Tender Belly , a heritage breed pork supplier located in Denver’s RiNo neighborhood, has recently been the recipient of glowing national acclaim. The company, founded by Iowa-born brothers Erik and Shannon Duffy, supplied a portion of the pigs for Cochon 555 ’s nationwide cook-off in Aspen last month. Tender Belly also landed a nod in the July issue of Food & Wine  for the “nuttiness and marbling” of its pork. And now, there’s news that due to chef demand, the Duffys are in the process of setting up distribution in New York.
For Denver chefs, however, Tender Belly’s exceptional product is nothing new  (aka it shows up on menus all over town). This month, Twelve 's chef-owner Jeff Osaka braises the Duroc  temple, which he serves with roasted fennel, preserved Colorado apricots, pistachios, and whole-grain mustard. Elise Wiggins of Panzano  uses Tender Belly pork trim to make the Bolognese and polpettes (meatballs) for her pastiche, a centuries-old dish with tortellini and cinnamon custard that was reportedly served to Catherine de’ Medici on her birthday. Lon Symensma, chef of ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro , brushes Tender Belly's Berkshire  belly with a sesame-honey glaze for his steamed buns. And Frank Bonanno butchers whole 180-pound hogs at Luca d’Italia  to make finocchio, sopressata, and other cured meats for the salumi plates at several of his nine restaurants. “It’s important when curing meats to start the process with the most flavorful pigs—good breeds [that were] raised well,” Bonanno says.
The takeaway? When you see Tender Belly pork on a menu, order it. Denver diners are lucky to have this nationally loved supplier in our own backyard.
Twelve, 2233 Larimer St., 303-293-0287
Panzano, 909 17th St., 303-296-3525
ChoLon, 1555 Blake St., 303-353-5223
Luca d’Italia, 711 Grant St., 303-832-6600
—Image via Shutterstock