Solvang restaurant celebrates first anniversary
Chef Michael Cherney and his wife, Sarah Cherney, owners of peasants FEAST restaurant in Solvang, will celebrate their first year in business on April 1 with a novel offering to show their appreciation to the community.
Featured will be Cochinita Pibil Tacos, made with pulled pork from a whole pig roasted for hours before the event begins at 5 p.m.
Rather than explain about the unique tacos, Mr. Cherney suggested a Google search, which revealed the following: “Also known as puerco pibil or cochinita con achiote, this traditional Mexican pulled pork originally hails from the Yucatán Peninsula but is now widely popular all over Mexico and beyond. The pork itself is flavored with a super-simple marinade of tart citrus juice and achiote paste . . .
“Once the pork has been marinated in the achiote mixture, it is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground pit-bbq-style until it is ultra juicy and fall-apart tender and crazy delicious. It’s then shredded and served with pickled red onions and fresh cilantro, plus maybe a few sliced habañero peppers if you’re looking for an extra kick. Basically, think of cochinita pibil as carnitas’ more colorful, citrus-y, achiote-y, slow-cooked, cousin from down south. Muy típico, y muy delicioso.”
Preparations for the celebration will begin with the purchase of a whole pig from Shadow Creek Farm on Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang.
“My wife and crew and I will start roasting the pig about 10 a.m. that day so it’s ready at 5,” said Mr. Cherney, a pro with the process.
“Every year for my birthday, I have a pig roast. For my 30th birthday, six years ago, we did it the traditional way by wrapping it in banana leaves and burying it in a hole in the ground and letting it cook overnight. Now it’s done in a pig roaster called La Caja China, which mimics the cooking effect of roasting the pig in the ground, but it’s faster and tastes just as good. The box, which is about 2 feet by 4 feet, and has a wood exterior and stainless steel interior.”
With the help of his wife and helpers — Dylan Bradley, sous chef, and Ezra Luna, chef de partie — Mr. Cherney will wrap the pig in banana leaves, burlap and chicken wire before putting it on hot coals to roast.
The banana leaves come from Vallarta Supermarket in Santa Maria.
“For the celebration, we’ll unwrap the pig and take it into the restaurant to shred and pull the meat into small pieces for the tacos, which we had planned to provide free. However, we decided to charge a penny for each to comply with restaurant rules for the pandemic,” Mr. Cherney said.
The couple will also be holding a silent auction via the peasants FEAST Instagram Stories (@peasantsfeast) for a VIP experience for four people, a private patio table and heater and a pig’s head feast. All silent auction proceeds will benefit Feed the Valley, which helps to provide meals for Santa Ynez Valley residents in need.
In addition to the tacos, various craft beers and local wines will be available for purchase.
The Cherneys opened for business on Atterdag Road in downtown Solvang just two weeks after the start of the pandemic shutdowns.
“We knew that opening at the very beginning of a pandemic was a huge risk, but we felt the need to take it, mainly in support of our friends and neighbors, the local farmers, fishermen and ranchers, all of whom have in turn shown us tremendous and love throughout the year,” said Mr. Cherney.
Along with his wife, he has more than three decades of restaurant experience, including time spent in Michelin-starred Ortolan in Los Angeles and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas and Sides Hardware and Shoes and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Santa Ynez Valley.
Mrs. Cherney, who has a bachelor’s in fine arts theatre from the University of Montana, worked at Sides Hardware and Shoes, where she met her husband, and at The Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez and The Ballard Store Restaurant.
“We couldn’t have made it through this past year . . . the ups and downs, openings and closings . . .without the steadfast support of our locals. The farms which we pull produce from, our fish and seafood providers, the ranches which provide our proteins, our winemaker and brewery colleagues,” said Mr. Cherney. “The April 1 celebration is our small way of saying a huge thanks and an attempt to see all of those smiling eyes who have made our first year a success in the masked face of adversity.”