Pigs & Pinot

On Sunday, Miguelito and I hustled down to South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., to celebrate the birthday of a friend who turned 66. A momentous occasion called for an extraordinary meal. So we pulled into the high-end shopping center's parking lot in front of Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's. It also helped that the birthday boy is a good buddy of Palmer's.
The personal connection with the cooking maestro earned me a mini tour of the kitchen, where executive chef Amar Santana let me peep at one of the two -- count 'em, two -- suckling pigs that he prepared for our extravagant feast.
In tribute to Palmer's famed seminar, Pigs & Pinot, where participants spend a weekend in Healdsburg, Calif., learning how to make the most of the other white meat, Santana paired a Pinot noir with our dinner. (Our appetizer of seared foie gras with pears and apples was complemented by a Riesling.) Santana used every piggy part for our dinner. From left to right in the photo, my plate was filled with lentils, pork belly, crackling skin, polenta, sweet potatoes and shallots, Brussels sprouts roasted with bacon, mushrooms and a rillette of pig's ear stuffed inside pork belly.

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