Top Chef's Jamie Lauren: Why I'm Enraptured by the Pig


I am a huge hot dog fan, as many of you may or may not be aware. I grew up on them in New York and have spent a good portion of my life being ridiculously obsessed, so much so that I have even been tempted to tattoo a hot dog some place on my body. I have struggled with the absence of a delicious hot dog in San Francisco for the past seven years and I always look forward to repeated trips back home so that I can indulge … and there I was. Sitting in New York City, snowed in. Missed my flight back to San Francisco and got pretty much screwed. The only glimmer of hope was that I got to indulge in all sorts of delicious things to eat.

Usually when I come back to NY, it's almost always about eating first and seeing friends and family later. I generally have all my meals planned out before I get on the plane. Indian food: check. Hot dogs: duh. NY Chinese food: check. Pizza: check. Maybe a new restaurant or two—I try, but it's usually tough. But this trip I decided to branch out, and I discovered something awesome. Thanks to a very good chef friend in SF, I have found a gem called Porchetta, a small, hole-in-the-wall in the East Village. They make quite possibly the best pork concoction I have had in many, many years. The genius here is they take a pork loin, wrap it in a pork belly (!), rub it down with fennel pollen and throw it on a roll. How can one go wrong? It’s the hot dog of the future and my new obsession.

(Sidebar: Why is it that I, and almost every chef friend of mine, are totally enraptured by the pig? What’s so special about pork that makes us hop on a plane to fly cross-country to eat it? I seriously couldn't imagine working and living without pork in my life. If I couldn't have bacon on my menu, I actually couldn't really see a point to having a menu in the first place.)
Not that’s this pork sandwich has replaced the hot dog for me. Before I headed back to SF, I dragged myself through the snow and sleet to get myself a real NYC hot dog. See? It’s a sickness—but one that I never want to be cured of.

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