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The annual Pigs & Pinot dinner at Hotel Healdsburg's Dry Creek Kitchen celebrates a match made in heaven.

The mild but robust flavor of pork — less gamey than lamb, but heartier than chicken — balances perfectly with the fruit-forward juiciness of the pinot noir, a light-bodied red wine with good acid but less tannin than most reds.

"I think one of the great marriages of the world is pork and pinot noir," said chef/owner Charlie Palmer of the Dry Creek Kitchen, who started the charity event six years ago with a small dinner, then kept adding more events each year.

This year's Pigs & Pinot weekend, which sold out in two minutes, will kick off with a tasting of 50-some pork dishes Friday night alongside 60 pinot noirs hand-picked from all over the world by wine ambassador Daryl Groom of Groom Premium Australian Wines.

"Pinot noir is one of the most versatile wines you can get," Groom said. "We've chosen 35 to 40 from Sonoma County, and that's become our anchor."

During the Friday night event, Dry Creek Kitchen Chef de Cuisine Dustin Valette plans to offer three different dishes, including a light starter: Miyagi Oysters on the Half Shell with Pinot Noir and Bacon Mignonette.

As a fun twist to ballpark hot dogs and hamburgers, he will also serve up Pork Sausage on a Homemade Brioche Bun with Pickled Mustard Weeds and Pinot Noir Ketchup as well as a Cured Smoked Pork Brisket Slider with Aged Cheddar Cheese.

"It's tender and soft and sweet and smoky," he said of the slider, which could also describe many of the pinot noirs that will be poured that evening.

At a preview Pigs & Pinot luncheon last month, Valette and Palmer unveiled some of the thinking that goes into their porcine pairings.

"We taste the wines, and we start building our flavors," Valette said. "A lot of the Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Coast pinots are a little fruit forward, so you pick up the fruit —the dried cherry and dry blackberry flavors — and the juicy element."

About 16 guest chefs from Healdsburg and Geyserville will also be putting their best pork dishes forward on Friday night.

Dino Bugica, chef/owner of Diavola in Geyserville, is going to braise pork trotters (pigs' feet) in vinegar and serve them with crispy farro, an Italian grain.

"It's like an Italian fried rice," he said. "The pork stock and the onions had an earthy and sweet flavor, with a little bit of acid, so it went well with the pinot."

Chef/owner Jeff Mall of Zin restaurant will be serving some of his own honey-cured, smoked ham on Sunday biscuits with a sweet and spicy mustard made from his Indian Blood Peach Jam.

"Ham biscuits are very Southern," he said. "Our ham is moist and really flavorful, and it's just delicious."

Mike Matson of Vintage Valley Catering in Healdsburg plans to serve Pork Belly Spears with Grapes and an Arugula Pumpkin-Seed Pesto.

"People really get into pork," he said. "It's my favorite thing to eat. ... You can trim it up, make it leaner, and do it 10,000 different ways."

Louis Maldonado, chef of Spoonbar at the H2Hotel in Healdsburg, plans to give guests his own twist on the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich.

His version will be made with Vietnamese-spiced pork sausage, topped with pickles and cilantro and chiles, on a smoked brioche baguette.

"We're going to serve it with Vietnamese iced coffee," he said. "People are going to need a little pick-me-up."

Saturday's Pinot Cup wine competition and wine seminars will be capped by a Pigs & Pinot Gala dinner at the Dry Creek Kitchen, featuring guest chefs Elizabeth Falkner, Dean Fearing, Jose Garces and Craig Stoll.

For that dinner, Palmer and Valette will be making a Mangalitsa Head Cheese with Crispy Pig Ears, Housemade Mustard and Truffle Brioche. A heritage breed of pig, the Mangalitsa pigs were raised by Shane Peterson of Suisun Valley Farm in Fairfield.

"We want people to use local product and to use something good, rather than a generic product," Valette said. "The difference in flavor is night and day."

Also on Saturday night, Maldonado will team up with four young chefs from all over the Bay Area to present a gala dinner with a slightly lighter focus.

"It's going to be vegetable driven, with the pork as a flavoring component," he said. "This is definitely a lighter menu."

"One of our favorite things to cook is Porchetta," said Charlie Palmer, chef/owner of The Dry Creek Kitchen. "The slow cooking dries out the skin making it crunchy and sweet while protecting the juicy pork loin inside. This rendition is using the same technique, though on a much smaller scale. The pork loins are replaced with tenderloins and the skin is replaced with thin sliced pork belly. The flavor, is every bit as good, if not better."

Duroc Pork "Porchetta' with Baby Turnip Puree, Escarole and Pinot Noir Jus

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2-3 pounds Duroc pork tenderloin, cleaned and all silver skin removed

8 ounces pork belly, fresh

1 tablespoon cumin, toasted and crushed

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped fine

1 teaspoon chile flake

4 bunches baby turnips, peeled and cut into quarters, blanched and shocked

2 large turnips, peeled and cut into small pieces

4 cups baby escarole, washed and diced into large pieces

1 cup pinot noir

1 cup demi glace

1 cup ham hock stock

1 shallot, peeled and chopped fine

? bunch thyme, fresh

8 ounces ham hocks, cooked, picked and diced

2 ounces white wine

2 ounces extra virgin olive oil

3 ounces butter, unsalted

Blend pil for Cooking

Kosher Salt

Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Fleur de sel, for garnish

For the "Porchetta': Start by slicing the pork belly very thin (it may help to freeze ahead of time and then either use a slicer or very sharp knife); the shingle the belly slices to make a continuous "mat," and keep chilled. Marinate the tenderloin in the cumin, half of the garlic and chile; season with salt and pepper. Place the tenderloin on a cutting board and wrap the thin sliced belly around the loin, using string to tie the belly so it will not slip off. Reserve for later use.

For the turnip Pur?: In a small pot add diced turnips and cover with water, season with salt and simmer the turnips until tender. Once tender, drain the water, reserving 1 ounce. Place the turnips in a blender and puree with the 1 ounce water and 2 ounces of the extra virgin olive oil, adjust seasoning as needed. Reserve warm for later use.

For pinot noir jus: In a small pot, add the shallot and thyme and saut?in a little oil, then add the pinot noir. Reduce the wine by half, then add the demi glace and pork ham hock stock; simmering slowly, reduce the mixture to yield ? cup. Strain out the shallots, whisk in 1 ounce of butter and adjust seasoning as needed. Reserve warm for later use.

For porchetta and vegetables: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the porchetta with salt and pepper. In a large saut?pan over medium to high heat. Sear the porchetta, cooking all sides evenly and getting a nice crust on the belly. Once golden brown, remove from the pan and finish in the oven, cook to 135 degrees or medium, then hold in a warm area and allow to rest.

Now that the porchetta is removed from the pan, add the blanched turnips, saut?quickly until golden brown, adjust seasoning and reserve warm.

In the same hot pan, add a little oil and the remaining garlic. Once golden brown. add the diced escarole, salt, pepper and then the white wine. Saut?until tender then add the cooked ham hocks, adjust seasoning and reserve warm.

To plate: In the center of the plate make a line of the turnip puree, place the cooked escarole next to turnip puree. Place the baby turnips next to the escarole with the tops facing in. Slice the porchetta into even slices and arrange on top of the cooked escarole.

Drizzle the pinot noir jus around the plate and finish the porchetta with a little fleur de sel.

"This is such a simple, straightforward dish that you can easily approach at home," said Dustin Valette, Chef de Cuisine of the Dry Creek Kitchen. "You can buy canned truffles online for a reasonable price."

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Thyme-Roasted Apples and Truffle Brussels Sprouts

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 pork tenderloin, silverskin removed

Vegetable oil

1 Golden Delicious apple, unpeeled, cored and quartered

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 sprigs fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoon shallots, small dice

10 Brussels sprouts, leaves separated, blanched

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons black truffles, sliced, julienned

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the tenderloin with salt and black pepper. Pour just enough oil into an ovenproof saut?pan to cover the bottom of the pan and heat until smoking hot. Sear the tenderloin on all sides, then reduce the heat to medium. Toss in the apple pieces with the butter and thyme and move the pork and apples around to coat them with butter and herbs.

Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the pork for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like it cooked (150 degrees is medium). Baste the meat occasionally with the pan drippings and turn the apples to keep them moist.

Take the pan out of the oven and transfer the pork and apples to a plate; cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

If there's enough butter left in the pan, add the shallots. If not, add a little more butter. Saut?shallots until they are translucent. Add blanched Brussels sprout leaves and toss to combine with shallots. Deglaze pan with white balsamic vinegar. Toss with julienned black truffles to finish.

To plate: Slice the pork, spoon the apples onto a plate and spoon any remaining pan juices over the apples. Arrange the sliced pork over the apples and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Scatter the truffled Brussels sprouts around the plate.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com

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