Pork, in the 1980s, had an image problem and public perception of this flesh derided it as fatty and unhealthy. A substantial image overhaul followed - think of "Pork: The Other White Meat," or "Put Pork on Your Fork," or the ever-popular, cheeky "Pork...The One You Love." This concoction of nutritional information, recipes and clever slogans worked and the venerable pig presently enjoys a high profile. Swine are, dare I say it, trendy. (The Italians and the Chinese knew it all along. I humbly purport that no other culinary traditions pay such homage to Sus scrofa and aforementioned homages encompass everything from porchetta to steamed pork buns.)
Newly hatched Edmonton eatery Bistro Saisons featured a family-style pork-centric dinner, aka "Swine and Dine." Saisons tidily occupies 4th & Vine's former digs and is clad in crisp linens and understated artwork. An open kitchen emits enticing scents and a descriptive menu acts as a veritable field guide to the incipient supper.
A many-hued salad pairs bittersweet greens with hard-cooked duck eggs and tomatoes. A crowning fistful of lardons and olives are happily caught in a smoky-salty tug-of-war with the sunny lettuce and arugula, though the tomatoes are brighter in colour than in flavour. An apple-dijon vinaigrette is either too meek or too scant, for its presence is difficult to detect.
Herbed crumbs are a riotous stratum atop a wondrously textured cassoulet. Unctuous pork belly and seductive shreds of shoulder canoodle with toothsome cannelini beans. Each forkful comprises a multifarious mind-warp trip to the south of France. The meal could end right here and all would be well with the world.
Whole roasted pork loin is carefully wrapped in a corset of bacon and apricot-cognac glaze that strays neither to the excessively boozy nor the unpleasantly fruity ends of this spectrum. The pale and mild meat underneath graciously sports its lavish overcoat, much like a model would wear a dress by Prada - each complements, but does not overshadow, the other. Sides of honey-roasted root veg and black beluga lentils could easily exist as stand-alone, vegetarian mains.
Chocolate espresso cake is coda to this protein-heavy feast. A chocolatey-chewy bacon crumble would provide better gustatory contrast were it crispier, but this pairing is more than welcome and cleverly perpetuates the evening's "Swine & Dine" modus operandi. A bold shot of Patrón chases each bite in a giddy, tequila-ridden swirl.
Bravo, Bistro Saisons. The Porcine Renaissance owes you a debt of gratitude.
Read about Marlow Moo's take on the evening here.