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Pig Island 2012

Pig IslandPig Island 2012

Yesterday was the big day for Pig Island 2012 on Governors Island.  Forty or so locally-sourced pigs and about 25 New York City-area chefs plus beverages, abundant sunshine, cool breezes, live music, and lots of pork lovers all mixed together for this annual food festival.  Folks sported pig-themed t-shirts, slapped on temporary tattoos that said “King of Lard,” and were adorned with other pig-a-phaernalia in keeping with the spirit of the event.  While everything was delicious, I thought that there were definitely some stand-out dishes among this talented field of chefs.

Butter & The Darby - Whole Pig Wiener with Roasted Tomato Ketchup and Spicy Cucumber Relish

When this plate was presented to me, I was told that Michael Jenkins, the chef who led this team, had used the whole pig to create this wiener.  I believe I also heard something about butter being mixed into the meat and then it all being frozen to hold it together.  One bite and all the succulent porkiness came bursting through, rich and delicate at the same time.  The roasted tomato ketchup and spicy cucumber relish cut through the fat to give this sandwich a refreshing tangy-tartness.  The extra crunchy bits on top were an added textural bonus.  If only all pork-based dogs tasted like this one did I might have become a hotdog convert a long time ago.

Delicatessen – Spicy Korean Roasted Pork Bun with Plum Sauce, Pickled Peaches and Cucumber

For those looking for a pork dish with some real kick to it, the folks at Delicatessen delivered it in spades yesterday.  A soft Asian-style bun cradled shredded, spicy Korean roasted pork dressed with a dash of fragrant plum sauce, crisp pickled peaches and cucumber, and a few leaves of citrusy cilantro.  The heat from the meat and the freshness of the other ingredients kept me reaching for bite after bite of this sandwich.  I could have easily had a few more of these, but I had to move on to try the other dishes at this event.

John Brown Smokehouse – Suckling Pig Pulled Pork Slider

It was almost unfair to start of the day’s tastings with this morsel.  The pulled pork was tender and delicate, almost meltingly so.  Combined with their trademark vinegary coleslaw and a splash of heat from their housemade barbecue sauce, it was the perfect bite to kick off this event.  Their pulled pork ended up being the standard by which I ended up measuring all the other versions that I tried yesterday.  Hands-down, I think that this team made it the best by keeping the meat moist, capturing all the essence of porky goodness.

Mosefund Mangalitsa – BBQ Mangalitsa Collar with Grilled Peaches, Pickled Cabbage, and Carolina Sauce

It was wonderful to see Michael Clampffer of Mosefund Mangalitsa at this event, as we know each other from the New Amsterdam Market where his terrific bacon and sausages are sometimes on my shopping list.  Yesterday, he used the pork collar in his dish, a cut I don’t ever remember eating.  It was smokey and almost bacon-like, topped with sauce.  The addition of the sweet, grilled peaches and vinegary vegetables tempered the fragrant barbecue.  I vote for this dish to pay a visit to New Amsterdam Market in the near future.

Talde & Pork Slope – Pressed Whole Pig

Take a pig, debone it, and then press the whole thing back together into a block to cook and serve.  That’s what Dale Talde and his team did for yesterday’s event.  It was amazing with layers of pork upon pork, meat, fat, crisp bits all stacked on top of each other.  The snap of the mustard gave it a little bite and the pickled vegetables lifted up the dish with a touch of crunchiness and tang.

Enjoying Pig Island

I’m also going to go out on a limb and nominate two side dishes from yesterday for honorable mention.  While the pork in these dishes was cooked perfectly, I would have just eaten the accompaniments without the meat, they were that tasty.  In fact, in each case, I really wanted to go back and ask for another plate of just the sides.

Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse – Triticale Salad with Rainbow Chard and Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad was hearty and nutty all on its own with the right amount of greenness from the chard.  The sweet-tart profile of the honey-balsamic vinaigrette cut through the fattiness of the pork and tied the dish together.  This is a side dish that I think I might look into re-creating just to have in my recipe files.

Edi and The Wolf – Arugula, Peach, and Rye Bread-Mustard Vinaigrette

A big slab of pork belly, grilled to perfection on a bed of arugula salad.  The rye bread-mustard vinaigrette gave a mouth-puckering contrast to the richness of the belly meat.  The crisp, peppery greens, sweet peaches, and tiny cubes of crunchy, toasted rye bread provided a nice textural and flavor contrast to the soft, succulent pork.

For a complete look at the day’s adventures, click below for a slideshow. 

Slideshow of Pig Island 2012

Congratulations to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 and his terrific team at Food Karma Projects for another successful event, and thank you to them for providing me with a press pass to attend Pig Island 2012.  I heard more than a few folks say how fantastic of a time they had there, enjoying the food and the atmosphere, and how they were looking forward to returning again next year, as am I.

Buon appetito!

All opinions in this article (unless otherwise stated) are mine and my responsibility alone.  All photographs and written material is copyrighted and may not be legally reproduced without my express written permission.