The hog pictured above lives at T-Meadow Farm in Lockport, NY, where owner Rich Tilyou provides it with a fantastic life. It roams and forages on open pasture, it is treated with respect, it is one of Rich’s favorites. It is a heritage breed hog, an increasingly important designation amongst farmers, chefs and foodies. Rich has done a fantastic job of almost single-handedly preserving this breed on American soil. In 1996, only two of these Gloucestershire Old Spots existed in America. Through Rich’s persistence there are now more than 200, with many, many more to come. Preservation of any breed is important; it just so happens that Old Spots are exceptionally delicious with rich, dark meat and a copious amount of buttery, flavorful fat.
When I first met Rich he was shipping most of the hogs to Flying Pigs Farm, who in turn finishes them and sells them to top New York City restaurants. In the last year, T-Meadow has found a market for their animals here in Western New York with chefs and foodies who are willing to buy “shares” in whole, half or quarter animals. I was pleased to take two groups of tourists out to his farm this past fall–it is a beautiful and peaceful place that left our visitors (even the vegetarians) with a sense of respect and admiration for Rich, his farm and his animals.
On the first of this month, three of my chef friends, Steve Gedra (Bistro Europa), Bruce Wieszala and Carmelo Raimondi (Carmelo’s Restaurant) honored the non-profit I co-founded (Field & Fork Network) with a fundraiser better than any I’ve ever been to. Together the chefs concocted a nine course Snout-to-Tail feast featuring dishes like porchetta, “Offaly Good” dumplings in a cauliflower veloute and maple bacon ice cream. They are wonderful friends and talented chefs, and it was a tasty event filled with sumptuous flavors and good cheer. And, while each of these chefs deserves a world of credit for their technical skills, imagination and diligence, the event was really marked by the quality and beauty of the evening’s honored guest; one of Rich’s Old Spots.
In the Spring 2010 issue of Edible Buffalo magazine I was pleased to have the opportunity to write about the nose to tail concept, the chef-led movement of butchering on premises and the bottleneck in the local meat processing industry. It was an honor and I am grateful for the opportunity. Spring is upon us, and I’ll be sorting out this summer’s farm tours soon. Feed Your Soul will offer one a month starting in July and running through early October. We hope you will join us; they’re great fun!