Where can you find 3,500 pounds of Heritage breed pigs, locally sourced cows, ducks, and lamb, all perfectly cooked by 50 prominent chefs from around the country? Only on the Cochon 555 Tour. This large traveling culinary tour is part of the modern Good Food Movement and has a serious mission, but also happens to be a whole lot of fun. The tour’s visit to stunning Snowmass, Colorado, this year ended up being a full-weekend food extravaganza, kicking off with the Heritage Fire event. The rest of the weekend offered private food and wine tastings, an exclusive Asian speakeasy-themed dinner, and wrapped up with The Grand Cochon on Sunday. The events also happened to coincide with the annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic, making this little slice of the Rocky Mountains a food-lover’s paradise for the weekend.
Despite its sheer size, the Cochon 555 is often noted for its unique focus on sustainability — including nose-to-tail cooking and a commitment to locally sourcing the meats for each leg of the journey. In fact, the tour has spent over a half million dollars purchasing pigs from local farms near its stops to provide meat for the event.
When we asked Brady Lowe, the event’s founder, what inspired him to begin the Cochon 555, he exclaimed without even a pause, “Asada! You know those shitty grills we had growing up? We were robbed.” The asado(a) that Lowe refers to is both a traditional Argentinian dish and a series of Argentinian barbecue techniques utilizing hot coals or wood and smoke to cook large pieces of meat for extended periods of time. Variations of the techniques can be found in several South American countries such as Uruguay or Brazil (better known as churrasco in Brazil). The techniques produce intensely flavorful meats with signature smoky notes.
Lowe went on to say that he “wanted to give people a taste of something different,” and he has been highly successful in meeting this goal. While the asado techniques have similarities to American barbecue, it’s really its own unique method with its own unique flavors. Many of the dishes served on the Cochon 555 tour are smoked or served with a side of chimichurri, clearly showing the Argentinian inspiration.
One of the nice things about Cochon 555 is that the scope is so specifically focused that that guests get a chance to actually see a few cooking techniques executed really well. However, there is still enough variety and interesting treatments of ingredients to keep things from getting monotonous. At the Heritage Fire, for example, you could find not only smoked beef and pork, but a perfectly grilled lamb chop, spicy drumsticks fried in bear fat, and a tangy octopus ceviche with great crunch.
The wine, cocktails, and liquors were also diverse, which isn’t always the case at a barbecue event. A number of fine wines from almost every region of Italy were available to sample, as well as a few excellent dry rieslings from Germany.
Spain was also represented with a Martinez Lacuesta Vermouth, which is made by macerating herbs, spices, and aromatic plants in white wine. In the states, vermouth is mostly used in cocktails such as the classic Manhattan — yet, vermouth is actually Spain’s version of a French Rosé or Italian Prosecco. It is generally served as a summer wine, cool over ice, making it perfect complement for all the smoked meats and other summery dishes of the event.
Those who didn’t have a taste for wine still had no trouble finding a good drink. Breckenridge Distillery, a local Colorado company, offered tastings of its award-winning bourbon whiskey blend — which, as you can imagine, made for a first-rate old fashioned. Breckenridge’s whiskey was also the base for several incredibly-creative punches, created by this year’s Punch King competition winners. Mixologist Adam Seger of The Tuck Room in Chicago created a punch that looked like a science experiment in the making, but tasted amazing. Everything from oolong tea to fresh herbs were part of his unique process in producing the punch.
The new and notable Common C’ider was also present at the event showing off its summer-perfect hard ciders. While you might think of hard cider as a heavier fall or winter drink, Common’s Blood Orange Tangerine Cider and Hibiscus Saison are both light, bright, fresh, and flavorful. Right now the ciders can be purchased in California, but (fingers crossed!) we’ll hopefully be seeing them in other major markets soon.
While the Cochon 555 tour has been running for seven years straight, this is only the second year it has visited Snowmass. Heather Craig, an organizer and designer for the event, told The Daily Meal, “We love Snowmass and plan to return for many years to come!”
Next year’s visit will certainly be another can’t miss food event, but for those who can’t wait, check out one of these other great happenings in Snowmass this summer:
Wanderlust Festival, Aspen & Snowmass
Get to know Snowmass and Aspen in the summer. This four-day festival has everything: yoga, music, lectures, farm-to-table dinners, wine tasting, hikes, and films!
Enjoy the stunning views from Elk Mountain while enjoying locally-sourced ingredients in a farm-to-table-inspired, à la carte dinner menu. Bring the family too, as fun outdoor activities and live music are also a part of the evenings, which occur every Tuesday from July 19 to August 23.
Experience a weekend of incredible wine at the Snowmass Wine Festival. Sample wines, try some local food, enjoy live music, and don’t forget to check out the Ferrari showcase during the Grand Tasting. Also consider attending the 41st Annual Snowmass Balloon Festival, one of the highest hot air balloon festivals in the U.S., which runs the same weekend as the wine festival.