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The Pig Is In

Fresh Iberico pork, from pigs fed on Spain's famous black acorns, arrives in Washington. (ThinkFoodGroup)

"Oh, my God."

José Andrés looked up from the grill and smiled at me. "It's good, yes?"

Good was an understatement.

The sigh-inducing dish was a small plate of pork, drizzled with mojo picon, a sauce of cilantro, parsley, garlic and olive oil, and sprinkled with black salt. It wasn't just any pork. This was meat from the famous Spanish Iberico de Bellota pigs, which is usually made into ham renowned for its silkiness and nutty flavor. Andrés, who was first to import Bellota ham to the United States, has now brought the fresh pork here as well.

The fresh meat has long been served in the region of Castilla y Leon, where the pigs are raised on a diet of acorns, wild herbs and mushrooms. But it's a new delicacy in hot Spanish food cities Madrid and Barcelona, Andrés said, and now here. In the air-dried ham, the nutty flavor is more concentrated. But the fresh meat has a velvety texture and subtle earthiness that is equally special.

Andrés will be serving the pork on special at his Jaleo restaurants. There will be a tapa of roasted pork loin with apples ($16) and a pork paella to share ($48), among other things. But it's also available at retail exclusively at Washington market Wagshals. It was a long, arduous process to get the meat approved by the USDA (it's flash frozen before it's shipped), but starting today, the store has boneless loin roasts or chops for $29.99 per pound, bone-in loin roasts or chops for $27.99 per pound and baby back ribs for $23.99 per pound.

That might sound like a lot. But Wagshal's Brian Fuchs says it's actually an "introductory price" to lure curious epicureans in. So now may be the time to try it. Note: You don't cook this pork like the usual "other white meat." Instead, think of it more like a steak. To roast a loin should take about 20 minutes; the center should still be pink.

The supply is limited, Fuchs said. But on a trip to Spain in October, he hopes to secure greater quantities and other cuts, including pork shoulders and perhaps pork belly. To buy, visit Wagshals at 4845 Massachusetts Ave. NW or online.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  July 22, 2009; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Shopping  | Tags: Jane Black, pork  
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