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This Little Piggy Ate Sausage

By Katrina Fried

It's that time of year again when on March 18 and 19, chef Charlie Palmer will be hosting his sixth annual Pigs & Pinot weekend, a 48-hour pork-a-palooza. Gala dinners, butchering demos, cook-offs, wine competitions and seminars overtake the Hotel Healdsburg for two delicious days next month, with a battalion of guest chefs and sommeliers leading the charge. This year's participating culinary and wine authorities include chefs Marc Forgione, Nsancy Oakes and the camera-ready Voltaggio brothers, Michael and Bryan, along with sommeliers such as William Sherer of New York's Aureole and Fred Dame of Foster's Wine Estates. In all, 60 vineyards (up from 50 last year) and 10 chefs will take part in the celebration, with proceeds benefiting Share Our Strength and local Healdsburg education.

Don't fret if you can't score a ticket for the main event, which is sold out. One can still have a taste of Pigs & Pinot at the Hotel Healdsburg, h2hotel and Dry Creek Kitchen, all of which are offering Pigs & Pinotinspired menus with wine pairings and special weekend packages throughout the months of February, March and April.

To really go hog wild, opt for the Butchery and Charcuterie overnight package on April 2. In addition to one-night accommodation at the tony Hotel Healdsburg and a three-course dinner featuring Charlie Palmer and Dustin Valette's 2011 Pigs & Pinot gala dish paired with this year's winning wine, the package includes a hands-on (and they do mean hands on) three-hour pig-butchering and charcuterie class with chef Valette.

At a class last month, I watched with awe as Valette sliced up a whole pig from nearby Gleason Ranch into perfect primal cuts before my eyes—and then with even greater awe, watched myself do a not half-bad job of the same. A primer in prosciutto and sausage-making follows, as Valette stuffs and ties off a rope of seasoned pork links, one fatter and more perfect than the next. It all seems so easy and gourmand that when Valette mentions the casing machine costs a mere $39.99 online, the idea of a bring-your-own-protein, sausage-making party might just begin to flower in the mind.

The reward for all this knife work? A delicious plate of the seared freshly made sausages and creamy polenta . . . paired with a glass of Pinot, of course.

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