Feast 5 is a weekly column introducing you to some of the best chefs, bartenders, makers, farmers and more around the region. Have a recommendation for someone who should be featured? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Brittany Sullivan and her husband, Bill, moved from Florida to mid-Missouri over a decade ago, they came in search of a simpler life: rural, connected with the land, the family and animals they hoped to raise on it. With no prior agricultural experience, they quickly learned that “the simple life isn't so simple,” Sullivan says. “It's a lot of work, but it's definitely rewarding.” Rewards, for both the Sullivans and their clients, have come in the form of delicious pasture-raised heirloom hogs. Over the years, they’ve raised a variety of breeds, such as Hampshire and Spotted China. “My husband's always trying to find the perfect hog,” Sullivan says. You know, the perfect fat ratio – but honestly, it kind of depends on how they’re raised, where they’re raised and what you feed them to get that.”
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Whole- and half-hog sales are the bread and butter at Sullivan Farms, but you’ll also find the Sullivans at the Columbia Farmers Market every Saturday morning, vending a variety of common and curious cuts – think tenderloin, sausage links, lard and braunschweiger – to home cooks. In their own kitchen, the Sullivan family loves to cook pork chops, steaks and ham hocks. “Everybody knows them from ham and beans, but I absolutely love to put them in the slow cooker and then they kind of shred off like pulled pork,” Sullivan says. “So then I use that in pot pies – instead of a chicken pot pie, a ham pie. It’s absolutely delicious.” Sample their stock on the menu at a number of Columbia’s best-loved restaurants, too, such as Barred Owl Butcher & Table and Broadway Diner, plus Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions in the St. Louis area. But the fun doesn’t stop with pigs: The family also raises and sells goat and chicken eggs.
Last year, the Sullivans purchased a larger farm near Fayette, Missouri – just a stone’s throw away from their previous plot of land – to expand their livestock numbers, something they’ve felt the need to do since the very beginning. “We could really never keep up with the demand for more of a natural type of product that wasn’t raised in confinement or anything like that,” Sullivan says. Settling into their new homestead in 2022, they’re not only feeling more caught up on production, but in the rural lifestyle they sought out here all those years ago. Similar to their heirloom hogs, their success is a combination of nature and nurture: Their first-generation agricultural interest paired with heirloom techniques has not only informed their lifestyle on the farm, but their taste buds, too. Here, Sullivan dishes on her best-loved foods and the memories that make them.
1. What’s the best thing you’ve ordered at a local bar or restaurant recently? That’s a hard one – I’m definitely a meat kind of girl – so either the shawarma from Beet Box or the Butcher Block, full of charcuterie, from Barred Owl. Both are equally delicious.
2. What’s the best style of pizza – and why? Hands down Chicago-style! Is there any other kind of pizza? I grew up in Chicago and I love cheese, and lots of it. My daughter calls me a pizza snob.
3. What’s your favorite food memory? Growing up, my babysitter was from Italy. Even when my mom wasn’t working, when my mom decided to become a stay-at-home mom, the babysitter would still come over – she lived across the street – and it was always home-cooked meals, you know, real noodles. I just have all these visions of making pasta sauce with her. She was really big on Nutella and tiramisu.
4. What ingredient do you think everyone should keep at home and why? Lard – everything tastes better with lard! It makes the perfect pie crust, fries up the most scrumptious potatoes. My husband’s favorite grilled cheese uses lard instead of butter.
5. What’s your most controversial food opinion? I love a good fried bologna sandwich and cheese, Sullivan Farms style – it’s an old style bologna, and it’s oh so delicious with Hemme Brothers mild Cheddar. Add some sourdough from Barred Owl and you have yourself the perfect sandwich!