This will make pork lovers squeal like pigs — and without the humiliation of a remote mountain mishap!

Get this belly into my belly! A pristine piece of pork belly ready for slicing at last year’s Hog and the Barrel dinner. Photo by Steve Coomes for Insider Louisville

Proof on Main is hosting its third-annual Hog and the Barrel dinner on Thursday, Dec. 8, a fulsome, fatty feast featuring arguably the best blend of well-cooked pig and well-crafted bourbon around these parts.

The food: As he has done in the past, Proof executive chef Michael Paley has invited two notable chefs to join him in the kitchen: Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta and Tyler Brown of The Capitol Grille in Nashville, Tenn. Both will not only get their hands greasy in the affair, they’re bringing their own chosen hogs for the meal. (For the pork cognoscenti, Paley’s pick is a Berkshire hog from Cliff Swain at Marksbury Farm.)

“The first year we did this, we tried to use two hogs from a local farm, which meant I shipped parts to Paul in Chicago,” said Paley, referring to his 2009 guest chef, Paul Kahan, owner of Blackbird and Publican, two fantastic Windy City chow downs. “It wasn’t ideal for what he wanted to do, so he didn’t end up using them. Now each chef uses their favorite pork producer, which we’ll acknowledge on the menu.”

The drink: As he’s done in prior years, 2011 James Beard Award winning distiller Julian Van Winkle III will supply Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon. Last year’s guests got four generous pours of different “Pappys,” which, in reality, would have accounted for about half the $125 price for the whole meal had one tried to buy that at a bar—it’s one heck of a bourbon bargain.

The theme: Though the menu isn’t finalized, what’s certain is the meal won’t stop at every edible portion on the pig. It does, however, qualify as an end-to-end sampling (“from snout to out” or “rooter to tooter” or “teeth to tail,” take your pick).

“We’re definitely going to do a tongue and trotter dish (trotters are pigs’ feet), and a neck and ear dish,” Paley said. “We’ll also do a belly dish and use a lot of parts from the head.”

While that may sound like

Trotters: they’re what’s for dinner! Photo by Steve Coomes for Insider Louisville

a Hannibal Lecter email dinner invitation, such statements are dreamy details for pork lovers, a group pork producers turned their backs on for more than 20 years in an effort to produce the “other white meat.”

Thankfully, that bland, dry and fibrous fabrication is beginning to disappear with the raising of heritage breeds that get their natural flavor from fat rather than salt, and retain the proper chew.

“Raising heritage pigs isn’t a niche industry anymore, so good pork has become more mainstream,” said Paley, who thus far is promising a dish of seared pork neck with Woodland Farm heirloom beans, leeks, preserved lemon and chickweed. “Charcuterie has come back strong, and you see people coming out of culinary schools and opening butcher shops.”

The event begins with a 6:30 p.m. cocktail and appetizer reception, followed by the main event shortly after. If, like me, you’re not a bourbon fan, worry not. The Proof staff is more than accommodating in that area.

If they’re not already gone, just a handful of seats were left when I last spoke with a reservationist. Sometimes that’s a marketing ploy, but in this instance, I think that’s truthful. So call 217-6360 and nab one if you can.

Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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