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  • The Chopping Blog

Porking Out in the Mile High City after our Whole Hog Class

Posted by Luke on Jun 11, 2015

As I've mentioned before, I spend a good chunk of the summer traveling. My other job takes me all over the country, and one of the things I always try to do is explore the culinary scene of the cities I visit. Last month, I was lucky enough to go back to Denver, Colorado.

When I realized I was heading back to the Mile High City, I immediately began asking the chefs here if they had recommendations for not-to-be missed restaurants. I knew, with as well-traveled and adventurous as our team is, someone would know just where to send me. Sure enough, it turns out that Chef Mario actually lived in Denver for several years! When he told me, without hesitation, that I needed to go to Euclid Hall to get the Pig Ear Pad Thai, I decided that would be my number one priority for the trip.

Why make this one dish such a big priority? Well, you might have read Chef Rochelle's blog, earlier in the month, about the headcheese she made after our Whole Hog class. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on that class, and let's just say Chef Mario knows his pork and his tools.


​Now, I grew up on a farm, so seeing animals butchered has always been fascinating to me. I learned a lot from that class, including the basics of how to break down a four-legged mammal, and what the different parts of a pig are good for. I also got a new appreciation for just how much meat there is on a pig.

​So you can see why, I'd take Mario's recommendation on a strange-sounding pork dish. No sooner had I gotten to Denver than I high-tailed it through the pouring rain down to Euclid Hall, just hoping it'd still be on the menu.


Since I came alone, I got a seat at the Chef's Table- already something I'd never tried before! For those of you, like me, who aren't already in the know: a Chef's Table is a place, often in the back kitchen of a restaurant, where you can sit and eat as you watch all of the restaurant's chefs make and plate the dishes. At Euclid Hall, it's set up sort of like a bar between the main seating and the kitchens themselves, sort of like the set up we use at The Chopping Block for demonstration classes. I still haven't figured out how these guys make so much food without (as far as I could see) tasting anything. 

​Between watching the chefs hustle and talking to my waiter about local Denver history, I scanned the menu. Sure enough, there was the Pig Ear Pad Thai! I ordered it, and went back to googling Soapy Smith.


When it came out- well, I'm no great shakes at describing food. Have you ever had anything that combines tastes that you would never have put together, but in a way that both balances them and enhances each one individually? That was this dish. Just like Mario said, the pig ears were just the right amount of chewy and flavorful, with a sauce that was spicy enough that it wasn't too sweet, and fresh mint and cilantro on top. Combined with the peanuts and the sprouts, it was chewy and crunchy and just... darn good.

So good, in fact, that I decided to try something else that sounded just as unique for dessert. If they could make such an unusual combination work, I was interested to see what else they had up their sleeves. After some consideration, and craving some more of their pig-based products, I went for the Pumpkin Seed Chorizo. Not exactly a traditional dessert, but oh man, worth it.


I don't know what it is about pumpkin seeds that carries such a unique flavor, but it completely changed what I expect from chorizo. Their hand-made sausage (sort of like the sausages Chef Rochelle made in our Just Encase class last month) was just as distinctive as their pad thai- the spicy pork serving as a perfect counterpoint to the smooth, almost nutty taste of the pumpkin seeds.

Coming back from Denver, I definitely want to try more unusual taste pairings in my own cooking at home. What are some adventurous flavor combinations you've tried? Did they work out the way you'd thought?

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Topics: butcher, pork, pig, Travel

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