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June 26, 2012

Alice Eats: The Noble Pig

IMG_4250142 Hegeman Avenue, Colchester, 655-7370.

A hot dog cart is a hot dog cart, right?

In the "dirty water" milieu of big cities, the options tend to be limited to Sabrett or Hebrew National. But we're not in a big city.

Thanks to Cloud 9 Catering, the folks behind the Noble Pig, my summer is looking up — cured meat product by cured meat product.

Since the cart debuted in Colchester at the end of May, I've been making as many trips as I can. Last week my trip got easier when the cart began spending Thursdays parked at the Burton Snowboards lot, at 80 Industrial Parkway in Burlington.

IMG_4148The fare has quickly expanded beyond locavore hot dogs, made from a combo of Boyden Farms beef and Von Trapp Farmstead whey-fed pork. Your first order of business, however, should be to try one of these beauties.

Chef Luke Stone's fat, natural-casing dogs taste similar to Nathan's Famous franks — of which I am a lifelong devotee — though you can taste that they are of higher quality. The meat is a relatively coarse grind, unlike the slurry that makes its way into most hot dogs. Think of these as hot-dog-flavored artisan sausages at their finest.

But the snappy skin and juicy interior are nothing without a great bun, and the Noble Pig has one. Sweet and fluffy Mexican-style cemita bread is made fresh in the catering kitchen and kept warm and moist in a steamer inside the cart. It's cloud-like in texture, but hearty enough to handle the frank's ample juices and toppings, such as the thick, sweet housemade bacon, cherry-pepper relish and creamy chunks of Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm on the Bacon & Bleu dog shown above right.

IMG_4248With visions of BLTs still dancing in my head since I went slightly mad for one at Kingsbury Farmstead Kitchen two weeks ago, I had to try the Noble Pig's version.

It was the same wonderful bacon from the Bacon & Bleu, served with creamy basil pesto, sharp arugula and fruity local tomatoes. The whole thing was served on lightly grilled, homemade challah bread. But you're probably wondering what the white stuff is in the photo at right. Maplebrook Farm burrata. Yep, those blobs of fresh mozzarella are filled with bursts of cool, refreshing cream. So it's really more of a BAPTB (bacon, arugula, pesto, tomato, burrata). But whatever you want to call it, you will want to eat it.

IMG_4253Believe it or not, that still wasn't my favorite of the sandwiches I tried last Thursday at Burton, along with a glassful of blueberry-hibiscus sun tea. I'm awarding the title of Greatest Achievement in Pig Flesh to the Belly-Up.

On a sesame-seed-covered burger bun (homemade, of course), thick, well-seasoned slabs of crisp pork belly were rendered so beautifully that they actually tasted lean. Bright, sweet pea shoots and kohlrabi were a great foil to the meat, but it was pickled watermelon slaw that really made the sandwich special. The crunchy melon rind had just a hint of vinegar and a thick coating of mayonnaise that made it a kind of relish and mayo hybrid — made out of watermelon.

The sandwich was a pork lover's dream. Still, even without the meat, it would have been a delicious, well-balanced dish. But I'll be keeping the pig in my lunches at this cart, thank you very much. After all, it's in the name.

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