Fresh off his win at the Grand Cochon competition, Chef Ray Garcia brought home “the bacon” with a vengeance at the debut of his Swine & Dine dinner series at FIG Restaurant in Santa Monica. Garcia teamed with Cook’s Ranch of Julian, Calif. for the nose-to-tail dining experience that highlighted their heritage pigs.
Eight dishes of varying degrees of the “other white meat” were presented in some rather genius pairings. To start: a trio of Chicharrones, Cabeza Adobada and Coctel del Puerco. The Coctel featured the loin and pickled skin paired with charred tomato and avocado.
The second course featured traditional Chilaquiles with a little head and belly of the pig thrown in for good measure. The layers of the tortilla chips and pork topped with cheese, chile and lime melded just right with a glass of amber ale beer.
It’s true, there was a lot of pork going on, but Garcia’s approach blended all of the ingredients so well, you didn’t’ notice how much pork you were eating. Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of the swine, and the same could be said of many others around me.
The most inventive infusion of pork that I saw was the Pork Pound Cake paired with stone fruit and my favorite summer staple when I’m in the mood for dessert: Avocado Ice Cream. Avocado ice cream is one of those dishes that you have to taste for yourself to describe, as was the pound cake it was so masterfully paired with. Sweet and savory was just how the meal ended.
Chef Garcia hails from Northeast Los Angeles and attended the California School of Culinary Arts. While his first passion was not in the culinary world, he found himself drawn to food, mostly due to his college roommate.
“My roommate was Japanese and a sushi chef. In his culture, they take food very seriously. So there was always a wide range of meals that he would bring home after spending time with his family,” shares Garcia.
That experience led him to actively pursue his culinary career. Soon after graduation, training with esteemed chefs like Thomas Keller (The French Laundry), the ideas of what he would eventual bring to FIG were born.
Garcia draws the inspiration for his menus from the abundance of seasonal ingredients found at the local Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. It’s a culinary playground with so many vendors offering beautiful seasonal ingredients. You can visit the Farmers’ Market to take home some of the same ingredients that Chef Garcia uses for the Swine & Dine series.
In the monthly tasting series, Garcia pairs with a California-based farm to feature their freshest produce and proteins, specifically their heritage breed pigs. Next up, on Aug. 14 is Linda Vista Ranch. Sept. 4, guests have Devil’s Gulch to contend with. Be sure to check out these next two pairings!
For more information, call (310) 319-3111 or visit figsantamonica.com.