Monthly Archives: August 2012

Pig Island Preview: J. Baczynsky East Village Meat Market

J. Baczynsky East Village Meat Market

With Pig Island 2012 just a few days away, it’s getting to be prep time for the chefs who will be cooking on Governors Island for this annual porkfest.  On Tuesday, at the invitation of Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43, I showed up at the J. Baczynsky East Village Meat Market, an old-school, traditional-style neighborhood butcher, to see the pig that he’d received from Violet Hill Farm in upstate New York being cut into portions to be brined and cooked, ready for the hungry masses to consume on Saturday.

Specialties of the House

Hearty fare

From the minute you walk into the store, you feel as though you’ve stepped back into another world.  Labels on the products are in Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and English.  White-attired and -aproned men assist customers with their orders in any one of those languages, making you feel like you’ve walked into another era in New York’s history.  Containers of Jellied Pig’s Feet, Red Beets with Horseradish, and Tripe, along with several varieties of sausage, smoked meats, and even head cheese fill the counter space.  In addition, they carry the usual cuts of meat and poultry, and I saw a steady stream of customers dropping by to purchase their sliced meats and prepared salads.  The selections reminded me a bit of Gene’s Sausage Shop in Chicago.

George and JimmyGeorge and Jimmy Carbone

We were there, however, on business specifically with George, their butcher.  A master of his craft, George has been working in this field for 50 years.  Originally from Bialystock in Poland, he was a sausage maker at the shop and made many of the cured meats for which the store is still known.  Now, he does more of the butchery and attends to customers.

George shows us the pig, pre-carving

The pig was already slaughtered, the head removed, and the body cut into half before arriving at the butcher shop.  George showed us the pig in the meat locker, so that he and Jimmy could discuss how it would be broken down and prepared.  The animal weighed about 190 pounds, and they went over briefly what cuts George would make so that each part could be used and very little would be wasted.  Then, George set up his table and began to work.

Getting ready to portion the first side

Cutting the ham portion

Trimming the trotter from the ham

Making the initial cut for the shoulder

Shoulder portion

Splitting the ribs

First side of the pig portioned

In just about as much time as it took you to scroll through the pictures and read the captions, George had portioned out the first side of the pig.  Then, with the same efficient precision and care, he went to work on the second side.  When he was finished, the ribs, belly, shoulder, ham, and trotters were all stacked on the table, along with some of the organ meats and extra fat that he’d removed during the butchery process.  He and Jimmy discussed how the pork would be brined and when it would be ready to be picked up so that the chef team cooking for Jimmy’s No. 43 could continue their work to get this to the grills for Pig Island.

Pig portioned and ready for brining

As Jimmy and I walked from the store to head on to our next errands, we discussed how there are so few of these craftsman left.  “This is real old-school stuff,” he’d told me, “There aren’t too many of these guys left.”  It was really a unique experience to witness someone like George carry out his work, and it gave me a new-found respect for the people who put their skills and labor into preparing some of the great products that we’ll be eating at this event.  I will definitely be thinking of him, along with the farmers and the pigs on Saturday.

Buon appetito!

Pig Island Preview at Palo Santo

Pig Island signPig Island chefs list

Each year, I go to a fair number of food-oriented events, whether they are markets, special tastings, or industry gatherings.  For the past three years, the one marked on my calendar as a not-to-be missed feast is Pig Island on Governors Island, created by Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43.  Last year, it turned out I was traveling the weekend this was held, which made me very sad.

Pork Tacos by Palo Santo

I had volunteered for the event the first year it was held in 2010 and had had an amazing time.  Great food, good music, plenty to eat and drink, relaxed atmosphere, fantastic vibe from the fellow attendees and chefs, and a wonderful location, all the key components just meld together beautifully.  Jimmy himself is a welcoming host, greeting folks he knows and introducing himself to those he doesn’t.  It’s like a giant, community-organized backyard pig roast.

BBQ Sauce samples

This year, Pig Island takes place on Saturday, September 1, during Labor Day weekend.  Last night, several fellow food folks and I gathered at Palo Santo in Brooklyn to sample a preview of their pork taco and to participate in a competitive taste test of several barbecue sauces that a few of the invitees had whipped up.  This was a terrific way to get us all in the spirit of the upcoming event and to meet a couple of the chefs who would be there on the island to wow us with their pork prowess (of which I really have no doubt at all).

Chef Jacques Gautier of Palo Santo, JustCookNYC, and Seth Harkazy of Waterfront Alehouse

And the winner of the barbecue sauce tasting was, Justin Schwartz of JustCookNYC.  His Black Plum and Bourbon Sauce was, as one judge said, “very different, very well-balanced on the end.”  He had created a sauce that was spicy, sweet, tangy, bold, and with a nice texture (from only blending the sauce halfway) that clung for dear life to the meat so that you got a bit of sauce in every bite.  Justin won a set of Wüsthof knives, and, of course, bragging rights.  I almost raced after him at the end of the event to see if he had any extra to spare so that I could take it home.

The winning BBQ sauce

Tickets for Pig Island are still available.  Note that the ticket price is all-inclusive of food and drink.  Early-bird pricing ends on August 27.  For readers of this site, I can also offer you a $10.00 discount off of the ticket price.  Type in “Blog Island” in the promotional code space.  I hope to see y’all there!

Buon appetito!

New Amsterdam Market’s Third Annual Ice Cream Sunday

New Amsterdam Market Ice Cream Sunday poster

Today was, finally, one of the days I’ve anticipated all summer long, the Third Annual Ice Cream Sunday at the New Amsterdam Market.  Each year, local artisan ice cream makers get to strut their stuff and feed the sweet-toothed among us.  I signed up for the early-bird package, which meant that at noon today I got to collect my 10 tickets to go around the market and pick up mini-cones of different flavors of ice cream from among the 11 vendors who were there.  In addition, it was possible to buy scoops of ice cream without having to purchase tickets, and a few vendors also had ice cream sandwiches for sale alongside cones and cups.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

Caramelized Honey with Candied Black Walnuts

Can an ice cream taste woodsy and earthy?  Those were the thoughts that came to mind after taking my first bite of Van Leeuwen‘s Caramelized Honey with Candied Black Walnuts flavor.  A few weeks ago, I’d visited the market and had seen black walnuts brought in by the Wild Food Gatherers Guild.  I was really intrigued, as I’m completely familiar with these nuts from growing up in Virginia, but I’d never seen them around here.  They lent an interesting depth of character to the ice cream while the caramelized honey left warm, lingering toffee notes on my tongue.

Dream Scoops

Tri-Star Strawberry

“This is like the best strawberry ice cream I’ve ever had,” said the woman standing next to me as I took a photo of this cone.  She wasn’t far off of the mark on that.  This Tri-Star Strawberry from Dream Scoops was made with that second, brief round of strawberries that come in at the end of New York summers.  The tartness of the tri-stars meant that none of that deep, berry flavor that you get from biting into one of these ruby jewels was lost in the dairy-ness of the ice cream itself.  This could make me fall in love with strawberry ice cream, which, as a child, I’d usually cut away meticulously from the vanilla and chocolate squares on a slab of a Neapolitan confection.

Steve’s Ice Cream

Wölffer Rosé Sangria Sorbet

Made with Wölffer Estate Rosé, from Long Island, this sorbet by Steve’s Ice Cream was the perfect palate cleanser part way into this dairy-filled extravaganza.  Light, refreshing, a little wine-ish, and full of chunks of apples, berries, and other fruit, just like you’d find in the drink for which it was named.  I really enjoyed that someone brought a wine ice cream with them to this event, as they’ve been getting more and more popular each year.

Marlow & Sons

Summertime Basil

You know how when you get to the end of a Caprese Salad and you tear off a big hunk of bread to sop up all the leftover juices created by the tomato, olive oil, and mozzarella?  This ice cream captured all those milky-herbal flavors in every bite.  It almost made me feel as though I could be hanging out in a trattoria on the Ligurian coastline with the fragrance of herbs wafting through the breezy Mediterranean air where the ripest tomatoes and freshest, just-made cheese are put on your plate for the simplest yet most delicious of salads.

La Newyorkina

Mole

Ice cream with a kick?  Yes, please!  The Mole flavor created by La Newyorkina for this event was fantastic.  Subtle hints of cocoa, light spice notes, and then a wallop of heat made this a dynamite tasting.  I also sampled her Lime-Chia ice cream which was full of tart, refreshing citrus and crunchy seeds.  I would welcome either one of these in her regular rotation of paleta flavors, although that’s not really a hint or anything.

The Bent Spoon

Ostrich, Duck, and Quail Eggs

The Fowl Triple

One of my favorite ice cream vendors to check out any time they come to this market are the folks at The Bent Spoon.  They are not only amazing frozen confections artisans, but they are also super creative and come up with flavors that I always like and didn’t know that my life was incomplete without trying.  The Fowl Triple with scoops of the richest, custardiest ice cream I’ve ever eaten was what they brought with them today.  The bottom one is made with duck eggs, the middle with ostrich eggs, and the top with quail eggs.  It was pretty incredible to taste all these ice creams made with different eggs, each delivering the same creamy consistency.

Rouge Tomate

Coconut-Lemongrass

After the intense creaminess of the last flavor I sampled and the heat of the flavor I tried before that, I was in the mood for something a bit lighter and cooler on the palate.  I found it in the Coconut-Lemongrass flavor at Rouge Tomate, with hints of Asian cuisine woven throughout each bite.  The ice cream base, I found out, was made by using a combination of coconut and cow milk, so it had a lighter texture and mouthfeel, a bit more like ice milk or sorbet.  Lemon juice and lemongrass were used as well in the base infusion to give it strong, floral and citrus notes.  My one regret is that I didn’t have an extra ticket to use at this stand so that I could have also had a sample of their Coffee-Green Cardamom flavor, too, which I overheard was really delicious.

Esca

Strawberry-Wild Fennel

I have to start out by saying that I really don’t like licorice or fruit-licorice things.  This Strawberry-Wild Fennel ice cream by Esca, however, I can only describe by saying that it was beautiful.  The fennel was delicate and brought out the floral notes of the berries.  In my notes, I wrote down that I could eat a whole bowl of this one, just letting my tastebuds linger over the harmony of the lightly perfumed anise and fruit flavors.

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

Bitter Almonds and Roasted Apricots

This Bitter Almonds and Roasted Apricots ice cream by Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria went over to the opposite spectrum from my previous tasting.  Big, bold almond flavor, almost marzipan-like, and big pieces of sharp, sweet roasted apricots came together in this sample.  It was as though a summertime apricot-almond tart with a scoop of ice cream had been turned on its head and re-invented.  I really enjoyed it, but I did think that the almond ice cream was so intense and flavorful that it could have also stood completely on its own.

Luca & Bosco

Everyone deserves a little ice cream treat – even man’s best friend

Goats Cheese with Blueberries

My last ticket of the day was redeemed at Luca & Bosco, a newcomer on the NYC ice cream scene.  I’d first tried their product at Smorgasburg several weeks back, so I was really interested to see what they’d bring today.  While several vendors had goats cheese ice creams on their menus, I hadn’t yet tried any of them.  This one was tangy and luscious, swirled with deep violet ribbons of sweet-tart blueberries that just wrapped around my tongue.  It was rich and refreshing at the same time and was the perfect note on which to end my ice cream explorations.

Early Bird Cookery

The only table that I didn’t get to today was that for Early Bird Cookery.  The tasting package for the event had 10 tickets to use at each of the 11 stands.  Unfortunately, I had to make a decision to leave one of these great vendors out of my rounds, which was really disappointing.  Their Hay Ice Cream seemed to be another huge hit this year.  I remember it as a stand-out from the first year of the ice cream festival.

A real ice cream social

Today’s event was also a fundraiser for the market, so it was really encouraging to see so many people turn out for ice cream and to support the hard work that all the vendors do each week.  In walking around between the strollers, standing on the quick-moving lines, seeing groups of folks strategizing how to use their tickets to maximize the number of flavors that they could get at any one table, and bumping into several friends while I was slurping down samples from the different vendors, it occurred to me that the folks at the New Amsterdam Market had re-created an old-fashioned, small town Ice Cream Social in bustling Lower Manhattan.  I’m looking forward to next year’s gathering already.

Buon appetito!

For a few more photos of this event, please check out my Flickr photostream.

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

Mastering the ArtA very grown-up birthday present

I’ve been dragging my feet about writing this post as there were so many tributes going around yesterday to honor the late Julia Child on what would have been her 100th birthday.  I’ve written several times about her influence on my cooking and on my mother’s cooking and about how I received my own personal copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a very grown-up present for my 25th birthday, having fallen in love with my mother’s own battered and taped-together copy.

Not sure that crêpes were something that my grandmothers made, ever

What actually struck me is that, when I did the math, earlier this year would have been my grandmother’s (my father’s mother’s) 100th birthday, too. She was not much of a cook, by all accounts. When I would eat out with my grandfather, his tastes didn’t seem to stray very far either, as I recalled in my post shortly after he had passed away. I wonder what it was like for my grandmother when this culinary revolution started, as her children were grown up and married by the time the fervor took full hold of the American appetite. I’ve never heard from either my father or grandfather that her culinary repertoire changed as a result of this opus.

Stovetop Hollandaise – my mother swore by this recipe

Even more interesting, I realized, two of my great-grandmothers were still alive when the original volume of Mastering was published.  They were much older and well past the stage where they would have been preparing meals for their families (in fact, I think they might have even been living in retirement communities by that time).  For them, as well as for my grandmothers, modernization had meant canned and convenience foods, moving them further away from the farmland products with which they’d all grown up and away from spending time in the kitchen.

Spinach Salad – another favorite recipe of my mother’s

The dinner table at my parents’ house was definitely influenced, even in subtle ways by Julia Child.  I think she gave my mom the confidence to be a more adventurous cook.  When she did an episode on how to make homemade pita pockets, well before these showed up at every corner bodega, guess what we ate our tuna salad sandwiches in all summer long?  Looking for a way to get the kids to eat seafood during Lent?  My mom tackled her recipe for Crêpes avec Fondue de Crustacés (seafood crêpes).  They are creamy, rich, and oh-so-delicious and were a special treat for us, a big change from pizza or fishsticks on a meat-free Friday evening.

New school uniforms – look how bright and clean they are!

I guess, however, one of the biggest ways that Julia Child had an influence on my life and what I eat is evident in the next stage of my professional and personal life.  This past Monday, I started at the International Culinary Center as a student in their Classic Culinary Arts diploma program, which is based upon classic French cooking techniques, methodology, and recipes.  Pursuing this chef’s training program has been something I’ve wanted to do for many years.  After taking the Culinary Techniques course earlier this summer, I realized that now is the best time to take this next step if I’m ever going to do it.  It will definitely be an interesting journey over the next few months as I tackle this challenge.  Merci, Mrs. Child for all the impact that you have had on my life and on my future culinary career.

Buon appetito!

Happy National S’mores Day!

S'more2The Classic S’more

Happy National S’mores Day everyone!!!  The invention of these campfire treats are attributed to the Girl Scouts and date from publication of theirs from 1927, according to Wikipedia.  In a post back in 2006 that I wrote about making s’mores when I was at my parents’ house, I mentioned that I couldn’t recall when I’d eaten my first one of these.  They just seemed to be part of the fabric of camping and having bonfires.

My mother bought this – I’m not sure why

Like Red Velvet Cake, a few years ago, S’mores seemed to take on a new lease in life.  Bars and restaurants had mini burners so that you could custom make s’mores as dessert or snack at your table.  My mother bought a s’mores kit and a rotating marshmallow fork for toasting (really).  I haven’t seen those things back again in the house, although I suspect that maybe one of the kits escaped and is lurking in the back of a refrigerator somewhere.

S’more Bakery – making s’mores

Then, when I was at Smorgasburg last year I came upon the table for S’more Bakery.  They do several different combinations of marshmallows and cookies, bruléed to order if you want to feed your childhood-inspired craving on the spot or packaged up in take-away form so that you can make them at home, which in my case would mean toasting the marshmallows over the open flame of a gas stove rather than over smoldering charcoal.  Each time I see them, I really, really want one, but I’ve just never been a die-hard, fanatical fan of s’mores, as many of them as I’ve had over the years.

My faith in s’more-dom was restored however, at the Pie Party Live food blogger gathering last year.  Nestled among the piles of fruit pies, tarts, empanadas (hand pies), British meat pies, quiches, and other pie-like creations, was a pie that had people raving about it.  Allison Kave of First Prize Pies had worked her baking wizardry on the classic campfire treat and presented to everyone the S’mores Pie.  For me, it was love at first bite.

A bite of S’mores Pie

Every taste that you remember from those childhood treats is there but somehow made better.  Underneath the toasted top of the pie is a layer of gooey, melted marshmallow.  Breaking through that browned layer reveals a rich, velvety chocolate interior all supported by a graham cracker crust.  It’s sort of like s’mores grew up but still wants to keep a bit of that same impish spirit that made you try to get the younger campers to go on snipe hunts in the dark.  These new entries to the s’mores family might not make me long for days swatting off blood-thirsty mosquitoes or fearing bumping into water moccasins or copperheads, but First Prize Pies‘ or S’more Bakery‘s confections would be fantastic ways to salute National S’mores Day.

Buon appetito!

We Have a “Desserts In Jars” Cookbook Giveaway Winner!!!

Desserts in Jars book

Congratulations to Daniel M whom the Randomizer selected as the winner for this prize!!!  Thank you to everyone who entered this giveaway!  From my brief tally of the responses, it looks like Cheesecake might be the number one choice of dessert from this group.  I was surprised that it wasn’t something more chocolate-oriented.  It was interesting, too, to see how many times Tiramisu and Crème Brûlée appeared on the list.

The Mermaid

For the Key Lime Pie lovers among you, if you find yourself in New York City, drop by the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (or track down their truck) to try The Mermaid, which is a soft-serve ice cream sundae with key lime curd, crushed graham crackers, and whipped cream.  All your favorite tastes from the pie but in ice cream form.  It is one of my very favorite things that they make.  I hope that you have a delicious dessert in your future!

Buon appetito!