"The Three Little Pigs" at The Piggery

FOR THIS FARMERS-MARKET-STAND-TURNED-DELI, it is a surprise to step into a daffodil yellow, oak- floored establishment packed with customers along Route 13 in Ithaca. A colorfully chalked menu sign with mouth-watering menu options hangs above the counter. To the left, a black wall adorned with names of local farms tells where they sourced their meats, dairy, and produce. The neighboring hand-drawn map of a pig shows me exactly what a “hock” and a “butt” are (it’s not even close to the butt). Little pig ornaments pepper the counter top, from furry stuffed piglets to a piggy-handled whisk.
The bloody flanks I was expecting to find hanging from the ceiling are actually stored in a glass meat case in the back of the room. Amongst your typical charcuterie of sausages, beef patties, and shoulders are T-burg dogs, Boston butts, pâtés, lards, and even whole chickens. The Piggery will only offer what local farms can offer, so the selection of products available changes almost daily. Like the name of the restaurant, the dishes The Piggery have to offer are exactly what they say they are without much embellishment at all, but they defy expectations.
My friend and I quickly nab a table under the orange-tiled ceiling, armed with our coffee, hot cider, breakfast burrito, and “The Three Little Pigs” (a taco, hot dog, and slider). I start with the hot dog and go nuts with the condiments: ketchup with far more texture interest than the creepy smoothness of Heinz, Dijon mustard, sweet relish, and some amazing picked red onions with the perfect amount of vinegar. Yet, I quickly realize that there is absolutely no need to layer all of this stuff on; there is no artificial hot-doggy meatiness to cover up at all. On the contrary, if you can imagine what a real hot dog would taste like made from real quality pork, then this is it.
Next, the pulled pork slider. The pulled pork is moist and flavorful, spiced just enough to let the pork speak for itself. It is topped with cabbage slaw, which adds a beautiful purple color, crunch, and freshness to contrast the sumptuous meat. The mini-bun, with a nice egg shine on top, is simply the perfect carrier for these flavors and textures.
To complete “The Three Little Pigs” trilogy, there is the carnitas taco. Filled with pork, cabbage, carrots, and a delightfully tangy and zingy green sauce, this taco is the third standout in this meal. The simple yet delicious corn tortilla holds up perfectly beneath the mound of ingredients it carries. Think of your imaginary (or real) Mexican grandmother kneading together corn flour straight from the farm and water. Think of the heat from the burner as she toasts them, the authenticity of the whole process. That’s what this tasted like. And the best part? You can smell them on the pan as you wait in line.
Any breakfast burrito sold in the Ithaca area has some tough competition to live up to with famous competitors such Solaz at the Farmer’s Market and Mexeo in Collegetown. The Piggery’s version is packed full to the brim with their signature pulled pork, local black beans, and egg. As someone who likes a lot of stuff in my burrito like veggies, salsa, and even a nice helping of guacamole, this burrito was lacking in the area of salsa, but nevertheless it is quite an enjoyable burrito to wake up to in the morning.
I would like to argue that The Piggery is serving up some of the best cider in the world. Unlike that dark brown whipped cream-covered stuff popular these days, Indian Creek Farm’s cider is a light golden colored drink that tastes exactly like fresh apples. Refreshing, tart, and spiced ever so slightly, this is probably the best cider of my life.
The cooks at The Piggery prove their ability to let the best of ingredients just be themselves, pairing high quality meats cooked to perfection with simple yet creative complements. As a college student too cheap to buy her own meat and too afraid to over or underdo it, The Piggery is the perfect niche for my dose of delicious free-range protein. No frills, no fuss, reasonable prices, and environmentally friendly without being pretentious, The Piggery is an indulgent change of pace.

This is article was written by Iona Machado and will appear in the Crème de Cornell Fall 2011 magazine to be released DECEMBER 2nd, 2011. Look for the magazine at many locations around the Cornell Campus!


Pumpkin spaetzle, kale, tomatoes.

I’m going to try to write some blog posts about the basics of food. By no means am I an expert in this area, so it’ll be a learning experience for all of us.


There’s nothing more basic to eating than taste. The sensory experience of food is, in the end, what drives every chef worth his or her salt to pursue excellence and innovation, new and unusual combinations of flavors, basically everything good.

There are five flavors, just like five senses, try to name them: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and… what? That elusive and all-important fifth flavor is called umami, taken from the Japanese word meaning “good-flavored”. Umami is a beautiful thing, abundant in meats (particularly pork) and generally enhancing the flavor of anything else it’s paired with. It’s hard not to describe umami with vague hand-waving and gesticulations, but describing any basic taste encounters similar semantic problems. In the end, it’s the foods that are umami-rich that best define the flavor and provide a foundation for pursuing it in everyday cooking.

Bacon, that smoked, fatty ambrosia, has six different types of the chemicals that produce umami-flavor in your mouth’s taste receptors, making it singular in its ability to elicit guttural and psychological moans of bliss. As if the pig’s natural selection lead it to maximum and generally uncontrollable deliciousness.

Monosodium glutamate, the falsely denigrated Chinese-food additive of lore, has a chemical signature that allows it to mimic umami compounds, thus giving dishes a new dimension of flavor that could not occur without it (or, say, bacon).

So how do you use your newfound umami knowledge in your kitchen. Add fish sauce to everything. Seriously. Aside from bacon, Asian fish sauce is essentially liquid umami. Just a few drops go an incredibly long way and can be the difference between a good dish and an ethereal one. Try it with something simple first, eggs maybe, and then slowly come to realize that it can simply make any savory dish even more so. That $3 bottle of liquid gold will easily pay for itself in deliciousness. Trust me.