Slow Food Napa Valley: The 3rd Annual Harvest Dinner @ Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park

The dining room...

The dining room at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park

I spent Saturday evening at the Third Annual Harvest Dinner at the Bale Grist Mill, hosted in conjunction with Slow Food Napa Valley and the Silverado Brewing Company. The event was held to raise money for the mill, which was originally constructed in 1846, and is the only operating mill of its kind west of the Rocky Mountains. The majority of the feast was provided by Number Fourteen, a delicious American mulefoot hog raised locally by chef Michael Fradelizio of the Silverado BrewCo.

Number Fourteen enjoyed an amazing diet of local fallen fruits, spent grains from the SBC, and all sorts of other organically-sourced tidbits (including a “California” brownie to put him at ease on his last day). Through patience and diligence, Number Fourteen grew to become a prodigiously large swine, yielding enough tasty marbled flesh to feed 165 guests at the Bale Grist Mill Dinner. Of course, Number Fourteen appeared in many forms at the country buffet, ranging from pâté to ribs to pulled leg meat (the menu scan posted below lists the accoutrements).

Mulefoot hogs, claimed by many to be the best tasting pigs in America, are the rarest of American swine breeds. Although eating an animal that is facing extinction may sound counter-intuitive, Number Fourteen was raised specifically for this event, and was part of a porcine lineage dedicated to keeping this particular breed alive (if I remember correctly, Number Fourteen is survived by three family members at Fradelizio’s Beer Belly Farms). With the help of this event, the American mulefoot has an improved chance of survival.

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Naturally, there was plenty of beer and wine at the Bale Mill Harvest Dinner, and my favorite wine of the night was the 2006 On the Edge Charbono, which featured a terrific dark fruit profile with an inherent sweetness. I have mentioned Charbono before, in my tasting notes from Summers Estate, but I didn’t realize that the grape itself has its own Slow Food connections, being listed on Slow Food’s U.S. Ark of Taste (along with the American mulefoot hog, of course). Given its rarity, Charbono is difficult to find, but well worth the search.

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All the pork you can eat, and then some.

All the pork you can eat, and then some

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Detail: The old Bale Grist MIll waterwheel

Detail: The old Bale Grist Mill's 36-foot water wheel

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The Pit: One delicious mule foot pig, deconstructed

Number Fourteen: One delicious American mulefoot pig, deconstructed and smoked

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Slow Food USA’s “Ark of Taste”: Links to Local Producers of Charbono Wine