April 13, 2011

Restaurant Review: Three Oinks for Local Food

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A common summer sight at the Ithaca Farmers Market is the long line of local meat devotees waiting to get their hands on house-made chorizos and charcuterie from a local farm, The Piggery.  Starting last November, Piggery  owners Heather Sanford ’98 and Brad Marshall ’97 began offering their locally-raised meats year-round at a new deli.

Located at 423 Franklin St., the Piggery Deli is a combination of a butcher shop, drive-though deli and coffee shop. For veterans who have fought their way through farmers market crowds to secure jars of Piggery house-made pâté, the deli is a welcome addition to the local dining scene.

The menu at The Piggery is simple: coffee and cold drinks, pastries from local bakeries and a wide range of The Piggery’s hot sandwiches.

A must-try is the Piggery’s signature pulled pork sandwich ($7.50). The pork has a unique smoky flavor that tastes unexpectedly like bacon — definitely a pleasant surprise. Instead of dousing it in the tangy barbecue sauce that is the norm at most delis, The Piggery lets the natural flavor of the pork stand boldly on its own. Similarly, the refreshingly crunchy purple slaw is made with just the right amount of crema — a house-made mayonnaise —  which provides a crisp contrast to the tender shreds of pork.

An unexpected treat on the menu is the carnitas burrito ($7.50). It might seem brazen for an upstate New York deli to take on the Mexican dish made by frying pork legs in their own natural fat. However, it worked! Shredded pork, fried black beans, seasonal house-made salsa and greens are all bundled in a satisfying wrap. The meat is tender, juicy and has a smokiness similar to the pulled pork. The mix of house-made guacamole and salsa brings this burrito together with a refreshing touch.

One of The Piggery’s best offerings is also their simplest: the deli ham sandwich ($8.95). Ordinarily, a self-respecting food critic would never order a ham sandwich. The idea of overly salty, cold, pressed meat — that doesn’t even really resemble meat anymore — with cheese and cold bread just doesn’t cut it as a proper meal.  However, The Piggery’s ham sandwich is on a whole different level. Served warm with generous slices of farm-cured ham, it is nothing like the salty pink pieces of rubber that pass for ham at some delis. The Piggery’s ham is smoky and tender, coming away in shreds with each bite. The brininess of the ham complements the sharp Gouda cheese, and the fresh greens provide a satisfying crunch. This sandwich could make even the most hardened deli ham sandwich skeptics rethink their snobbery.

With only sparse decorations and no tables or chairs, the deli’s interior is hardly an inviting dining space. In fact, the only way to enjoy a meal immediately is to either sit on the pavement outside the store — if the weather is kind enough — or to do a drive-through. However, what it lacks in aesthetics, The Piggery makes up with its food. The deli does not try to woo patrons by providing lavish seating or dousing its food in store-bought sauce, but the simple sandwiches are testament to the tasty rewards of going local.

Original Author: Ethel Hoon