For those unfamiliar with Haven Gastropub, it is one of the best Gastropubs in Southern California. The restaurant is known for pushing the limits on their dishes with offerings such as Lamb Belly, Beef Cheek Poutine and some tame pub fare like shepherd’s pie and duck prosciutto flatbread. At the bottom of the menu you will find the item, “Whole Suckling Pig.” I saw the whole pig on the menu last year and it has been on my bucket list since.
One of my foodie bucket list items came true a couple weeks ago, when our friends invited us to a whole pig birthday dinner at Haven Gastropub. Our group was sat at a long table and we all sat there anxiously, waiting for the pig to arrive, while excitedly drinking our craft beers.
The whole situation reminded me of a childhood birthday at Ferrell’s Ice Cream Parlor waiting for the giant sundae. The birthday boy, Nick, was visibly giddy in anticipation. If you are considering this whole pig feat, here is how the dinner went down.
The Whole Suckling Pig
When the whole roasted pig was rolled out to our table and I came face to face with my dinner (literally). I’ll admit that I was initially intimidated when I came face to face with a roasted suckling pig. But after my first bite of the tender and juicy meat, my inner caveman came out and I started eating everything from the loin meat to the brain. Yes, meat is better when it is roasted as a whole animal! I came to the conclusion that this was really not adventure eating, but rather food in its pure and unprocessed form and something every foodie should experience once.
The pig had nicely crisped skin that reflected the overhead lights. The chef explained that the pig is slow roasted and then cranked to high heat for a crispy skin. The pig was cut up by sections of pig, for example shoulder, thigh, loin and presented on family style serving platters to be passed around. The meat was obviously slow roasted as it easy fell apart under the chef’s knife into semi-shredded cuts of goodness. I inspected the meat and juices oozed when I squeezed it. It was so tender that it cut easily under the gentle pressure of a fork. I think I gave myself three servings of the meat and had fantasies of making Cubano sandwiches the next day. A couple of us joked around that this was a pig version of a Thanksgiving feast.
When you order the whole pig feast, you also get three sides. Stephanie ordered the mac and cheese, Brussels sprouts and grilled green onions with hummus. Here are my impressions:
Brussels Sprouts: Like I have written in previous blog posts, the Brussels sprout is my new favorite vegetable when prepared by experienced chefs. Needless to say, the way I like them prepared are usually hocked up with fat and tang. Chef Greg Daniels’ recipe fits my preference, as they are roasted in rendered prosciutto and finished with a lemon sauce. The result of this preparation is a playful exchange of rich and salty fatty protein flavors, bitter green kick and a refreshing lemon tang. Haven ranks on my top 5 Brussels sprouts preparations.
Mac and Cheese: An updated adult version of the classic that is made with black truffles and three types of cheese including Gruyere, Fontina and Parmesan This version of mac is definitely amped up with rich flavors and I had to consciously force myself to stop eating it, as I didn’t want to get too full before I ate the pig. I really liked the use of truffles in the dish, although it overly intensified the richness on the palate; it was the “accidental note” that carries the song.
Green Onions with Hummus: Can’t say that this dish was my favorite, but it was good. Grilled green onions were topped with a house-made red pepper hummus. The flavor was good, just awkward to eat.
Aside from the awesome presentation and flavor, I like how Chef Daniels only uses pigs that are naturally and humanely raised.Green Onions with Hummus: Can’t say that this dish was my favorite, but it was good. Grilled green onions were topped with a house-made red pepper hummus. The flavor was good, just awkward to eat.
My Final Thoughts
It was a fun night of eating tasty pork while drinking craft beer from Haven Gastropub. If you are considering doing a whole pig feast like this, it costs about $40 a person and must be booked one week in advance. If you have a group of friends who want to do something fun, I highly suggest that you consider the whole pig feast. It is a fun and novel feast that you normally wouldn’t prepare on your own. As a bonus, I donned my famous full-body pig costume for the event and
serenaded my friend Nick with “Happy Birthday.” Of course there was another birthday in the restaurant that night, a group of girls demanded that I sing “Happy Birthday” to their friend. Good times had by all that night.
I am a firm believer that if you consume animal protein, you should do your best to find restaurants that support naturally and humanely raised animals. Not only are these practices better for the animal, but results in healthier and better tasting food. Haven Gastropub follows these practices and Executive Chef Greg Daniels has toured the farms to ensure these practices are legit. Make an impact and ask your restaurant to carry naturally and humanly raised animals.