The front of the bind-ends menuThere’s been a National Pig Day on March 1st in the US since 1972, but apparently (as of this year) Prince Edward County has now decided to make it International Pig Day, “extending it into a month-long appreciation of pigs, pork and the people who raise them.” Though I only recently learned of this holiday (read: on the day of), I didn’t want to be remiss in showing my appreciation of the porcine and thought, where better to celebrate than at The Black Hoof?

View from the barstool

Despite it being late on a Monday, we claimed the last two seats in the house – stools at the bar under some serendipitously good lighting. And I don’t think you could get closer to the action in the tiny kitchen unless you were prepping something yourself. So we settled in, placed our order, and let the food come.

We started off with the foie & bacon jam crostini. Toasted baguette with chunks of sweet bacon and polished nuggets of foie laid on top. Good as a starter. Or as a dessert. It certainly played both roles in the evening’s meal.

The beet and bottarga salad was quite interesting. House-made ricotta, beets, micro-greens, lightly pickled Sicilian lemon rind (really liked this element – see how big it is in the gallery below!), and grated bottarga (cured fish roe). An odd mix that went fairly well together. I wanted the beets to be crisper, but that’s just my preference.

My personal favourite of the night: blood sausage and farro. I’ve never had farro before, but I liken it to a chewier barley. There were nuts in there as well, so it added a lot of texture and crunch to things, which I greatly enjoyed. Pockets of whole mustard seed added another dimension of crunch and texture as well. The blood sausage had a nice crust on it and a smooth velvety interior. Nicely sauteed greens rounded things out.

The spicy octopus salad was a visual treat and I really liked the purple of the olive purée. The spiciness of the octopus chunks were counterbalanced by the thinner discs of sunchokes.

Another interesting combination – suckling pork belly and kimchi with apple slices. The sauce was reminiscent of a Chinese dish that I couldn’t pin down. Definitely some hoisin in there. Though the kimchi was very mild and young, I really enjoyed the crunch of it and the apple together combined with the fatty pork.

Now, this would have been the end of our meal as we were told that it was a lot of food when we were placing our order, and so we had held back a couple of dishes initially. Taking a brief moment to evaluate stomach space, we decided we still had room and forged ahead with the rest of our original order.

The porcini & gorgonzola pappardelle in a pork ragu was less my thing than I thought it would be. I like my pasta, so the thin pappardelle wasn’t doing it for me. It did, however, let the hearty pork ragu come to the front.

Fried coxcomb stuffed with pulled pork in a BBQ sauce.

We had originally wanted the southern fried sweetbreads, but there was a sweetbread shortage. Instead, fried coxcombs, stuffed with pulled pork and doused in a tangy barbeque sauce made for a really tasty and unique treat. I had recalled reading about it on @TheBlackHoof’s twitter feed not so long ago and I’m glad I had the chance to try it. Came sided with a blue cheese slaw. All went together really well and I enjoyed this a lot. Consider asking them about this if you go. It wasn’t on the menu.

Since we were right in front of the kitchen all night, we got offered a sampling of one of their latest experiments: the heart attack snack. I liked the chew and sweet and salt of the bacon, and well… candied pecans… how can that be bad? Good as a sweet finish if you’re too full for dessert, but I don’t think they’re serving this yet. I had wondered if they’d considered doing this bourbon-style. More butter and a splash of alcohol wouldn’t hurt things. In the name of experimentation and all that.

Despite being treacherously full, I jumped on to dessert. Really, if you were going to convince me to order dessert and sell me on forgetting how little room I had left in my stomach, sticky toffee pudding would probably be one of your better offers. With brown butter cream and candied hazelnuts, this was one of the better renditions I’ve had. They had toasted the long bar of cake with some salted butter (I think), which made for a very tasty foil to the sauce. Toss in the sweet crunch of toasted hazelnuts and I was one happy girl. Stuffed, but happy.

Finally done, we peeled ourselves out of our stools and were complimented on our eating fortitude by the staff on our way out. It was a great meal, lots of fun, and a great way to celebrate International Pig Day. I’ve made a note in my calendar for next year. How ’bout you?

And hey, don’t be sad you missed out on Pig Day. You know why? You still have Pork Belly Day today (March 3)!

More at The Black Hoof

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