Way back in 2011 (December), we celebrated our friend Jeff’s birthday at Alchemy. Not just for tasty bites, but for their whole suckling pig dinner. I heartily endorse this method of celebrating birthdays, since it involves a good group of friends and some really delicious food. I’m a fan of good food, in case you haven’t noticed. And since you need 8-10 people to really do this pig dinner right, a birthday seems like the perfect excuse to gather everyone up, which is exactly what his lovely wife Cami did.
Along with your suckling pig, you get tostones (fried plantains) and a garlicky mojo sauce, black beans, and yucca.
I can only show you the tostones and mojo, because once the pig arrived (ahead of the side dishes), things got messy and the camera got put away. The tostones were crispy chewy and salted, but the mojo and roasty garlic cloves really gave it some oomph. We had ten people in our group, and I think everyone got enough tostones. I certainly did.
Once you’ve finished the tostones (or, once you’ve been given warning that the plate will be cleared to make room, so if you want ‘em, eat ‘em), the table is cleared and the roasted baby pig is brought out (see above). Our server explained that our pig came from a farm collective in Iowa where he had run about and lived a happy (albeit, short) life. And that the pig’s name was Hampton. I’m curious, if anyone else has done the pig dinner, if your pig was also named Hampton. Or does the pig arrive with a name tag?
After that, we were kind of left to our own devices. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was the first one to pick up the tongs and make a hole in the pig. Someone had to get it started and I’m certainly not afraid of digging into a whole animal.
Incidentally, we were given a whole bunch of tongs and one knife. The knife kind of cut okay but the tongs were utterly useless. You know that game where you try to pick up a stuffed animal with a claw, but the claw has no real grip and as it comes up the toy just slips through? That’s what it was like trying to pull pork off with these tongs. They wouldn’t grip, they were flimsy, and I could have done a better job with my hands. If you plan on doing the pig dinner, I highly recommend bringing your own tongs.
Other than that, Hampton was a tasty pig. You could really taste the marinade in the meat, the meat was moist and succulent, and the black beans were phenomenal. The yucca was… okay. I guess it was good for being yucca, but I don’t find yucca very exciting. Definitely save the mojo sauce that came with the tostones.
Alchemy says they ordered the “larger” pig for our group of ten, so if we had added a last-minute couple, there would have been plenty of pig to go around. I’m hesitant to agree with that. You can have as much yucca and black beans as you want; in fact, I think we did get more bowls of the beans. But at the end of the night, we pretty much picked that piggy clean. And that’s after going for the cheeks and flipping that sucker over to search for hidden morsels. I’m sure if we had 12 people we would have made sure everyone got enough pork, but I’m also pretty sure I would have felt like I had to eat more beans. Or yucca. Which is odd, since they would have charged those two extra people the $38/person, but really we would have only had more tostones/yucca/beans. Not more pig. If we had started with a party of 12, would they have ordered an even larger pig? I’m not sure.
It seemed like a waste to leave the bones and whatnot there, but it’s not like we would have made pork stock or anything out of them. I did take the ears and snout for the pups, as a treat, and Travis wrenched off a foot and the ribs as a treat for the chickens (what? chickens eat meat!) I figured, the dogs like those dried pig ears, perhaps they’d like a freshly roasted and marinated one! They accepted the pig ears and snout, and ate them, but they all gave me a look like they weren’t quite sure why I gave it to them with such enthusiasm. Also, in case you’re interested, the chickens picked the ribs clean but totally ignored the foot. I have also ignored the foot and have left it to be buried in dirt and coop shavings.
Since that dinner, the UT put out an article on other whole-animal meals in San Diego. It makes sense to me that such meals would be priced as a flat amount, so I’m not sure why Alchemy does it on a per person basis.
All in all, it was a delicious meal and a really fun way to celebrate a birthday. I certainly felt we managed to get our $38 worth out of food and enjoyment, even if I’m still iffy about the what-if scenarios of more or less people with the same sized pig.