes of both sweet and peppery to the meat.
Now's it's time for dessert and believe it or not, this Whole Hog theme even applied to dessert where butter was replaced with pig fat in their Graham Cracker Pigs. Clever, don't you think? Accompanying these delicious cookies were a Rice and Hazelnut Gelati and a Melon Sorbet. Scooping the ice cream with pieces of the cookie and taking a bite was a fun and tasty activity.
Overall, it was a delicious meal. The pork was prepared well and with finesse and I can definitely see or actually taste why Chef Colby emerged triumphant at Cochon 55. There's only small thing I would change is that I would have liked the addition of more vegetables in the initial courses to help cut down the richness of the meal. That chicory salad was a welcome relief because by that time, my palate was feeling just a bit fatigued.
Other than that, the meals at Scuola di Pizza is definitely worth checking out and if you're interested in the Whole Hog Dinner, it runs $75 per person, not including tax and tip. Click here to see Scuoloa Di Pizza's calendar of events, including their Saturday Night Whole Hog Dinners.
Scuola Di Pizza
6610 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA90036
(323) 297-1133 ^