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Savvy Traveling with Penny Zibula: Durham Invites You to Pig Out During Tour de Pork

Fullstream Brewery
Beer Marinated Spareribs at Fullstream Brewery (photo by: Simon Lock)

Where Innovation, Conservation, and Flavor Meet

For many of us who live in New Bern, Durham is a familiar destination. We rely on Duke Medical Center for world class medical care. We treat ourselves to an overnighter and a concert, play or sports event. We even extend our time in Durham to savor its historical, recreational and dining options. And now, there is a new feature we can happily incorporate into our Durham itinerary: Tour de Pork.

What Is Tour de Pork?

Tour de Pork is a pork connoisseur’s dream contest, sponsored by Durham-based Firsthand Foods, and featuring 15 of the city’s most popular restaurants. The purpose behind the contest is to promote sustainable whole animal sourcing and to spotlight restaurants that support this concept by buying their pork from Firsthand Foods.

Tour de Pork will run through July 31. Between now and then, each of the 15 participating restaurants will feature a pork dish related to the contest. This variety of dishes will feature just about every part of the pig, except for the squeal.

How Does It Work?

  • Register on the Tour de Pork
  • Download the Tour de Pork “Passpork”, a PDF file listing participating restaurants and their Tour de Pork dishes.
  • Enjoy any of the designated dishes through July 31.
  • Photograph each dish you try and post on Instagram with the hashtag #tourdepork. You can also email photos to tourdepork@firsthandfoods.com.
  • Dine and repeat!

Each time you submit a photo of a designated dish you enjoyed at a participating restaurant; it counts as a Grand Prize entry for a $100 gift certificate to a Tour de Pork restaurant of your choice. You also earn “piggy points” towards prizes from Firsthand Foods.

The Brains Behind the Bratwurst

Firsthand Foods was born in 2008 when Jennifer Curtis and Tina Levy met. At the time, Jennifer was the Director of NC Choices, a Center for Environmental Farming Systems. Tina was pursuing her MBA at UNC-Chapel Hill. They soon discovered they had a shared interest in the well-being of area farmers, the humane treatment of animals, and in preserving North Carolina’s agricultural heritage.

Firsthand Foods is a woman owned meat company. All the beef, pork and lamb sold is pasture raised and sourced from a network of 45 area farmers.

The ability to sell the whole animal relieves the farmers from the burden of tracking and selling all their cuts of meat. Firsthand Foods takes on the challenge of processing the meat and finding markets for all the parts. The company sells to local restaurants, grocery stores, and directly to consumers.

The Truth is in the Tasting

To help raise awareness of Tour de Pork, Firsthand Foods invited a group of journalists to sample two of the designated dishes at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham. Following presentations by Jennifer and Tina, we were invited to dig in.

Fullsteam’s dish was pork spareribs, marinated in a combination of beer, herbs, and vinegar with a traditional red sauce. The ribs were raised to an even higher level with a garnish of local mushrooms. The ribs were sticky, messy, and tender with a balance of flavors that wasn’t too sweet or spicy. Southern comfort food at its best.

The second Tour de Pork sample came from Bull City Burger and Brewery. Bull nuts turned out to be crunchy clusters of peanuts held together with a tasty combination of secret ingredients and chopped pork belly.

Having sampled two of the Tour de Pork dishes, and seen a list of the other 13, it became clear this summer has a lot of good eating in store for Durham locals and visitors alike.

Penny Zibula is a freelance travel writer and blogger based in New Bern. Visit her blog at SixLegsWillTravel.com.

By Contributing Author, Penny Zibula