The Clever Root

Fall / Winter 2015

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Sebastopol, the site had previously been home to the Willowside Café, which was owned by a neighbor of Duskie's mom on Chalk Hill. While visiting on a romantic getaway vacation, they fell in love with the rustic setting and the quaint roadhouse-style building highlighted by wooden floors, long old-fashioned bar, ceiling fan, and a squeaky screen door. "We said if a place like this ever became available it would be really cool to start a restaurant," recalls John. "It was around the same time that Chef Thomas Keller was put- ting a rural area like Yountville on the map. That's what caught our attention and made us notice that the outlying areas of Sonoma County had their own charming auras as well. Following the farm-to-table concept, Duskie and John planted an expansive garden behind the restaurant, and farmed it for the first four years. But as the business grew, they eventu- ally hired veteran gardener Milo Mitchel, who now oversees their gardens, as well as sourcing other local fruits and vegetables to insure the kitchen always has fresh ingredients. The meats are local as well. But at the beginning of last decade, very few ranches in Sonoma County had on-site butchers. So to cut off the middleman, John and Duskie started buying whole animals. John admits that he wasn't naturally drawn to cutting up the pig. But instead, it was simply a matter of necessity. Over time, however, butchering pigs became a trademark of the family. "We were coming from cities where it was common to order shoulders and chops that were cut by a big butcher company. But when cool farmers from Sonoma County started offering us pigs, we quickly found ourselves with whole animals sitting on a table. At the time I didn't know what I was doing, but I had no choice but to figure it out." In addition to carving the meat, John began working with every part of the body, from snout to tail, including the head, heart, skin, and fat, which can be used to make chicar- rones, sauces, lard, and pie dough. Going Whole Hog As demand for more cured meats, bacon, and pork dishes expanded at the restaurant, the family built their own pig farm behind their rural home in Forestville in 2006. Today, the micro farm is home to various breeds of pigs, goats, and chickens—all of which are raised in the safe, natural environment. "We wanted to work with animals that were raised in pastures. We didn't want to support farmers who forced the animals to live in small pens and uncomfortable circum- stances," says Duskie, who feeds the pigs and goats tasty scraps from the kitchen twice a day. Once the pig farm was up and running, Duskie and John began selling salumi, bacon, and other in-house products made under the Black Pig Meat Co. label. A few years later, these commitments to quality were rewarded when the John and Duskie were named the 2011 winners of pork advocacy group Cochon 555's prestigious Grand Cochon award and crowned as America's King and Queen of Pork. The following year, they appeared on the cover of Wine Spectator and Duskie starred on the third season of Food Network's The Next Iron Chef. Today, the flavors of the pigs shine in many of the tasty dishes at ZaZu Kitchen + Farm, including fun appetizers like Rodeo Jax Black Pig Bacon Caramel Popcorn, Chicharrones Three-Ways, Crispy Pigs Ears with Calabrian Chili Aioli; middle courses like the handmade Gemelli Pasta with Stone Valley Pork Ragu; and main dishes like the Long + Bailey Farms Pork Chop and The Dirty Burger, stuffed with Black Pig Bacon and topped with Liberty Duck Paté and caramel- ized onions. Duskie says that each dish is designed to hit all parts of the mouth. "The goal is to make sure there is balance between flavor and texture, as well as the right amounts of acid and salt. Once that's done we can add sweet, spicy, or savory ingredients to make the dish more complex and tasty." In addition to the pigs, Duskie, John and the ZaZu staff also work with fresh seafood from the nearby coast and chicken, duck, rabbit, goat, lamb, and beef procured from local ranches within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant's new location at The Barlow, a community food, art, and wine emporium in Sebastopol. Because of their passion for working with local ingredients, they have turned down numerous opportunities to start satel- lite versions of ZaZu in other special cities on the West Coast. "To me, the cool thing is that Sonoma County is not a mono-culture. For that reason, we love the access we have to such diverse styles of wines, beer and agriculture 365 days of the year. As restaurateurs, we are hell-bent on saving it by giving our money back to farmers and helping our local economy. In the end, we want everyone in our community to win," says Duskie. Keeping it local: Black Pig Meat Co. makes its bacon and salumi products at The Barlow in Sebastopol, Macbryde Ranch in Forestville, and Davis Family Vineyards in Healdsburg. ■cr f a l l / w i n t e r 2 0 1 5 | 9 3

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