Around 500 hearty souls braved the wind and the rain on an unseasonably cold May Saturday to attend the first annual Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast in Argenta. Teams from the Argenta Market, Cafe Bossa Nova, the Capital Hotel, the Country Club of Little Rock, Lulav Italian Kitchen, the Root Cafe, Local Lime, Maddie's Place, Reno's Argenta Cafe, Ristorante Capeo and St. Jude Children's Hospital were even heartier — most of them spent the night before, when temperatures flirted with freezing, tending to their fires and rotating their swine to ensure they were cooked to perfection.
Our celebrity judges had trouble selecting a winner; only two points separated first and third place. But ultimately the $1,000 cash prize and the handcrafted mosaic pig trophy went to the Country Club of Little Rock. Local Lime earned second, with Reno's Argenta Cafe coming in third.
The judges had excellent — and diverse — variations on pig to deliberate on. Local Lime served its porchetta in a taco. The Root Cafe pulled its pig and included it on bahn mi-style crostini. The Capital's team offered its porchetta bites in a ciabatta roll with mustard and cabbage. Sides were equally inspired. The Reno's team — packed with politicos like Arkansas Economic Development Commission head Grant Tennille, Lottery Director Bishop Woosley and Arkansas House Chief of Staff Gabe Holmstrom — made fresh pork rinds and put bacon and beer in mac 'n' cheese with great success. The team from St. Jude made hot water cornbread. The Root served homemade spicy kimchi. All that, plus tasty beer from Schlafly, live music from the likes of Bonnie Montgomery and The Lost Bayou Ramblers — next year can't come soon enough.