Anyone who knows me can glean from my musical taste - and choice of shoes, for that matter - that I don't give a monkey's rear what's "in." The sentiment extends to pretty much everything, but especially food. When it was "in" to risk your life eating blowfish, I happily nibbled on my spicy tuna roll, eagerly anticipating death at the next table. When eating raw food was the next big/silly thing, I was braising a brisket for six hours. When chocolate makers likened the complexities of chocolate to those of wine, I tossed it off as nonsense and took a big bite of my Dove bar.
Now, there's pig. It's everywhere, in every form, from charcuterie to popcorn seasoning to sundae topping. Restaurants are designing whole menus around the whole pig, trying to feature as many parts as possible (Paul Kahan loves fried pork rinds and pig's ears). Salumerias are opening up all over (Mario Batali's dad, Armando, has a good one in Seattle) and there are blogs with large readerships devoted entirely to bacon. Pig is in, and this time, so am I.
It's pretty hard to deny the sheer gastronomic pleasure of pig. The other day, I bought a package of speck, which is a tissue-thin cured, smoked ham traditionally from Austria. It was a revelation - salty, tart, slightly sweet, lusciously fatty, and somehow in all that big flavor, delicate, too. I ate half the package. Chicken will never be pig.
Restaurants like The Publican and the shiny, new Purple Pig are pork wonderlands. Platters of thinly sliced cured ham, fried pork rinds, pig ears and trotters - it's a total body experience. The Purple Pig offers an appetizer of pork fried almonds, and numerous incarnations of pig parts, notably pork neck bone rillette with mostarda, a more down home take on pate.
There's even pork in desserts now, which I will not endorse until I've had my taste. Just the other day, I was at Belly Shack, a casual offshoot of the Asian place Urban Belly (lots of pork on that menu) and somehow missed the bacon chocolate chip sundae.
Which brings me to the next big thing: real dairy soft serve. Post forthcoming.