Black Cow Fat Pig
Black Cow Fat Pig Pub & Steak’s fusion of fine dining and classic pub fare in downtown Norfolk has earned an impressive reputation in two short years. Scoping out license plates while jockeying for a parking spot reveals locals and out-of-towners alike are willing to drive to find out why the fat pig follows the black cow.
Co-owner Michael Behrens was driving along Highway 81 when he came up with the fun brand. Black Cow is a nod to the Black Angus cattle peppering local pastures. Pig follows to reflect the local ribs, brisket and pulled pork they smoke daily. Why fat?
“Well, let’s be honest,” Behrens said. “The best-tasting pigs are the fatties.”
This sense of character trickles down to the restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere and diverse menu. The vibe is polished yet casual. Jazz and blues hum from speakers. Popular dishes include Pub Mac and Cheese with Bacon, Bone-in Pork Chops and the Yard Burger. Their rotating selection of flatbreads, including barbecue pork and pesto chicken, throw the flavor curve into a wide arc. Exposed brick walls and massive wooden rafters are accented by welcoming wood floors, wine cabinets and tables. This is the kind of place you could feel at home wearing steel-toe boots or a suit.
“We want to be the place everyone wants to go to celebrate special occasions, but also a place where you can stop by after work, have a beer and a burger and unwind,” Behrens said.
Behrens and his executive chef, Benjamin Wingett, are Norfolk natives. Behrens’ wife and restaurant co-owner, Amber, grew up on a farm near Platte Center. Their early success has been built on high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Their ground beef, New York strip steak and brisket come from North Country Farms in Creston. The restaurant’s pork comes from just down the road in Norfolk at Kuper Farms. Local growers plant golden beets, watermelon radishes and butternut squash especially for Black Cow Fat Pig to round out their inventive seasonal menus. Michael and Amber are often seen walking hand-in-hand down Norfolk Avenue to the community’s farmers market to see what is fresh from local producers.
“Nebraska farmers work so hard. They really put their heart and souls into what they do, and we want to showcase them,” Behrens said. “I am convinced you can taste the difference.”
Wingett brings his culinary prowess to bear with a meticulous approach that is reflected in their hand-cut fries and made-from-scratch Thousand Island dressing. When it comes to the cow and the pig, he allows the meat to speak for itself. He rubs their pulled pork and brisket with black pepper and brown sugar before smoking it for 12-14 hours over fruit hardwoods to infuse notes of cherry, apple and even pear flavors into the meat. Steaks are cut in-house and aged a minimum of 20 days.
The sophisticated menu is paired with a well-stocked bar offering uniquely local choices. Five taps pour a seasonal selection of Nebraska-brewed craft beers. Their popular Nebraska Mule features vodka and ginger beer from Brickway Brewery & Distillery in Omaha. They also stock 70 varieties of American bourbons and whiskey. There are so many bottles that they had a copper ladder custom built to reach the top shelf of the restaurant’s massive wooden back bar.
The Black Cow Fat Pig dining experience is sweetened by homemade desserts. Wingett and Behrens are responsible for creating the recipe for their signature Chocolate Bread Pudding. The lion’s share of their cakes are baked by Amber’s mom, Rita Jazwick. She was the chef at Traditions Inn in Columbus for 15 years, where Amber got her restaurant start. These days Jazwick makes her legendary carrot cake and other desserts for her daughter’s restaurant.
“Rita is passionate about her desserts, and we are so proud to serve them,” Behrens said. “It adds another layer that helps make us a destination restaurant that shines a spotlight on northeast Nebraska.”
Judging from the alphabet soup of license plate letters and numbers surrounding Madison County 7s in the parking lot, Black Cow Fat Pig is well on their way.
Enjoy this Black Cow Fat Pig Dessert! Red Velvet Cheesecake
Corrected recipe from print edition including sugar.
Michael and Amber Behrens wanted homemade cheesecake on their menu after opening Black Cow Fat Pig in Norfolk two years ago. The task of creating it fell to Amber’s mother, Rita Jazwick. “Every recipe I create comes from many influences,” Jazwick said. “Once you get the basic formula figured out you can get pretty creative. People love red velvet cake, so I thought, ‘Why not a red velvet cheesecake?’ Customers will try something new if it seems familiar to them. People seem to think that making cheesecake is difficult. I’ve made enough of them that it is easy as pie for me, but there aren’t a lot of people who make pie anymore either.”
For the crust: Mix the butter, sugar and crumbs in a 9 x 13-inch pan until bottom is covered evenly. Press down with spatula or other flat object to form crust.
For the frosting: Beat all ingredients together until fluffy.
For the cake: Preheat oven to 400°. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Then beat in the cream, buttermilk, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, cornstarch and red velvet flavoring until fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined. Pour mixture into pan. Set pan in larger pan, then and add water to the larger pan until it comes half way up the outside of the 9 x 13-inch pan. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for 1 hour. Allow cooked cake to cool to room temperature before spreading frosting. Top with fresh raspberries. Serves 12.
3 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 2 Tbsp buttermilk powder mixed with 1/2 cup water)
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp red velvet flavoring
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 Tbsp sugar
Here is a family favorite they want to share with you as well.
This tried and true recipe hails from a Zion Lutheran church cookbook in Worms. Rita Jazwick inherited the book from her grandmother, Ella Bremer, and the pages bear splatters and spills from three generations of bakers. Jazwick fondly remembers sitting at her grandmother’s kitchen table and savoring bites of this hearty cake after dinner – which she served at noon. “This is the best carrot cake you’ll ever eat,” Jazwick said.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup shredded coconut
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple
Optional: walnuts and raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oil and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix until blended and then beat in the eggs. Once combined, add in the dry ingredients, coconut, carrots and pineapple and mix until well combined. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center springs back. Let cool completely.