Yearly Archives: 2017

Pig Island 2017 and Jimmy’s No. 43

Pig Island check-in

Pig Island 2017

Yesterday, the 8th annual Pig Island was held in Erie Basin Park in Brooklyn.  This pork-centric celebration featured regionally-raised hogs from Flying Pigs Farm as well as beers from Sixpoint Brewery, cider, and spirits from several area distillers, including New York Distilling Company.  What’s always so nice about going to this gathering each year is that the chefs are just as excited to be there demonstrating their use of the whole pigs as are the consumers of them.

Pig on the Smoker

Pig on a Grill

With a light breeze and clear, blue sunny skies, it’s almost as the spectacular end-of-summer weather was created especially just for this day.  Last year, I assisted one of the chefs with serving food the day of the event, but this year, I was on the other side of the table as an attendee, which meant I was able to get to eat quite a few of the pig-oriented dishes.


 Ovelia‘s grilled pork

Several of the restaurants have been cooking for this event for several years.  One returnee is Ovelia, from Queens, with their skewers of juicy, tender, marinated pork.  Watching these cook over the open coals, which give it a deep, smoky flavor, it’s no wonder that each year they have one of the longest lines for tastes of this dish.

David NavarroDavid Navarro of Jimmy’s No. 43

David Navarro, one of the chefs at Jimmy’s No. 43, and another veteran of this event, chose to go the whole roasted hog route.  He used a blend of Mexican spices and cooked the skin to a dark, lacquered crust.  Folks gathered around eagerly waiting for it to come off of the grill.

Arrogant Swine

Taco by Arrogant Swine

This festival usually has several taco offerings to showcase the hogs, and this year was no exception.  The taco from Arrogant Swine featured tender, delicate chunks of pork, pulled straight off of the smoker.  The green chile sauce packed a punch of heat that balanced the sweetness of the meat, with a crunchy counterpoint from the fried onions and coolness from the mint.

Smoke Show BBQ

Slider from Smoke Show BBQ

The folks at Smoke Show BBQ also cooked their pig in the North Carolina style.  They served hunks of it on Martin’s potato rolls with a schmear of pimento cheese and a mound of slaw.  It wasn’t exactly a traditional NC pulled pork slider, but it was delicious nonetheless and was also another stand-out of the day.

Jakes Handcrafted

 Sausage by Jake’s Handcrafted

Jake’s Handcrafted brought their hand-made sausage cooked on the plancha, serving it with Asian-flavored stir-fried vegetables.  These coils of meat, gorgeously seared, were one of the first plates that guests had a chance to try when they arrived at the event, kicking it off to a meaty, smoky start.


Insa‘s Korean-inspired pork bun 

Korean-marinated pulled pork in a Chinese-style flatbread topped with a sesame-chile sauce, and finished with your choice of pickled vegetables, this was the perfect blend of sweet, heat, spice, and acid.  This was put together by another restaurant making a return trip this year, Insa, from the folks at The Good Fork, who have also been at this event in the past.  This was probably one of the bites that I enjoyed the most this year from the savory group.  The bread was soft and crisp and cradled all the meat and the juices together, and it was the one item for which I went back for seconds.


BBD’s Korean BBQ Fries

A few other restaurants also tapped into a Korean-ish theme this year, including BBD’s from Long Island.  They brought their Korean BBQ Fries, loaded up with pork and egg and the tangy-spicy crunch of kimchi.  Perfect bar food and great for an event like this one.

Belly Korean Bacon Shop

BELLY Korean Bacon Shop

With a name like BELLY Korean Bacon Shop, it’s as though these chefs and this event were made for each other.  The line for this hand-torched, thinly-sliced pork bell over sushi rice was consistently long throughout the day, with many folks going back a few times.  They also brought slabs of home-made bacon to keep the crowds patient while they put together the each batch.


A Piggy Tail by Butter

Butter Chef de Cuisine, Michael Jenkins, and his team put in their eighth appearance at the event, and it’s always a treat to see what they will bring for folks to try.  Along with the pork and plum pizza that they were firing up on the grill, they used several parts of the pig to make a Piggy Tail.  The dough and caramel contained pork fat, bacon was tossed to coat the dough-knot, along with hazelnut praline and chocolate cookie crumble.  I would have gone back for another one, but I didn’t, you know, want to make a pig of myself.

Clay Gordon

Chocolate-dipped Sausage with Bacon by Clay Gordon

Chocolate-covered sausage with bacon?  That was another one of the dessert options at this event.  Sounds a bit odd, but when you mix the chocolate with bacon fat and beer, it’s sort of like ganache or really rich chocolate sauce.  Sweet, salty, fatty, chocolately all in one, rounded out with a crispy, buttery cracker.


BaCorn by Roni-Sue

For those, like me, who are popcorn fans, Roni-Sue’s BaCorn is a favorite snack.  Chunks of bacon, caramel, mixed into popcorn.  It was a great treat to have in this setting and paired well with whiskey, as I found out by chance.

Catskill Food Company(1)

Catskill Food Company

After grazing at the different stands, having a beer or a couple, maybe even after a shot or two, folks hung out in the grass, kids running around, listened to the band and generally just took in the beauty of a late summer day.   It’s really more like a large block party celebrating the bounty that the pig brings us.  The laid-back vibe is what makes this more than just another food event and brings people back to it year after year.

Jimmy's No 43

Thank you so much to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 for giving me the chance to attend this event.  As some of you may have read on Gothamist, Jimmy’s No. 43, a hub of the craft beer and local food movements in NYC, has temporarily ceased operation.

Cochon555 New York City 2017

Cochon555 sign
I don’t think I’ve ever hidden my fondness for pork products from anyone who reads this site. Heck, like most Southern-raised folks, I keep a can of bacon fat in the fridge, just for cooking up those eggs from the farmers’ market on the weekends. So, when the folks at PadillaCRT reached out to me to ask if I’d like to cover this year’s Cochon555 in New York, I jumped at the chance to check it out.

judges table

The Judges Table

Cochon555 was created in 2008 to educate and encourage chefs to use heritage breed pigs in their restaurants. It has grown into a 14-city tour for 2017, with chefs in each host city competing to be the Prince or Princess of Pork. That person will then go on to the national level competition to be crowned the Grand Cochon. Chefs are given a heritage breed pig from which to create their menu for the event. Prior to the guests entering the event space, they prepare a tasting plate of six bites that showcase their animal, its versatility, flavor, and the chef’s own creativity.  Proceeds from the auctions held at these events go to support Piggy Bank, a non-profit organization that assists family farms who would like to raise heritage breed pigs with genetics as well as sourcing for them.

piggy bank

Piggy Bank – one recipient of proceeds from the event

These pigs have such amazing flavor, a profile that is not what most of us were raised with, if we ate pork growing up at all.  My mother used to cook pork chops to death, after they’d been drown in Shake-n-Bake.  It wasn’t until I started going to events like this one and others around New York that feature locally-raised, heritage breed animals, that I was able to understand why it is so important to preserve these stocks and to make sure that there is a place for them in the food pathways and on our tables.  What I was most looking forward to seeing yesterday was just what the chefs would present to the guests.

Quality Eats montage

Chef Ryan Bartlow of Quality Eats (Mulefoot from Dogpatch Farm)

How else do you win over the hearts and tastebuds of hungry New Yorkers then with the deli classics?  Chef Bartlow created chopped liver on matzoh, ham “lox” and whitefish on a bagel, matzoh ball soup with kreplach, and, my favorite, a melt-in-the-mouth pastrami on rye, featuring the pork shoulder and belly.  You could wash it all down with a mini egg cream and end the meal with a black and white cookie or a morcilla rugelach.

Olmsed montage

Chef Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted (Berkshire from Autumn’s Harvest Farms)

The selections from this chef featured some of my favorite charcuterie items. Pâté, not too rustic and not too refined, country ham, rillette, fried rillette.  The meat selections were accompanied by peppery greens, a grain and sunflower seed salad, and in the case of the rillette by a mustard aïoli, each as a flavorful balance and foil for the richness of the pork.

Saxon-Parole montage

Chef Nicole Gajadhar of Saxon + Parole (Large Black from Spring House Farm)

I’m not going to lie, the flying pig display caught my eye and won me over, even before I’d tasted any of this chef’s food.  Then, I joined the line of folks waiting to sample the offerings, and went back for seconds.  The laksa hit all the soothing notes of fragrant lemongrass, cilantro, and coconut notes and then just pushed it out a bit further with slices of smoked loin, blood noodles, and pork crackling garnish.  The Lower East Side egg roll riff with pork shoulder pastrami was just what I’d like to have on my next dim sum jaunt.  The chicharrones filled with rillettes were delicious but a little challenging balanced on top of a broth laced with mezcal.

Birds-Bubbles montage

Chef Aaron Hoskins of Birds & Bubbles (Mulefoot from The Piggery)

What I regret about yesterday evening is that at some point, I saw a tray of biscuits fly by from the folks at Birds & Bubbles, and I did not manage to snag one of them.  The thick-cut bacon with mustard sauce made me want to pick up a few more of these bites.  The second bite that I had from this chef could be called pork with more pork, as it was a pulled pork with what seemed to be a whipped lardo on top of it.

Chefs Club montage

Chef Chris Szyjka of Chef’s Club by Food & Wine (Old Spot from Heritage Foods USA)

This savory take on the classic French Opera Cake was gorgeous to see and delicious to taste.  It was like consuming concentrated porkiness.  Dessert by this chef was also fun with a maple ice cream and shortbread cookies that had used lard in them.

NYC Chefs

NYC Chefs for Cochon555 2017

After several hours of feeding hungry guests, the chefs took the stage to hear the results of the judging and who would be crowned this year’s Prince or Princess of Pork for NYC.  After soaring rounds of applause as each chef’s name was announced, Cochon555 creator Brady Lowe pulled the white card out of the black envelope and revealed that Chef Nicole Gajadhar of Saxon + Parole would collect the trophy and wear this year’s crown for NYC.  The crowd went crazy.  Her dishes had been some of the favorites of the day, with a long line to try them.

Chef Nicole

Chef Nicole Gajadhar of Saxon + Parole

Thank you so much to the staff at PadillaCRT for the opportunity to attend and cover this year’s Cochon555 in New York City. For more information on this event as well as the other cities in which it will be held in 2017, please visit the organizer’s website.

Buon appetito!