What Exactly Goes Down at The Cookery's Famous Pig Dinner?
Maximum carnage, and, uh, a bunch of delicious food, too.
Photos by Andrew Dominick
I got introduced to The Cookery about three years ago while on a date and was instantly wooed…by the rigatoni with bone marrow. Something else happened that night that intrigued me. There’s a good chance that if you’ve been there when the lights start to flicker, and the dining room crowd applauds, followed by two chefs carrying a glistening roast pig on a wooden slab, it led to recurring foodporn dreams.
The mental images from the scene at The Cookery’s Pig Dinner stuck with me for a while. I’ve turned many friends and fellow food writers onto Dave DiBari’s flagship restaurant, and they’ve all had delicious experiences there. But every time one of us visited, we brought up the same thing…the Pig Dinner. Would we do it? Who do we invite? When do we do it? It didn’t come to fruition until my friend Yamini — who’s got a terrific food blog, Fairfield County Foodie — and I were on our way to New York City for an eating and drinking adventure. She had just gone to The Cookery for brunch, loved it, and mentioned the Pig Dinner. We quickly planned it out with some of our closest friends in the industry for a holiday dinner and immediately booked it.
On the day of, the anticipation brought on hunger pains. The holiday stage was set; it was a snowy night, but luckily my friends are ride or die, and no one canceled. We honestly had no idea what to expect because some of the dinner is left a mystery — you know you’re getting a whole pig, but the rest is a surprise. The $85/person dinner starts off with a market appetizer, then the pig that’s accompanied by three seasonal family style sides, and finally a dessert chosen by the chef. There are add-ons like beer pairings with each course ($5 extra per person), wine pairings ($10 extra per person), and a pasta course ($10 extra per person).
Left: Cauliflower salad; Right: deep-fried octopus
Our meal started out light and refreshing: a raw cauliflower salad with fresh herbs and mustard seeds. Then it got Instagrammable in a hurry when out came a whole deep-fried octopus — head and all — with a fresh plum tomato sauce loaded with garlic. Our pasta course, butternut squash lasagna with toasted pumpkin seeds, earned raves of “I wonder if I could get Dave to make me a tray of this for a party?” and “I would eat this all-day long.” Then they hit the lights and that scene I remembered became a reality. Out came this golden-skinned suckling pig, causing all of us media people to take multiple photos and videos, instantly becoming the most annoying people in the dining room. In all fairness, if you don’t post a pic, did it really happen?
Left: Butternut squash lasagna, Right: Buttery, salty potatoes
The 25-30 lb. organic suckling pig is sourced from nearby farms in the Hudson Valley. The Cookery prepares it simply; it’s brined for 24-36 hours, then oven roasted for 3-3.5 hours at 375°F with mixed vegetables. While you’re noshing on the appetizer course they crank the heat up to 500°F to achieve crispy skin. When it comes out, they baste it with quince vinegar and honey. Then you and your crew are treated to a show while a chef breaks down the pig tableside. If you’re into the nose-to-tail experience, served are the kidneys, ears, cheeks, and even the brain that comes with grilled bread and apple mostarda to cut through that rich liver-like flavor. The meat itself is tender; it’s soft and well-lubricated due to high collagen in young pigs, and there’s plenty of it to be had. Even with 10 people, we still took home leftovers, but had to space it out for decadent desserts in the form of bacon-cinnamon buns, served warm, with homemade caramel and vanilla ice cream, then pudding chômeur, a maple syrupy Canadian treat.
Chef Tim Salinger carving the pig table side
Booking the Pig Dinner is easy. You need 6-10 pork-loving people, then all you’ve got to do is call The Cookery at least 4-5 days beforehand, and be ready to chow-down the day of.
This is quite the carnivorous spectacle and one that should be on your Cool Food Things To-Do in Westchester list. Every course was appropriately spaced-out, non-pretentious, and ultimately different. I think I can speak for my friends when I tell you that we had a blast. If you’re considering a holiday dinner, birthday celebration, or you just love whole roasted animals, this is a can’t-miss delicious dinner.
39 Chestnut St; Dobbs Ferry
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