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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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May 21, 2008 11:00 AM

That's Some Pig!

Posted by Nancy Leson

I haven't eaten at the Herbfarm in Woodinville since executive chef Keith Luce took the helm (have you? how was it?). But I'm not surprised to hear that the Herbfarm is growing more than herbs these days. Now they're raising Mangalitsa pigs, meant to grow up to look like this one:

Mangalitsa sow

This Wooly Pigs blog post tells the tale of Mangalitsa pigs and their cross-bred Mangalitsa-Berkshire brethren, now being humanely raised for slaughter (and the Herbfarm's famous table) down on the Herbfarm's farm. And yes, as they grow, they're porking out on organic herbs among other fine foodstuffs, so that multi-course diners can pigout on chef Luce's house-cured charcuterie. Attention Charlotte, Fern, and PETA: Yes, I've already gotten the memo, so please don't bothering harassing me!

In March, back when Monsoon was highlighting Wooly Pig's Mangalitsa on a special menu, I was blown over by a plate of braised and lacquered Mangalitsa pork belly ($25) while lusting over the grilled, five-spice-seasoned pork chops the guy moaning at the counter a few seats down from me was lighting into (for the second time that week, I was told). It was all I could do not to beg for a bite, but at $40 a plate, I didn't dare ask him for one.

There's been a lot of fuss made over these pigs, for good reason, as you can read here in Rebekah Denn's engaging profile of Wooly Pigs' Heath Putnam, whose small Eastern Washington farm is garnering attention from savvy chefs and farmers nationwide. In fact, it's been garnering so much attention according to Putnam (whom I just got off the phone with) he's "desparately short" on pigs.

"We've killed them faster than we can replace them," says the pig farmer, of the herd he imported from Austria with a $150,000 investment. "I only have 20 pigs to kill in the next two months -- I'm kind of screwed that way. We had 70 to sell from this first batch, and we sold 50. In the next 12 months things should pick up and look better because the production will be spread out," Putnam says. And with demand outpacing supply, "I'm looking to get my second and third farm set up to produce more pigs" at an as-yet-figured-out location. To that end, he's looking for help: "I need someone who's experienced and honest and can raise these pigs. It's got to be someone who really wants to do pigs -- someone who's good at it."

Meanwhile, with stock dwindling, you can purchase Mangalitsa pork at a neighborhood farmers market and cook it yourself. Be prepared to pay a small fortune once you find it ($25/lb. retail, says Putnam), knowing that for the mighty marbling, porky flavor and carnivorous consumption, it's worth saving and splurging on.

Saturday, Putnam is bringing over some Wooly Pigs Berkshire pork for delivery to chef Tom Black at 35th Street Bistro and hoisting a 26-pound leg meant for chef Adam Stephenson at Earth & Ocean, known for his charcuterie.

So, has all this talk about charcuterie, pork belly and pork chops made you hungry? Well, you've got nothing on these Wooly Pigs Mangalitsa-Berkshire crosses, seen milking it for all it's worth right here:


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