As I find more and more of my life circulating around food and wine, I realize why I am drawn to this industry so strongly. It’s the beautiful community you find inside once you being to peel back the layers. The more people you meet who spend their lives teaching people about wine, or helping others experience the joy of good food, the more you realize they’re all excited about the same things: friendship, learning, and good times.
Nobody has taught me more about our community than Erik Sun, a fantastic young chef from Los Angeles who creates a commonwealth of good people around food and wine everywhere he goes. Erik collects friends and creates bonds between total strangers at a record pace. He loves to cook. He loves to eat what he hunts and fishes. He quotes Hemingway on his blog. He’s passionate about wine. He’s unfailingly generous. He’s a real Modern Renaissance man.
Needless to say, when Erik said he wanted to come over and cook some wild boar he had hunted, we accepted without hesitation!
The morning started early, with Erik, Neil Olson and Wendy Huang arriving, whole young boar in tow (previously brined and partially prepped for whole-roasting). Erik and his friends hunt boar regularly on a friend’s almond plantation. In fact, these animals have a fantastic life- they are truly wild, roaming freely over many acres, eating the farmers’ almonds, pistachios, figs. Erik and his crew have the necessary permits and expertise to hunt these animals quickly, efficiently, and without causing any unnecessary stress to the boar. The happy, healthy lives of these animals is apparent in the beautiful creamy-pink color of their flesh, and the clean, healthy appearance of their pelts.
Erik and Emil spent over an hour tediously shaving every remaining bristle from the young boar’s skin before we wrapped him loosely in foil and cooked him slowly on the barbecue.
(Caveat… this process did create an unexpected grease fire, from which we quickly rescued both pig and barbecue, thanks to the assistance and professional-quick-reaction-time of Chef Mark McDonald. I now have an entire case of baking soda in my house for the next time Erik comes over).
Erik had also slow-braised some boar ribs… which Wendy turned into the most delicious, savory ragu I have ever tasted. The ragu would not have been fully realized however, were it not for the ridiculously tender spinach pasta the three of them made to go with it… finished with parmigiana and a few hot pepper flakes. Heaven.
Tender, creamy, lovely, piggy sauce.
Another amazing testament to the community around food and wine- I had never met Wendy Huang or Neil Olson before that morning when they showed up with Erik to cook for twenty of my friends and family. They stood in our kitchen and worked all day to provide this gorgeous meal- all for a glass of wine and chance to come together and celebrate these beautiful beasts that Erik and his buddies had hunted.
That’s right- she cooks, she plays Ukelele…
Chefs Mark McDonald and Carli Savedra with Nina Flores
Waiting patiently for the Ragu to arrive!
I’ve never seen anyone so happy to mash potatoes before.
Ronnie and Madeline, happy to open that bottle of Michele Satta!
Wine and food bring us together in a primal way- it feed our bodies and our souls to commune like this over a meal. No wonder there are so many powerful allusions to “breaking bread” in literature. No surprise so many important activities and rituals in our lives are centered around food. Thank you, Erik, for bringing us all a little closer to the source of our food, and for doing us the ultimate honor of including us into your circle of friends.
Fish Pig, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”