I'm a big fan of family style meals. The simple act of sharing food can make a meal so much more intimate and enjoyable. If you've ever been to The Whelk, you know it's a bustling but cozy space where you feel the energy from everyone seated around you. They have a communal table at one end of the room that on any given night will be filled with a large party or smaller groups clustered together. Well, now on Thursdays it can be yours. Owner Bill Taibe invited us down to experience a concept that they are reintroducing called "Pork Shoulders and Other Good Stuff" and it did not disappoint.
If you call The Whelk by noon on Tuesdays, they will reserve a pork shoulder for you and your group of 6-8 people, and will cook you an awesome multi-course, family style meal with it on that Thursday night. The theme of our particular dinner was Oysters, Pork and Sherry. Yours will probably be different because as Bill pointed out, he and Anthony Kostelis, his Chef de Cuisine, like to play around in the kitchen, and quite frankly, get bored easily. This is also good news because it means you can do this dinner multiple times and probably not eat the exact same meal twice.
Our meal began with two kinds of oysters, Mystic Oysters, which are a new variety from Connecticut's Norm Bloom and Sons, and Permaquid Oysters from Maine. The Mystic Oysters were briny and meaty, and ended with an almost beef fat like flavor that we loved, while the Permaquids were briny but with a more lemony, grassy taste. General Manager Tori Ciambriello was behind the sherry pairings for the evening, and with this course we got two types of sherry, a Barbadillo Fino and a Manzanilla, both of which played nicely off the brininess of the oysters.
The second course, Bone Marrow Poached Oysters and House Made Rolls with Bone Marrow Butter, was arguably my favorite for a few reasons. First of all, Bill Taibe, you need to start selling that bone marrow butter because it is heaven. (And if you could preferably do that before the holidays that would be much appreciated.) The bone marrow butter infatuation resulted in me eating like, three rolls, just because I physically needed a vessel for it. But if they sold it, I would probably shamelessly just take a spoon to it and save myself from all those carbs. But anyways, I'll shut up about the butter. The bone marrow poached oysters have now been added to my favorite oyster dishes list. They were cooked perfectly, remaining light while bursting with rich, savory flavor. This course was complemented with a shot of East India Cream Solara Sherry that was poured down a bone marrow luge. Which, I will note, is the classiest luge I have drank out of to date.
The third course of the night was a simple yet indulgent salad, with tomato, apple and the always amazing Arethusa Farm Blue. This paved way for the Fleischer's Craft Butchery Pork Shoulder that was brined, slow roasted and served over a bed of cranberry beans, brussels leaves and topped with oyster sherry cream sauce. And yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. Just a super indulgent dish that is perfect for digging into with a group of people.
Dinner was rounded out with a beautiful almond sponge cake with pickled stone fruit jam, house made condensed milk ice cream, earl grey toasted almonds and caramel chips by Pasty Chef Jessica Shure. And then Bar Manager Craig Ventrice topped us off with a Peach Cobber Cocktail that included more sherry (obviously), bourbon, peach vinegar, lemon juice and bitters. Overall, if you can't tell, we loved this dinner concept. It would be such a fun thing to do with friends or family, and is a super unique way to celebrate a special occasion. And if you can't attend one of these dinners, The Whelk is open for regular dinner service Tuesday through Saturday and lunch Friday and Saturday.
The 'Pork Shoulder and Other Good Stuff' Special is available on Thursday nights at The Whelk. You must call by noon on Tuesday to reserve your pork shoulder. The dinner will feed 6-8 people and is $50 per person for food, not including drinks, tax and gratuity.
575 Riverside Ave
Westport, CT 06880