Cypress' Guinea hog feast 

Slow Food Charleston fetes Carlo Petrini

More than just a five-course meal, the dinner Chef Craig Deihl hosted on Tuesday night at Cypress was also an awareness raiser for Slow Food and Terra Madre, two organizations that work alongside each other to promote local food culture. Fittingly, the food centered around the Guinea hog, an heirloom breed being raised by farmer Gray Moore on his farm near Florence. These fatty little yard pigs are slowly making their way back into the cuisine world after being whittled down to a mere 16 animals. Today, there are over 1,000 registered Guinea hogs and about 50 registered breeders.

The guest of the evening was Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International and Terra Madre. Petrini, who spoke via an Italian translator, preached about the importance of slowing down in life and taking time to enjoy your food and family. He explained how much waste the world produces and how we can help diminish this problem by falling back on locally grown foods. He shared staggering statistics, like 1 billion overweight people compared to 800 million hungry, and food in the U.S. traveling an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate.

Chef Deihl's menu, an ode to Slow Food, was stocked with local fare, and he worked wonders with the meat of the Guinea hog. A charcuterie spread with pork liver mousse, capers inlet oysters, house-cured salami on wood grilled flatbread, and other assorted house-cured meats welcomed diners. Stealing the spotlight was the liver mousse served on soft bread, which had a wonderfully thick and smooth consistency. A pork butter slathered on flatbread was another savory treat.

As guests finished their cured meats, they moved to the beautifully arranged dining tables, anxious to see what Deihl would send out next. The dinner menu consisted of ham 'n' egg, goat's milk ricotta gnocchi, Charleston Snapper, trio of black Guinea Hog, and mom's shoofly pie. The ham n' egg dish hit the table first and was cooked perfectly with a lovely smoky flavor that was muscled out of the way by the brawny collards. The fruity Vinosia Primitivo proved light enough to drink with such a hearty course.

Next came a goat's milk ricotta gnocchi with a refreshing tomato-mint fondue paired with a hearty Fontanafredda Briccotonda Barbera. The gnocchi was followed by the Charleston Snapper served on a bed of faro verde with fennel vinaigrette. The fourth course featured a trio of black guinea hog: braised shoulder, rye-roasted belly, and grilled loin. While they were all very well prepared, the belly, served atop a bed of grits, stole the show with its great texture and flavor.

For dessert, Deihl treated us to mom's shoofly pie topped with a ginger vanilla cream, whipped sorghum, and a light pork rind — a delicious combo of flavors. The dessert was paired with a nectar-sweet and slightly carbonated light white, Santo Stefano Moscato D'Asti.

While Moore doesn't sell hogs to individuals, restaurants looking to use the Guinea hog meat from his farm can contact him directly, (843) 687-4413. And for anyone looking to get involved with Slow Food, you can get in touch with the head of Charleston's chapter, Carole Addlestone at info@slowfoodcharleston.org. Some things to expect from Slow Food in the future include the building of organic gardens for local schools and sending one local chef and farmer to the Terre Madre conference which will be held in Italy this October.

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