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Jonathan Gold's Top 12 Manifold Gifts of the Pig

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Jonathan Gold just might be both the first and last word on food in the city. His Counter Intelligence column is the centerpiece of his coverage of consumption in the Eat/Drink section of the LA Weekly; many of his findings are tidily compiled in a book of the same name that we urged you to buy earlier this month for the person on your list who's ready to take their dining out to the next level. His quest for the exotic or unusual has been known to provoke countless taste buds in the readership he's earned since he signed on at the Weekly in 1986. We also love his regular on-air visits to Evan Kleiman's "Good Food" show on KCRW. Gold's Best of 2006 is an homage to the pig. Bon appetit!

1. Stir-fried smoked pig’s tongue. You’ll want this one with extra chile, Hunan-style. Dong Ting Chun, 140 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel.

2. Pizza with guanciale and bagna cauda. Cured pig’s cheek, pureed anchovies and a runny fried egg. It’s what all the cool kids will be eating instead of pepperoni next year. Mozza, 641 N. Highland Ave.

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3. Old-fashioned liverwurst. For those of us who worry that their regular liverwurst isn’t, in fact, livery enough. Schreiner’s, 3417 Ocean View Blvd., Glendale.

4. Red-cooked trotters. Simmered for half a lifetime with rock sugar and fresh ginger, served from the most beautiful crock on the dim sum cart these feet are pure, EEEEE pleasure. Full House Seafood, 1220 S Golden West Ave, Arcadia.

5. Lonja. Deep-fried pigskin with an inch of meat and fat attached, and dense enough to crack a tooth. If Chunky bars were made out of pig instead of chocolate, they would be lonja. Antojitos Denise’s, 4060 E. Olympic Blvd.

6. Ham hock. Cooked for days, served with greens, soft as sin, this is pure Thai soul food. Rod-Ded, 5623 Hollywood Blvd.

7. Nam sod. A gray, sour salad of fried peanuts, crumbled pork and crunchy slivers of boiled pig's ear may not immediately strike you as desirable, but after three bites it will be your god. 5183 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 665-1035.

8. Suckling pig. Or rather, a small but not insignificant portion of a suckling pig no larger than a house cat, brined and roasted and roasted and brined until its skin is as thin and crisp as the burnt wisp of sugar that tops a really good crème brûlée. Triumphal Palace takes most of the honors for suckling pig in the San Gabriel Valley, but really, Mission 261 is where you want to go. 261 Mission St., San Gabriel.

9. Kotteri ramen. Not just pork-flavored but ultra-mega double-pork-flavored, with jars of minced garlic on every table in case the kitchen's excesses are insufficient. Japan is number one. Daikokuya, 327 E. First St.

10. Barbecued pork belly. Pig, pig, pig, nothing but Koreatown pig, streaky, succulent strips of fat Kurobuta belly meat that you sizzle yourself on cone-shaped tabletop grills and wrap with various condiments into slithery rice noodles. Toad House, 4503 W. Beverly Blvd.

11. Small cookies. A Macanese thing, apparently, crisp, sweet, chewy cookies flavored with five-spice and studded with little cubes of cured pork fat where lesser restaurants might stick raisins or chocolate chips. If that's not enough, the café also serves the city's best slow-roasted pork neck. Macau Street, 429 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park.

12. Pig's blood. Drained from the jugular, coagulated, cut into cubes, cushiony, dark red and evilly sanguineous. If pork is the other white meat, pig's blood is the other tofu. At the 99 Ranch near you, or better, in a bowl of bun bo hue at Quan Hy, 9727 Bolsa Ave., Westminster.