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In Dining

Meat raffles provide tavern-goers with the chance to head home with something far more useful than a hangover. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Head west for the SloPig Madtown meat raffle: It's a pig deal


From what I hear, there are two types of Wisconsinites. Those who know about meat raffles and those who don't.

Before this week, I was in the latter camp. But, I've now joined the folks "in the know," and I'm happy to share what I've learned.

Turns out meat raffles are an age-old up-north tradition, the origin of which is shrouded in a bit of mystery. Traditional meat raffles are grand affairs, often charity based, which provide tavern-goers with the chance to head home with something far more useful than a hangover: meat.

Sure, the concept might be a bit obscure, but that doesn't mean it's not positively terrific. And there just so happens to be a meat raffle taking place on Saturday Jan. 26, not too far from Milwaukee.

The first fact that should make the event attractive to you is that it will take place at The Malt House Tavern, 2609 E. Washington Ave., in Madison, a location recently included on Draft Magazine's list of America's 100 Best Beer Bars. It gets accolades for its no nonsense atmosphere, along with its impressive list of both local and European craft beers and ciders.

The second thing that should pique your interest is that the event begins with a pig-centric buffet dinner created by Chef Dan Fox, formerly of the Madison Club and co-owner of a brand new Madison farm to table restaurant, Fox and Bird, a collaboration with mixologist Chad Vogel which is scheduled to open later this spring at 131 Mifflin St.

Chef Fox's culinary prowess is surpassed only by his passion for eating, cooking, and educating the public about the benefits of heritage breed pigs, including Red Wattles, Tamworths and Large Blacks.

In fact, those are the types of pig that will be featured in the meat raffle itself.

The buffet, which begins at 6:00 pm and costs just $10, will include assorted deviled eggs; crisp pork meatballs and potatoes with fresh herbs, shallots and candied lemon; pulled heritage pork in a natural reduction; artisan bread and whipped Ossabaw Meishan pig butter; and old-fashioned brined ham sandwiches with aged Provolone and Muenster cheese and Door County cherry mustard.

Once you've had your fill and enjoyed a few brews, the meat raffling fun will begin. Raffle tickets, which will be available for $2.00 each, will entitle you to win any number of delicious cuts of heritage pork: chops, tenderloin, fresh ham, bacon, shoulder roast, or possibly even a head!

"I am a kid from Chicago," Fox tells me, "So this whole Wisconsin meat raffle idea is totally new and very intriguing to me. I cannot think of a better way to spend a few hours than drinking with your friends and winning cuts of Heritage Pork!"

Quite frankly, neither can I.

But, if a meat raffle's snout quite your style, you might want to mark your calendar for March 10, when Chef Fox will present SloPig Madison, a competition-style pop-up concept that involves bringing chefs together with diners to savor heritage breed pigs.

You may remember the SloPig event in Milwaukee last April, which featured a smorgasbord of pork items created by a collection of Wisconsin's finest chefs.

This year's celebration, which will be held at the Madison Club, will showcase the talents of six chef including L'Etoile's Tory Miller, Osteria Papavero's Francesco Mangano, Sanford's Justin Aprahamian, Dan Van Rite of Hinterland, and Tom Lents of Sixteen in Chicago.

Chefs will compete by breaking down a whole heritage hog and creating a scrumptious selection of small plates, which will be tasted and evaluated by attendees to determine the SloPig 2013 champion. Milwaukeeans should note that the current title, held by Chef Justin Aprahamian for two years running, will be up for grabs.

Bartenders from six area restaurants and pubs including Merchant and L'Etoile of Madison, Sable and Aviary of Chicago, and Hotel Foster of Milwaukee, will also compete in a craft punch competition showcasing myriad flavors that pair impeccably with pork.

Named Best Food Event of 2011 by Madison's 77 Square, Lindsay Christians called the event a "totally awesome porkified celebration of the pig."

I couldn't agree more. It shouldn't be missed.

SloPig Buffet and Meat Raffle will take place in Madison at The Malt House, 2609 E. Washington Ave. on Saturday, January 26, 2013. Space is limited. Buffet and raffle tickets will be available onsite for $10 and $2 respectively.

SloPig will take place at The Madison Club, 5 E. Wilson St., Madison, on March 10. Tickets are available online at slopig.com and are $100 for general admission and $150 for VIP admission.

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