We were lucky enough to be able to attend Primal Napa this past Saturday at Chase Winery in St. Helena. Part Burning Man, part pagan-Druid-ancient-religious-sacrifice-ritual feast, part artisanal wine and food festival-harvest party. It was fairly free form in its structure, with guests moving between wine tasting tables, a gallows-like rig set up center-court where the Chefs and butchers were breaking down whole animals in front of the crowd, and a constantly evolving buffet on long tables in front of a the massive open fire pit where the finished products were presented. There were also some slow-cooked and cured meats from the participating purveyors and restaurants as well as Hog Island broiled oysters, and chicken from a twenty-foot rotisserie that was turning along the backside of the fire. The heat from the fire was amazing, and indeed as we drove up Sulphur Springs Avenue, all the direction we needed to locate the venue was the plume of smoke rising through the trees in the distance.
Primal is the brainchild of Brady Lowe and his wife Carolina. Brady is a Chef who lives in Atlanta and is presenting Primal as a rotating, bi-coastal celebration of humanely raised and slaughtered meats, charcuterie and wood fired cookery. Skinned whole goats, antlers still attached, with their exposed jaws locked in a grim
smile, were stretched out on sticks near the fire pit looking like something from Blair Witch Project; eerily happy-looking pigs’ heads sitting on tables amongst the items made from their body parts, and small faux-pas, like the eye-bolt on the cross beam of the butcher’s display pulling out under the considerable weight of a quarter steer, dropping it to the ground, all added to a slightly hedonistic atmosphere.
Staffan Terje from Perbacco in SF, Chris Cosentino from Incanto, Taylor Boetticher of the The Fatted Calf, amongst many others presented the best in local, artisanal chacuterie; Marko from Charbay Distillery, Sean Larkin, Elsbeth Lane-Sarao from Gamble Family, and of course the host winery, Chase Cellars, along with too many more to mention, all poured enough fine beverages to keep the crowd well lubricated. `
And of course, there was bacon. Benton’s bacon from Tennessee, no less. I saw the platter of bacon on the picnic table in the VIP reception area (thank you Elsbeth and Beth, et.al. for the upgrade!) and at a glance, it looked ordinary; slightly cooled, with a bit of congealed fat evident, but what the heck; it’s bacon, yo. Even slightly cooled bacon speaks to me. I sampled a piece and wow! The sweet smoke flavor pops you a quick one in the face, like an Ali jab, than quickly moves off, giving way to the meaty pork; the flavor of the brown sugar and molasses cure is there in the background, providing cohesion. If it’s this good after sitting and cooling I can only imagine…Anyway our mail order has been placed.
Brady’s plan is to quickly move on from Primal Napa Valley to present Primal Atlanta at Sweetwater Brewery on November 21st, then rotate the events in subsequent years between Napa, Atlanta, Charleston, etc. I am ecstatic we were able to attend the inaugural here, as this is certain to be an event that will grow both in size and popularity as word of mouth spreads. The crowd at Saturday’s meat fest was large enough to be fun and vibrant, but not so large as to make things unmanageable. That will most definitely not be the case by the time this meat-circus pitches its tent here again.
Excellent video from the event by Jason’s “The 20 DollarWine Blog”. Check it out…