This is a milestone. Yes, Wooly Pigs has sold pork to a lot of well-known West Coast restaurants. But these guys are on the other side of the Rockies. Also a lot more normal folks recognize the name "Trump" than "Thomas Keller".
The background is interesting: Sonesta's Executive Chef Kurtis Jantz had to make a pork belly dish for a big event. He really wanted to impress, so he contacted us about getting pork bellies.
Although I'm obviously biased, I'd say that's a very smart move. The best material for a braised pork belly is going to be from a properly fattened hog - you want lots of flavor and the best fat quality. As best we know, other American producers aren't focused on this stuff right now - they don't have fatter, older, free-range pigs fattened on low-PUFA feed. Hence their bellies aren't as good. It is easy to make great bacon when you've got the right raw material.
Chef Jantz wanted Mangalitsa bellies (excellent choice!), but young Mangalitsa pigs don't have much of a belly on them, so we sent him some bellies from our 400-lb year-old Berkshire hogs (about 22# a belly), along with a bunch of other pork. We sampled him the Notorious C.U.T. -- a belly/rib Mangalitsa cut from our barley-fed 5-month Mangalitsa; I can't wait to hear the feedback.
Below is a photo of what they made with the belly:
As Chef Chad Galiano explains in his blog (emphasis mine):
This was one of our plates. We braised Berkshire pork belly from Heath Putnam with preserved Florida key lime. This was topped with anchovy 'wool,' and served with heirloom tomato frappe, sweet pickled bittermelon, spinach chevre cream, and hyacinth bean flowers. You can't go wrong when you start with pork this good.On our end, once they ordered, the pressure was on - clearly they could have ordered their pork from nearly anyone. They needed us to send stuff in February, when we were snowed in. I wanted to kill fresh hogs just for them, but it wouldn't be possible. That made me nervous - I really wanted to send them the very best that I could. So I tried to dissuade them, and said I could recommend some other pork producers closer to them. But Chef Jantz insisted on our pork - so we sent them what we had.
We were able to get them pork that met their needs, which was very fortunate. It would have been awful to disappoint them, given that they'd selected us after considering all other American pork producers.
Although WA to FL is about the worst case in terms of food miles, we sent it via LTL refrigerated freight. That's quite economical.