Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
There are a lot of things happening this spring. But how many of them feature pit-roasted, heritage-breed hogs; some of the finest chefs and pitmasters around; live music and cold beer and wine? Obviously we're biased (and not vegetarians), but there's really no better recipe for a party.
If you agree, we hope you'll join us for the second annual Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast on Saturday, May 3, at the Argenta Farmer's Market at Sixth and Main streets in North Little Rock. The event benefits the Argenta Arts District.
This year's cook-off involves 19 teams so far who'll be roasting a hog in the neighborhood of 130 lbs., raised at Scott Heritage Farm, over specially constructed outdoor pits.
Gates open at 5 p.m. and food, including pork and two sides from each team, will be served at 6:30 p.m. It's all you can eat, but we can't guarantee that the food that your favorite team whips up will last long into the evening. Your best bet is to be early-to-punctual and think strategically. Plan your attack with our preview of the participants that follows. What else do you need to know? Buy tickets — $25 in advance or $30 day of the event — and get more info at arktimes.com/heritagehogroast. The ticket price also includes a great slate of music by Memphis' Ghost Town Blues Band, Runaway Planet and The Salty Dogs. If you want to see the music and not pig, tickets are $10 after 8 p.m.
(If you read what follows and think all the teams are poseurs, holler at us! We'll squeeze you in.) The roast lineup:
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, Henry IV says, but Brian Kearns, winner of last year's Hog Roast representing the Country Club of Little Rock, sounds pretty laid back. Now with Arthur's Prime Steakhouse and Oceans at Arthur's, he said he's going to roast "the way I've always cooked my pigs. I might play around with some different seasoning. It's all in the time and temperature." Kearns will brine his swine in a mixture of sugar, salt, apple cider and "a few other ingredients that I'm not willing to disclose," and then he'll rub the pig with his barbecue rub the day before. Using coals he'll make from apple and oak logs, Kearns will roast his hog laid flat in a cinderblock pit. For the sides, he's thinking barbecued black-eyed peas and cornbread. About the time and temperature: What the great hog roaster has to do is "basically figure a way to get [all the parts of the pig] to finish at same time." Kearns, who'll be joined again by chef Jon Bobo, is looking forward to going up against South on Main's Matt Bell and other great cooks in the contest. He's also hoping it won't be a cold day in May this time around: Last year, he had to start the fire at midnight and wear a down jacket and a hat during the day. LNP.
Chris Tanner hasn't always worked in restaurants. He flew planes for a while after college, and later tried wholesaling wine. But with Cheers in the Heights, his "neighborhood joint" on North Van Buren Street, he found his true calling. "I like to cook and I like to drink," he says, which pretty much sums it up. He claims he can "count on two hands" how many times he's roasted a whole hog, and he isn't all that worried about the competition. "I think I'm gonna start it in my China Box and then throw it on the open grate and work it from there," he says. "Get some wood smoke to it and crisp it up." He's planning a homemade mojo sauce ("a dollop of orange juice, some pineapple, different spices") and envisions a porchetta with rosemary, sage and garlic. He also intends to bring a TV so attendees can watch the Kentucky Derby. For anyone who wants to do more than just watch, he plans to have "five or six" betting pools going as well. WS.
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