Tag Archives: Heritage Breeds

“You have to eat ’em to save ’em.”


tamworth pig

The little tamworth might just light up your taste buds…

We’ve added a 2nd Swine & Dine to accommodate the high demand!  Join us on Wednesday, December 4th!

Yikes! A recent letter to the editor called us on the carpet for our plans to serve a heritage breed pig – a Tamworth pig raised by SVF Foundation – for our upcoming “Swine & Dine” Heritage Series Dinner on November 21, 2013.  They labeled this endeavor “the height of insensitivity” and asked what would be next “a California condor or a manatee?”


What the writers didn’t understand was heritage breeds like the Tamworth pig are not wild endangered animals facing extinction because their habitat is threatened or they’re falling prey to poachers. Rather, they are out-of-favor farm animals no longer bred for food.  Farmers don’t raise them because other breeds are easier / faster / cheaper to raise.  The result? Fewer and fewer breeds, less variety in our food and the likelihood that we will lose all but the most profitable livestock animals in our food chain.  This could be a big problem if something bad happens to that last remaining breed.

You can read more about this problem and what SVF is doing about it in this blog post detailing our spring visit to the farm.  But for now, consider this:  This little Tamworth breed is in danger because we DON’T eat it, and you might really like it.  So come to our Heritage Dinner on 11/21 or 12/4 to give it a try.  If you like it, SVF might raise more. In fact, they are planning to sell some this season, and that might help keep this breed viable as a food source.  Wouldn’t that be great?


Coq au Vin – Tavern Style on 9/25/13!

“Coq au Vin isn’t chicken cooked in cheap red wine: it’s rooster cooked in something good enough to drink.”


coq au vin

SVF Coq au Vin paired with Cameron Hughes Cote du Rhone.

Our upcoming Heritage Series Dinner on 9/25/13 will feature a rooster-less Coq au Vin with a local twist:  Heritage Breed White Rock Hens fresh from the SVF Foundation‘s Farm off Ocean Drive. Farm fresh RI ingredients and Chef Rich’s formidable culinary skills promise a culinary tour de force upstairs at The Tavern. We have a few seats left, and we hope to see you there!

Coq au Vin brings back lots of happy memories for me.  I grew up in a French family, and my grandmother, Florence Proux Mathieu, daughter of a Canadian mill owner, made a mean Coq au Vin. In the 50’s – the heyday of Julia Child and her infamous chicken preparation – all the moms attempted coq au vin, but none could match the slurpy goodness of Flo’s dish.

One possible exception was my old neighbor, John Barrett. Every fall John, who never cooked anything else, would announce he was making coq au vin.  It was his signature and only dish, and it attracted an intriguing collection of friends who ate, drank and ruminated about how this year’s batch compared to last. The anticipation was almost as good as the dinner.

On Wednesday, White Horse Heritage Dinner guest speaker, Catherine Zecker of Cameron Hughes, will pair a 2011 Cote du Rhone with Chef Rich’s coq au vin. According to this Wine Spectator video, Catherine and Julia are on the same page when it comes to pairing wine with this classic French dish.
So join us for a little French / American comfort food and wine on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. Click here for details and call 401-849-3600 for reservations.

If you can’t make this one, no worries!  There are two more:

Whiskey Business – Thursday, October 24, 2013

Swine & Dine – Thursday, November 21, 2013

The White Horse Tavern Visits The SVF Foundation

Ancient White Park Cattle at the SVF Foundation, Newport RI

Ancient White Park Cattle at the SVF Foundation, Newport RI

The White Horse Tavern Executive Chef, Richard Silvia and proprietor, Leslie Hogan took an afternoon this week to visit SVF Foundation, a local non-profit foundation dedicated to preserving heritage livestock breeds from extinction.

As I have explained in my recent blog posts, sustainability is extremely important to me as a chef and our vision here at the White Horse Tavern. During our visit to the SVF, Leslie and I learned about SVF’s history and mission from Executive Director, Peter Borden.

The Alarming Loss of Heritage Breeds

U.N. Food and Agriculture studies indicate the world is losing one livestock breed a month. SVF preserves heritage breeds to maintain their valuable and irreplaceable traits such as resistance to disease and parasites, heat tolerance, mothering ability, forage utilization and unique flavor and texture qualities.  The lack of diversity in our food chain makes our highly inbred, genetically uniform market breeds extremely vulnerable. One serious infectious disease could decimate an entire breed.

Rhode Island’s Vanishing Livestock Breeds

The lack of diversity in our food chain ought to be a real concern to us even on a local level. At the turn of the 20th century, for example, Rhode Island was home to 6,000 dairy farms; now there are 17.  In the 1920s, 60 breeds of chickens were sold in the US; now the Cornish Rock dominates the market. In the 1930s, 15 breeds of pigs were raised the US; six of those are now extinct and just three breeds dominate the market. Just one breed of cow, the Holstein, supplies 93% of our dairy products.

An Idyllic Setting for Endangered Breeds


 At SVF Foundation we toured gorgeous livestock pens, a state-of-the-art cryogenic lab where genetic material is frozen in liquid nitrogen tanks, Foundation offices and the famous and picturesque Swiss Village. We also met an impressive group of livestock professionals, scientists, landscapers and other farm folk dedicated to preserving this beautiful place and the animals that can insure a diverse food source for our future.

The animals were all in environments that were comfortable, humane, and impeccably well maintained. The breeds we saw included Ancient White Park and Dutch Belted Cattle, Tennessee Fainting Goats, Leicester Longwool Sheep, piglets, Cornish Rock Hens, and a handsome Border Collie named “Dakota.”

SVF_CHIP&CHEFWe also met a very special fainting goat named Chip.  Chip was conceived in an SVF test tube and carried to term by a surrogate mother of the same species but a different breed. SVF has produced about a dozen of these “miracle babies” to make sure the frozen embryos, semen and germplasm they store are viable and ready to fulfill their mission of putting a little diversity on all our plates.

More to come regarding our visit, partnership and future lecture dinners with the SVF Foundation

Chef Richard Silvia

P.S. SVF will be open to the public on June 8th with tours, demonstrations and SVF heritage breed  meats prepared by Julian’s Food Truck. Read more here.