Thursday night under a beautiful fall evening was the perfect setting for an event celebrating Italy’s most iconic pork product: Prosciutto di Parma. Underground Eats put together a roster of some of New York’s top chefs along with legs of this ham for a Parma-palooza at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn in order to highlight the 50th anniversary of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. The evening culminated in one chef being crowned “Prince/Princess of Prosciutto di Parma.” For those attendees brave enough to get inked with a tattoo heralding their fandom for this meat, they walked off with their very own leg of prosciutto, not a bad goodie bag item.
Wall of legs of Prosciutto di Parma
Before heading into the main event space to visit each of the chef’s tables, guests could stop by an sample 24-month and 36-month-aged prosciutto, allowing their tastebuds to savor the saltiness, fat content, and flavor development of each level of the process. The beverage station, with wine and drink choices offered by Vinissimo, had a garnet-hued Lambrusco, perfect for cleansing the palate after eating the rich ham, or maybe to pick up an Aranciata Twist, a spin on a more traditional aperitivo made with Aperol and orange bitters.
Sampling 24-month-aged Prosciutto di Parma
Then, it was on to try the creations put together by the chefs. I definitely had my favorites among them. The prosciutto was showcased in a number a versions of salty-sweet-fatty combinations. I really like the idea of shaking up the typical cataloupe-and-prosciutto pairing, as several chefs did at this tasting. There were also some other presentations that I thought might be interesting to try the next time I treat myself to a bit of prosciutto at my local Italian market.
While I really enjoyed everything that I tasted, basically because there was ample prosciutto on almost everything, there were a few stand-out items. Although you might have given a “ick” or “eww” when looking at the photo of the Prosciutto di Parma-Cantaloupe-Red Wine Ice Cream, you would be cheating yourself out of trying one of the most creative dishes of the evening. I’d had prosciutto ice cream before at another anniversary event for the consorzio back in May, so I knew that this combination could work. It did here, too, with the sweetness of the fruit and cream melding beautifully with the funky, meatiness of the ham. Another dish I saw tackled, literally, every time a server came around with it was the Autumn Squash and Prosciutto Saltimbocca with Honey Mayo. It took me a few passes to get my hands on one of these nibbles. One bite, and I understood completely why they were in such demand. Salty, fried, hot, earthy, creamy, with hint of sweet, they hit every flavor, taste, and texture note that you could want in a party dish.
Hand slicing 36-month Prosciutto di Parma
So, who was crowned “Prince/Princess of Prosciutto di Parma”? The dish that won over the most tastebuds and hearts was the Octopus Saltimbocca with Prosciutto di Parma by Ryan Hardy of Charlie Bird. The octopus was cooked perfectly and sat on a bed of puréed chickpeas with additional soft, tender chickpeas on the side. The dish was bathed in a sauce of sage, butter, lemon, prosciutto, chick pea liquid, and octopus braising liquid and then topped with a slice of crispy prosciutto. The combination not only hit every point on my palate with layer upon layer of flavors melting together in harmony, it also left me wanting to eat several more plates of this dish and to dip a mug into the sauce just to drink that on its own. More that a few folks told me that they ate several plates of this item, and as I walked back to the subway to head home, two woman passed by me still raving about the tastiness of the sauce.
Chef Ryan Hardy crowned “Prince of Prosciutto di Parma”
Thank you so much to the folks at PadillaCRT for inviting me to attend this event. It was a pleasure to meet all of the chefs and sponsors and to have a chance to highlight the wonderful work of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma.
One of the great things about the local NYC food scene that’s blossomed over the past several years, is seeing the growth of many talented individuals and their businesses. One of these that has kept me hydrated and refreshed during my market excursions is P&H Soda Co., owned by Anton Nocito. His seasonally-inspired syrups, which he turns into sodas at New Amsterdam Market and other venues, are some of my favorites in the city.
Anton whipping up sodas
Growing up, soda was a special treat for me and my siblings, so I really savored every one that I was allowed to have. Anton’s creations are wonderful and unique with flavors that would not have been among the selections that I was given as a child. His Sarsaparilla made me re-think my dislike of root beer. Hibiscus has become my new favorite flavor, not just in soda form, but also in Dough’s terrific donuts, so I thank him for opening up my mind and my tastebuds to it. He’s even worked out a way to make a Candy Cap Mushroom and Toasted Almond Egg Cream. It’s really delicious, believe me!
“Make Your Own Soda” by Anton Nocito
I have one copy of his soda- and syrup-making cookbook, released earlier this summer, to give away on this website. You can also read an interview I did with Anton here. If you are in the NYC area, you can drop by the New Amsterdam Market this coming Sunday, as well, to sample his sodas for yourself and to become an instant fan.
The Giveaway Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)
Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only
To Enter: Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following question: What is your favorite flavor soda?
You must also have a valid screen name (NOT “Anonymous”) with a corresponding email address to enter this giveaway. I’ll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner. If you list “Anonymous” or do not have a valid email address with your comment, you will be disqualified. I do not share these addresses with anyone, and they are only for the purpose of entering this giveaway.
Deadline: Is Monday, September 30, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. EDT, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments. (I’m going to be very strict about this and make no exceptions.)
The Outcome: Only one winner will be chosen for this cookbook giveaway. I’m going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.
When the invitation to attend a potluck dinner for NYC food bloggers that Shauna James Ahern (aka Gluten-free Girl) and her husband were having last week during their #AmericanPotluckTrip tour, checking out various cities around the country and meeting food folks as research for their next cookbook about classic American recipes, I knew I was on board to join in. This was a great chance to connect with fellow NYC food bloggers and writers and to enjoy eating a variety of delicious dishes. Besides, I’d been thinking about the gluten-free items that we’d tried at Big Summer Potluck and had the idea for an Italian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad to contribute to the feast – a dish both gluten-free and vegan.
The Gluten-Free Dishes Table Display
The gluten-free section of the room at our host location the GE Monogram Design Center in Midtown filled up a long table, while the non-gf dishes could be counted on the fingers of one hand and were segregated on the other side of the room. The Diva That Ate New York (Jackie Gordon) brought her incredible version of gluten-free spinach knishes – fried in schmaltz – which were gobbled up quite quickly. There was a pecan-covered Pineapple Cheese Ball created by Michelle Buffardi that was also a huge hit. For those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth, Jackie Ourmanmade a stack of the NYC deli classic Black & White Cookies that got a lot of attention. My favorite, however, had to be the Flourless Brownie Cheesecake brought by Susan Palmer of The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen.
Italian Cannellini Bean-Quinoa Salad
I’ve always admired Shauna for all of her hard work to help those who suffer from gluten-related intolerances and allergies. She puts her whole heart into helping out those who have been diagnosed and who are trying to figure out how to feed themselves without getting sick and suffering other ill affects on their health and well-being. I’ve often referred folks to her site when they mention to me that they need to follow a gluten-free diet so that they can find guidance and can get their hands on some terrific recipes. It was so nice to be a part of this evening and to get to try all the great gluten-free dishes.
Mise en Place – really
I’d love to be able to be all neat and tidy in typing up the recipe that goes along with the dish that I brought, but the truth is that I walked into the door of my apartment at 5:45 p.m., having just started my first day as a production chef at a catering company, with shopping bags in hand from Whole Foods and a rough outline of what I was going to make in my head. The event started at 6:30 p.m., and I live at least 30 minutes away in travel time. I knew I was going to go in the vegan and gluten-free direction. I was also going to draw on Italian taste profiles to add lots of flavor to the dish as well as to highlight one NYC cultural culinary influence, as the event invitation had asked us to do. From there, I just decided to wing it, eyeballing the proportions and relying on gut instinct to make it all come together. Here’s a guess at what I did, but, really, this is a free-form dish that you can alter to fix yours and your family’s preferences.
1/2 c. Artichoke Hearts, chopped (reserve some for decoration)
1/3 c. Roasted Red Peppers, chopped (reserve some for decoration)
1/4 c. Black Olives, chopped (reserve some for decoration)
1/4 c. Pine Nuts, toasted (reserve some for decoration)
Did I mention that I was kind of pressed for time in making this dish? I'd had some herbs from Gourmet Garden from our goodie bag at Big Summer Potluck, so I decided to use those (yes, they are also gluten-free). I guesstimated how much I would need to make the dressing, tossed in a few dashes of red wine vinegar and thought I'd add some lemon juice for extra acidity.
When I found that the lemon I had was a bit moldy, I threw in some white wine vinegar, and that seemed to do the trick. Then, I whisked in enough olive oil to balance out everything and make the dressing come together. Taste everything to make sure that the seasoning is balanced.
Mix together the cooked quinoa and the beans. Add the dressing and toss it all together to coat the quinoa and the beans with the dressing.
Mix the chopped artichokes, red peppers, and black olives together separately. Then, add them to the quinoa-bean mixture. Once that is done, add the toasted pine nuts.
Pour salad into serving container. Decorate the top of the dish with the reserved artichoke hearts, red pepper pieces, chopped black olives, and toasted pine nuts. This dish can be made several hours in advance and should be served room temperature.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a chocolate seminar set up by Valrhona chocolatiers. We had the opportunity to hear from their cocoa sourcer Pierre Costet about the company’s work in the Dominican Republic and a chance to marvel at the pastry craftsmanship of master chocolatier, Oriol Balaguer. We were treated to a tasting of several of their blends, the highlight of which was a taste of the new Bahibe 46% Pure Origin Milk Chocolate, the first time this has been available to sample in the U.S. To round out the afternoon, two pastry chefs worked with the chocolates to create a fabulous, sweet spread for us to eat as we all networked after the seminar.
Valrhona cocoa sourcer Pierre Costet
To set the stage for our trying some of their chocolate blends, Pierre Costet led us on a journey to the Dominican Republic, where Valrhona has been working with local farmers to grow cocoa trees and to produce cocoa beans using sustainable and environmentally-responsible methods, while incorporating the local traditions. “A good cocoa comes from a good terroir [like wine]”, he explained to us.
As he walked us through each of the stages of harvesting and production, from planting the trees, making sure that the right shade trees are planted to protect the young cocoa seedlings, to the cutting of the pods from the trees, to the fermentation process (which is specific to the Dominican Republic), to the drying racks, it was extremely evident that Mr. Costet is passionate not just about the quality and taste of the final product but also about ensuring the care of the cocoa at every step along the way as well as of the people with whom he works. The process is very highly monitored, he assured us: “This traditional cocoa will be traditional but of a good quality.” As we were treated to samples of the Bahibe, Tainori, and Otucan chocolates, each with its own tasting notes, we could appreciate this attention to detail in the end product.
After the chocolate tasting, we had a chance to listen to Master Chocolatier Oriol Balaguer talk about his exquisite pastry work. We watched a slideshow of some of his creations and then had the chance to ask him some questions about his work. For him what is important is to: a. find the best product; b. produce the best flavor; and c. work with the aesthetic to bring this out. “The most important thing is this. The mouth is the boss,” he told us. “I am an addict – pastry, bread, chocolate, this whole world.” Listening to him and seeing photos of his creations, made me want to hop on the next departing plane for Barcelona so that I could try them for myself.
Fortunately, I did not have to travel that far to enjoy some delicious pastries and sweet treats. Two chefs had made trays of gorgeous desserts, using Valrhona’s various chocolate blends, for us to try. These delectable creations showcased the variety of flavors of the chocolates themselves as well as the combinations, tastes, and textures for which they could be used. One of my favorite items by Alison Eighteen (our host location for the event) pastry chef Sarah Sutherland was the Opalys Strawberry Trifle (second one down on the right), featuring local tri-star strawberries and using Valrhona’s Opalys white chocolate. The dish reminded me of a more refined version of that English classic teatime treat – Strawberries and Cream.
It would be difficult to select a favorite among all the dishes that Shelly Acuna, pastry chef for Valrhona, set out for us to try. She used the Bahibe, Tainori, and Otucan chocolates that we’d tried earlier to create her selections. I might, however, have to go with her Otucan Translucence (second one down on the left) as the winner for me. A Gran Cru Venezuelan chocolate, Otucancontains 69% cocoa and has a strong, slightly bitter flavor that blends well with other ingredients, mellowing a bit to leave a long, silken finish. As I scraped my serving cup dry, my only regret was that I didn’t have enough room to eat one of every item. I look forward to having a chance to taste more of these chocolates at another event.
Thank you to Ruskin International for inviting me to participate in Valrhona this Cercle V event. I look forward to being able to attend another one of these fascinating programmes in the future.
Under gorgeous azure skies with just a hint of a breeze blowing off of the water, Pig Island 2013 took place yesterday on the Red Hook waterfront, site of some of the worst flooding last year in New York City from Hurricane Sandy. Featuring 25 local area chefs, 80 hogs that come from the surrounding areas, all the food you can eat, and beer, cider, and wine that you can drink, this is the ideal mix for a festival that celebrates all the bounty of the region. “This is pig heaven,” said a woman who passed by me while visiting the food stands.
As usual, there were some absolutely stand-out items, and ones that I thought could have been constructed a bit better. Before I launch into the pork dishes, several of the sides that were served with the pork also deserve a special mention. Route 66 Smokehouse had one of the most delicious potato salads that I’ve ever had to go along with their Roast Porchetta Sandwich. They’re opening up a place down in the Financial District, so that’s a place I’m going to add to my list to stop by for a meal. The folks at Fort Reno (who are also behind Pig Island veterans Palo Santo) made a crunchy, tangy coleslaw with the exact right balance of seasoning that went perfectly with their roasted pulled pork. I wished I could have taken a container of each of these salads with me to eat today at home.
Peter Kaminsky, author of Bacon Nation, announcing the judges’ decisions
While there was no formal competition for best dish of the day, a group of judges (including me) were asked to recognize some of the more stellar creations. Peter Kaminsky, food book author and writer, Jonathan Forester, Food and Beverage Writer & Consultant, and Mike Edison, from Heritage Radio Network, judged the day’s results. As you can see from the list below, this wasn’t the most serious of battles, more a chance to acknowledge all the hard work that the chefs and their teams did to make the day a delicious success.
Two chefs + 1 pig + seaweed = The Mer-Pig. This dish of succulent seaweed-wrapped roasted pig plus and housemade kimchi sauce was the creation of chefs St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance & Ben Schneider of The Good Fork. Ben had mentioned at the Pig Pick-up on Wednesday that they were going to dig a hole in the ground and roast the pig in it. From a simple cooking concept to a plate filled with big, bold, smoky-tangy flavor, this was definitely one of my top tastes of the day.
This Ménage à Trois was a three-way pork treat for your tastebuds. Roasted pig plus crispy pig’s ear plus bacon vinaigrette brought a meaty, fatty, crispy combo that was made fresher and lighter with the addition of a salad of frisée and apples. This dish was definitely a crowd pleaser, with one guest saying to the staff: “That was awesome. Thank you for that.”
Several participants decided to go with straight-up barbecued pork and fixin’s. One of these was Fort Reno, whom I mentioned also gets my “best coleslaw” nod for the day. They served up big pieces of braised pork and let guests dress it with several of their housemade sauces: smoked jalapeno and garlic, habanero with mustard and tumeric, and a fermented chili and garlic, along with traditional vinegar and barbecue sauces.
There were a few chefs who decided to tap into their Latin American roots for this porkfest. One of these was David who helms the kitchen at Jimmy’s No. 43. His juicy marinated pork (something I wish I had more of again to eat today) was partnered with sautéed onions and cactus as well as with spiced pickled onions. Part of the reason he received this accolade was for his use of avocado leaves, a Mexican ingredient not generally used here. He manged to capture spicy, sweet, meaty, with a touch of heat and a punch of zingy all in one, making it one of my favorite dishes of the day.
Zarela Martinez serving up whole roasted pig Oaxaca-style
Teaming up with Tyson Ho, creator of the Arrogant Swine North Carolina barbecue events, restauranteur and cookbook author Zarela Martinez chose to display the whole entire pig, stuffed with fruit and vegetable picadillo in the style of Oaxaca. This was a terrific combination of meat with a tangy-sweet mixture that balanced out the richness of the pork.
Having really enjoyed his dishes at past food events, I have to say that Chef Will Horowitz’s dish of Crispy Pigs Ear with Smoked Pork Pâté, Fermented Chow-Chow, and Black Sesame Seeds all put together in a bib lettuce “wrap” was one of the more interesting dishes that I tried yesterday. Creamy pâté and crunchy pigs ears paired with vinegary chow-chow all nestled in a crisp lettuce holder made this an intriguing combination. After lots of sandwich bread, tortillas, and rolls, I was also very glad to see him serve a bread-less option.
While there weren’t a lot of options for non-pork loving diners, as in past years the organizers had a special featured tent with a vegetarian plate. Chef Tim Cavaretta created a selection of refreshing, hearty salads that many dinners dove into as a break from all of the meat dishes. I really enjoyed the cool Watermelon and Radish Salad with Cilantro for its brightness and sharp, peppery snap.
Bacon-fat Grilled Peach with Peach Confit on a White Chocolate Butterscotch Bacon Buttermilk Biscuit
Didn’t think we’d be talking about desserts, here, did you? Well, a few chefs decided to tap into their sweet tooths for this event. Butter made Lardo-glazed Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon. Davis Famous whipped up a batch of Bacon Brownies and served them with whipped cream and Candied Bacon. The winner in this category went to Chef Clay Gordon who grilled his peaches in bacon fat, made a peach confit, and served it all up on fluffy, decadent biscuit with chocolate, butterscotch, buttermilk, and more bacon. Sweet, meaty, bacon-y, chocolatey, fruity – what more do you want?
Sesame Pig Skin “Noodles” with Spicy Sausage, Scallion and Pickled Mushrooms
I can’t argue that probably the most inventive dish of the day goes to the folks at Parish Hall, who decided to turn pig skin into noodles to serve it alongside their housemade sausage. With invention sometimes goes risk, and unfortunately, this dish when I tried it was really gummy and unappealing. I was so disappointed, as I’d really looked forward to trying this dish and to see how they’d pull off the concept.
For most stripped-down presentation of the day, the award should also go to Ovelia, who chose to serve their dish simply from skewer to plate. I really, really liked the flavors in the marinade and basting sauce; however, I felt, and at least one of the judge concurred with me on this, that the meat could have been much more tender; it was actually kind of on the tough side. It was such as shame as it tasted fantastic.
“White Guy Burrito” – Tip-to-tail Pork, Green Salsa, White Cheese
The Best “White Guy” – Joe Doe
Before turning your nose up at this dish from Joe Doe as just another burrito, you should have been there to give it a try. Hunks, I mean hunks of juicy pork, were cradled in a thin white tortilla and loaded up with salsa and cheese plus an optional dollop of hot sauce. This was a hearty start to my food adventures for the day.
Ginger Soy Pork with Bok Choi Slaw and Chick Pea Salad
A few chefs took their pork dishes for a spin on the other side of the world, including the guys at Fletcher’s. The ginger-soy pork had a deep full flavor balanced out by the crunchy slaw, which I really enjoyed. I sort of thought that the dense potato bun didn’t do the combination any favors and could have seen it served on something much lighter with to highlight more of the Asian influence.
Spice-rubbed Mangalitsa Pork Loin with Spicy Dominican Baked Beans
Have you had a chance to try mangalitsa pork meat yet? You should definitely treat yourself to some as soon as you can. It’s tender, flavorful, moist, and just all-around delicious. Chef Michael Clampffer and his team treated guest to a riff on pork-n-beans yesterday that was full of spice, hearty tastes along with a pop of contrast from the pickled onions, greens, and crushed tortilla chips. If you want to pick up some of his meat, drop by New Amsterdam Market the next time they are in town on September 29.
See you next year!
As the food was finished and beverage cups were drained dry, everyone seemed to be having a good time, lounging around on the lawn listening to the live music. Kids were running around doing cartwheels and couples were boogie-ing to the tunes. I saw several chefs finally sitting down after hours of serving the hungry hoards, tossing back their beers and breaking down their stations. It was then time to say good-bye to another very scrumptious Pig Island.
A big “thank you” to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 and creator of Food Karma Projects for inviting me to participate in this event. The food opinions stated here are my own and do not, unless otherwise specified, reflect those of the other judges.
It’s T minus two days until Pig Island 2013! Yesterday, participating chefs stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket to collect their pigs from Flying Pigs Farm. Founder of the event, Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 coordinated the pick up and made sure that everyone had a chance to meet each other as well as to talk to a few of us writer-types to give us a bit of scoop on what’s in store for this weekend.
Pigs loaded into the car
The energy in the air was bright with everyone eager for Saturday to come and to get the pigs in their possession so that they could start cooking. The wholesale aspect of the Greenmarket also delivered pigs to several of the chefs who couldn’t get to the market to pick them up personally. Here’s a few of the folks who dropped by:
Tyson Ho with Zarela Martinez
Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine, known for his Carolina-style barbecues and pig roasts, is teaming up with Zarela Martinez, restauranteur, teacher, and cookbook author, to create a Mexican-themed whole pig dish. They are a few of several chefs who are taking their pigs on a more south of the border spin.
Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo revealed that he’ll be serving up a Yucatan dish featuring Rellenos e Negro on freshly-made tortillas. The folks from Jimmy’s No. 43 will also be cooking up something with Latin flavors.
Jesse Jones shared that he’s going to be fixing some pork shanks in puff pastry and then serving them with a sauce and sides that pay homage to his late grandmother, giving his dish a Southern U.S. angle. Matt Fisher and Bill Fletcher of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue are taking a more Asian route with their offering.
Jimmy Carbone with George Weld and Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall
Another Pig Island veteran chef team tapping into Asian flavors for this year’s event, are the folks at Parish Hall. I got to eavesdrop a bit while they were talking to Mike Yezzi about getting their hands on some extra pig skin with which to make their crispy pork noodles. I’m definitely getting on line on Saturday to give that dish a try.
I didn’t get a chance to find out from Chef Will Horowitze of Ducks Eatery what he’d be fixing for the day. Given our conversation at the press preview for the event, I’m guessing he might be doing something involving some type of charcuterie. From what his co-chef who came to the pig pick-up said, I guess a few ideas have been bandied about for what they are planning to make.
Two chefs who are going to going to take their pig and prepare it a bit old-school are St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance and Ben Schneider of The Good Fork. As Ben explained, they are going to dig a pit and cook it. It’s a bit of an experiment, they revealed, but they are confident that their prior joint barbecuing experiences will produce successful results.
One team keeping their dish under wraps until the big day is the group from The Darby/Butter. These folks had one of my favorite nibbles at last year’s gathering, so I can’t wait to try what they come up with this time around. They also served dessert, which is something their promised to do again this year. The words lard, butter, and flour were tossed around, so you know they are going to be making something great!
Tim Cavaretta with Jimmy Carbone & Rachel Wharton
For the non-carnivores, Tim Cavaretta of Bittergreen, with whom I’ve worked on a few catering events, will be at the helm of the vegetarian offerings for the event. He stopped by yesterday to pick up a pile of gorgeous seasonal produce from the stands and the market. Here’s a peek at his shopping bag to see what might be on the plate.
A list of the chefs and participating restaurants
Some tickets are still available for this event, but they are going fast. Tickets are all-inclusive of food and drink, of which there will be plenty, along with live music.