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‘Where cork meets pork’

By Staff | Jun 10, 2011

The fifth annual SWINE festival drew a record crowd of more than 1,600 people Saturday in Ankeny. Organizers call the event “where cork meets pork” because it offers wine tasting from Iowa wineries paired with samples of Iowa pork prepared by some of Iowa's top chefs.

ANKENY-There’s just something about the combination of succulent samples of Iowa pork, a huge array of Iowa wines to sip and a sunny, summer-like evening that brings out a crowd.

All of those elements came together Saturday for the fifth annual SWINE festival, which attracted a record crowd of more than 1,600 people to the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Ankeny.

SWINE brings together pork samples from 10 food vendors and wine tasting from a dozen Iowa wineries for throngs of people to enjoy, all while supporting the wine-making program of the Iowa Culinary Institute, which is a program of DMACC.

Perhaps the tagline of SWINE fest says it best, “Where cork meets pork.”

“This is a great turnout,” said Mindy Toyne, a special events organizer for a business called In Any Event.

Tim Laielli, executive chef for the Iowa Machine Shed, in Urbandale, slices some of the 160 pounds of pork loin the restaurant prepared for the SWINE festival in Ankeny. SWINE festival combines pork samples with wine samples. The event drew more than 1,600 participants this year.

She organized SWINE, along with Doug Bakker of the Madison County Winery.

Although an exact count of participants wasn’t available, Toyne knew the attendance topped 1,600 because organizers had that number of wine glasses available and ran out of them with about an hour to go.

Toyne said she was pleased the weather cooperated this year, after having problems with heavy rains during some prior years.

“This is a great grassroots event and we attracted a lot of repeat visitors. But obviously, there were a lot of newcomers this year as well,” Toyne said.

Randy and Connie Richter, of Lime Springs, returned to the SWINE festival, despite their experiences with wet weather at a prior SWINE event.

“Last year was our first time and we got soaked, but still had a great time,” Randy Richter said. He is a pork producer, who first learned about the SWINE event through a newspaper.

“It’s like a carnival atmosphere here,” Richter said. “The people are all so friendly.” This year, the Richters invited their long-time friends, Rita and Peter Hyland, of Milwaukee, Wisc., to join them at SWINE.

Eric Ekstrand, of Grimes, along with his wife, Michelle, attended the SWINE festival for the first time. He also invited his mother, Virginia Ekstrand, as part of a birthday celebration.

“I gave up going to my 50th reunion and dance at Grinnell College for this,” Virginia Ekstrand said. An hour or so into the festivities, she wasn’t disappointed.

“I think it’s pretty special.” Before retiring, she and her husband farmed near New London. For many years, they raised hogs.

For $30, SWINE participants could sample wine and pork. The wines were produced by Iowa wineries and most offered multiple options for SWINE goers to taste.

Altogether, there were more than 60 home-grown wines from which to choose.

Gary Edgington, an owner of Two Saints Winery in Warren County, said he has participated each of the five years the event has been offered.

“Hands down, it’s the best wine event” in central Iowa, Edgington said. “It pays off for us. We sell a lot of wine here and people come visit us because of this.”

SWINE participants tend to like the sweeter wines, compared to their typical customers, Edgington said. A sweet red wine, called Frontenac Blush is very popular. Two Saints Winery also debuted a wine at Saturday’s event, a sweet white wine called Edelweiss.

On the pork side, food vendors cooked up some old-time favorites, such as a mini-version of a tenderloin, which Smokey D’s restaurant called a tenderloin slider.

The Iowa Stater restaurant of Ames served a barbecue pork taco.

Chefs from other restaurants at SWINE created a unique pork recipe just for the event, including Tim Laielli, executive chef of the Iowa Machine Shed in Urbandale.

To prepare for the SWINE fest, Laielli soaked about 160 pounds of pork loin in a red pepper brine for 24 hours, applied a chipotle dry rub for another 24 hours, then smoked the meat for four hours.

He also made his own mango barbecue sauce, which required two hours of mango-peeling labor.

Why go through all of that effort for one special event?

“We’re excited about being a part of anything that features local products, especially pork,” Laielli said. “Pork really put the Machine Shed on the map.

“When we first opened, 80 percent of our menu was pork products. Iowa has the best meat in the world – whether it’s the beef or the pork.”

The various vendors at SWINE expected to serve 1,300 pounds of pork. If you weren’t among them, there’s always next year.

SWINE 2012 will be held June 2, 2012 at DMACC.

Contact Dave DeValois at dwdevalois@yahoo.com.

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