Nothing says “Cuban Fiesta” quite like marinated roasted pork, made in a “Caja China,” Salsa music and Mojitos. Throw in a variety of wines, desserts, Café Bustelo and signature chefs vying for a “Piggy Choice Award” and you’ve got the Goya Foods' Swine & Wine event that took place on Sunday at the Biltmore Hotel.
It was hosted by James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein. More than 19 chefs prepared their best roasted pork recipes. The party was quite lively thanks to a live performance by the Chirino Sisters, who belted out favorite songs from Celia Cruz, Mana, and Willy Chirino.
Well known pit masters joining Bernstein in the challenge, included: Michael Schwartz, from Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink; John Kunkel, from the soon-to-open Swine; reigning champion, Ingrid Hoffmann; favorite RHOM co-star/chef, Ana Quincoces; Douglas Rodriguez, from D. Rodriguez on the Ocean and Dena Marino from MC Kitchen, to name a few. Dozens of sweet treats were the perfect complement to the salty pork, but none better than Paulina’s Pops in an array of unusual and delicious flavors.
For the first time Chef Ryan Nielsen from Bongos Cuban Café and Larios on the Beach joined the competition. When tasked with creating a dish for the event, he kept the recipe traditional.
"The lechon was marinated with our authentic Cuban mojo recipe using fresh local ingredients; the same recipe that has been used in our restaurants for over 20 years," Nielsen said.
Nielsen recreated the perfect Cuban dish to be eaten in one bite: traditional lechon asado and sweet maduro mash layered on a crispy pork skin and topped with crunchy Spanish onions. At the end of the night, Chef Nielsen was awarded the Pat La Frieda "Piggy Choice Award" for receiving the most votes from the crowd.
When asked about the event, hostess, Michelle Bernstein said, “I have truly enjoyed working on this event with the Festival team and with the Biltmore. They have been so supportive and easy to work with. Swine & Wine is one of the more sophisticated events of the festival.”