I love beef, enjoy lamb and respect the multitudinous guises in which chicken is successfully served. But when the zombie apocalypse is finally on its way, when I have but hours left on this watery orb we all call home and have to plan my last meal, I’ll choose the many and gloriously varied fruits of the pig over them all when it comes to planning my final plates.
Fortunately for me—and for us all!—Philadelphia is a pig lover’s paradise, and the options for pork-possessed happiness are damn near infinite here. So, with apologies to Big Billy S, I ask the question: Pork, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love you in your stacks of dried or cured or smoked magnificence at Di Bruno Bros., your Abruzzese and Sicilian incarnations, your salami Toscani. I love your speck-y glory, your prosciutto whether it’s San Daniele or Parma, your Spanish hams from affordable serrano to mortgage-payment-worthy bellota.
I love you when you’re bacon, and the fact that, in this town, none of us have to slum it in the fridge section of our local supermarket and suffer through tepid and flavorless-save-the-salt strips of mass-produced bacon simulacra. Because here, in this town, we can get as hyper-specific as we want with our bacon choices: thick-cut and double-smoked strips from Green Meadow or more delicate, thinner-cut ones from Birchrun Hills. PorcSalt’s red wine or honey cured bacons also set hearts all over town aflutter (and I’m talking about culinary romance here, not EKG readings).
I love that I have options when it comes to guanciale, and that I never have to do without lardo.
I love that our best chefs take full advantage of the entirety of the pig, and, in doing so, force us all to reconsider the glory of this fine animal every time we tuck into a plateful of any single part of it. I love the pig tails at Alla Spina. I love that Kanella serves organic pig cheeks, and that, if you look hard enough, you’ll see more pig entrails and organs available for consumption in this city than you probably ever imagined.
I love the fact that pig ears are finally popular, and that, in addition to chefs and other food professionals, they’re being enjoyed by people who just plain like them, or who are willing to try them for the first time. I love that our barbecue culture is as deep and varied as anywhere in the nation, and that, even if you want to cook up some ‘Q at home, you can find entire pigs with which to do it.
I love that, when you’re done gorging yourself on all the fruits of the swine, you can wash it down with a great local beer, or world-class cocktails, or wine from a killer list.
And then, stomach settled and swine-sweat gently mopped from your forehead, you’ll still have a thousand other piggy options to keep on going.
Plus, we have great hospitals here if you take it too far. Thanks, Jefferson, UPenn and Hahnemann.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014