Tag Archives: Brooklyn

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

 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

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.

BBDs

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.

Butter

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.

Roni-Sue

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.

Pig Island 2014

Pig Island 2014 signagePig Island 2014

For the second year in a row, chefs, pig dishes in hand, and the folks who love to indulge in porcine goodness gathered in Red Hook, Brooklyn at Erie Basin Park for the fifth annual Pig Island festival organized by Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43.  As in past years, this event featured hogs raised by upstate farmers, local wine, cider, and craft beer, and a lot of creativity, showcasing the range of culinary creations that can come from using the whole animal.  Fortunately, as well, even though there had been an early threat of thunderstorms, the inclement weather held off until the very end of the day.

Butter - adding grate to grillButter – putting the grate onto the hot grill

This year, I felt that there was definitely a broader range of dishes and concepts for using the pigs than has perhaps happened in previous years.  The tortilla seemed to be the vehicle of choice for delivering pork products to hungry mouths, whereas, last year, more bites seemed to be on sliders or bread.  There were so many incredible offerings that it is difficult to select just a few stand-out items.  There was an esteemed panel of judges that had that heavy responsibility, so I can just talk from the point of view of my own tastebuds here.

Hecho en Dumbo - Sample PlateHecho en Dumbo – sample platter

Taking home the award for “Fearless Stomachs Only,” Chef Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo created Volcanes de Chorizo Casero.  Two different versions of pork meats topped with tomatillo salsa: a red Mexican sausage called Longaniza and a green chorizo, where the herbs were blanched and then mixed in with the meat.  The small square item at the top of the picture is a version of chicharrones made in Mexico where some of the meat is still left connected to the skin, and then they are fried together, creating a crispy, puffed, pork fritter-like morsel.  I could have eaten plates and plates of these offerings, the flavors blended so well together, fatty meat, creamy cheese, hearty tortilla, and spice and acidity that just cut through all of that to bring the dish together.  I’m only sorry that I didn’t get a chance to swing by at the end of the event to pack up any leftovers that they might have had.

Jesse Jones - Pulled Pork StrudelJesse Jones – Pulled Pork Strudel with BBQ Sauce and Pickled Cucumber

Another memorable dish that I ate on Saturday was this inspired creation by Chef Jesse Jones.  For a spin on the usual pulled pork sandwich with slaw or other vinegar-based toppings, he built a strudel using slow-cooked pork.  The rounds were heated up on the grill and served with a barbecue sauce from Fairway, his event sponsor, and dressed with lightly pickled cucumbers, which were still crunchy enough to provide a nice textural balance to the succulent meat and pastry.  This is the kind of plate that makes me want to come back to Pig Island year after year because chefs just go for whatever they think might work to celebrate the hog, and sometimes it just comes together beautifully.

Revolving Dansk - Copenhagen Street Dog w Salty LadkrisRevolving Dansk – Copenhagen Street Dog

A newcomer to this food festival, Revolving Dansk went for a more traditional-with-a-spin for one of their dishes.  Taking their cue from the Danish hot dog wagon (pølsevogn), which they mention is virtually the only street meat in that country, they served up the Copenhagen Street Dog complete with a tangy remoulade, crisp locally-made Scandinavian pickles, crunchy onions, and a drizzle of a Danish salty licorice sauce, upon request.  It might sound like an unorthodox combination, but it worked.  I’m not a huge hotdog fan, and I would have gone back for seconds on these.  The hotdogs themselves were served on rolls made by Brooklyn bakery Leske’s.

Ends Meat - Pork NuggetEnds Meat – Pork Nugget

Those three plates were my favorites of the day.  For a complete list of the participating chefs, visit the Pig Island website. Here’s what the judges decided were their best dishes:

Fearless Stomachs OnlyHecho en Dumbo‘s Volcanes de Chorizo Casero

Best Nasty Bits – Ends Meat’s Pork Nuggets

Best Naked MeatOvelia‘s Spit-roasted Pork

Most RefreshingFlinders Lane‘s Pork Salad

Most MayanJimmy’s No. 43‘s Cochinita Pibel

Best Scrapple from the Apple Egg‘s Scrapple Taco

Best on BunsPig Guy NYC‘s Pork Sliders with Lime Chimichurri

Best Sweet CheeksButter‘s Bacon Banana Bread with Caramelized Bacon

Best to the TableThe Good Fork / Fort Defiances‘s Mer-Pig (read more about how they made it here)

Most Succulent SauceHometown BBQ and Balthazar‘s Tasso Pork Belly Taco

Pig Island - watermelonPig Island 2014

There were lots of great dishes filled with various versions of pork and pig bits, so it wasn’t easy to narrow down the best things I ate to just three items, as many of them were really quite delicious so it feels a bit like splitting (hog) hairs.  All the chefs and their teams worked in blazing hot conditions under bright sunny skies, behind smoky grills, to bring us yet another terrific event.  When I got on the bus to head back over to the subway, I overheard one volunteer say to a friend, “I smell like barbecue and pork.”  His companion chuckled, “As you should!”

Buon appetito!

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 and to cover it this year for him.  The food opinions stated here are my own.

Taste of Jewish Culture

Workmen's Circle - bannerTable at the street fair

On Sunday, a city block in the middle of a larger street fair on Madison Avenue was host to a mini festival celebrating Jewish food and culture.  The Workmen’s Circle sponsored the event, which was put together by Noah Arenstein of Scharf & Zoyer.  There were stalls with food stuffs inspired by traditional Jewish tastes – some classic, some a bit more modern.  Folks crowded the stand selling handmade Egg Creams and picked up bialys and babka to take away with them.

Yiddish Swing BandHoward Leshaw’s Yiddish Swing Band

A stage set up in the middle of the block featured a number of bands with singers belting out tunes and keeping the crowd entertained while they noshed on the different treats available.  This gave the whole event a festive and small town-like vibe right in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.  I spoke to Noah, who said that there might even be another of these gatherings in the works for later on this year, so if you missed out on this one, keep a lookout for another installment.

Buon appetito!

For more information about The Workmen’s Circle and their programs, please visit their website.

Brooklyn Eats!

Brooklyn Eats entryBrooklyn Eats! at the Pfizer Building

Last week, The Summer Fancy Food Show, the major industry food expo was held in New York City at the Javits Center. I’ve covered this event for several years, talking about some of my edible finds and scoping out potential trends that I saw (as well as just noshing my way around the display of culinary treats for a few days). This year, I decided to focus my attentions a bit more locally.

Brooklyn Eats check-in tableCheck-in table

Brooklyn Eats! was held the Friday prior to the main conference, sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, focusing on food artisans and entrepreneurs that are making NYC such a hotbed of gastronomic creativity.  The first one of these expos was held last year.  I think it flew under the radar of folks a bit, from what I heard.  This year, it seemed better promoted, bringing out a steady pack of food industry people, buyers, writers, and retailers.  The BCC also assisted those exhibitors who wanted to take part in the SFFS, too, helping them to register and set up their booths, so this project helps entrepreneurs not just in their community but also in the larger, more competitive specialty food market.

Bacchanal Sauce - displayBacchanal Sauce – check out this fiery condiment!

Brooklyn Delhi - displayBrooklyn Delhi – spruce up your meals with these tangy-spicy relishes

There was no shortage of great food products to sample at this event, either.  As I ate (and drank) my way around the tables set up at historic Pfizer Building (the event venue as well as the site of production kitchens for some of these companies), I was struck by a few interesting aspects.  Yes, there were plenty of new, intriguing products to try.  At the same time, what made me the happiest to see was that many of the folks whose foods I’ve tasted over the years are still in business.

The Jam Stand - no-sugar jamsThe Jam Stand – look at their new lo-sugar line

City Saucery - saucesCity Saucery – check out their expanded product line and new, larger jars of their sauces

Not only that, many of them have grown and are thriving, adding new items to their product lines and venturing into other areas.  Quite a few have gone from the markets like the New Amsterdam Market, Hester Street Fair and Smorgasburg to brick-and-mortar locations.  They now employ full-time staff and also mentor other budding culinary start-ups.  Many of the founders of these businesses also participate in panel discussions and at other events to discuss in the ins and outs of creating your own food items and brands, offering tips, advice, and resources to those who are thinking of breaking into the industry.

Liddabit Sweets - displayLiddabit Sweets – follow them to see where they’ll be opening up their new store

Robicelli's - displayRobicelli’s – drop by their shop in Bay Ridge

While I don’t have any idea of the dollar amounts that these activities contribute to the NYC economy, I do know that they add invaluable services and grow the resources of the city.   It’s exciting to see the continued success of these hard-working folks.  Of course, getting to eat delicious things is a bonus for the rest of us, too!  I definitely think that our foodscene has improved and grown due to their efforts.  Check out the slideshow below to see what other great treats I found at this event.

Buon appetito!

Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” at Domino Sugar Factory

Kara Walker - exhibit bannerExhibit banner

For weeks, I’ve been hearing about how fascinating the exhibit by Kara Walker at the former site of the Domino Sugar Factory (soon to be converted into housing) is, but I hadn’t had an available afternoon to make it over to Williamsburg to get on line to see it.  This past Friday, I managed to carve out the time to take it in.  The show is in honor of the people who worked to refine and make the sugar that we’ve all enjoyed over the generations, with the centerpiece of the program being “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby.”

Kara Walker Domino exhibit - hall view“A Subtlety” – long view

Walking into the decaying structure, I was hit headlong with a smell that triggered a long-ago memory of my mother’s hobby of decorating cakes and making candy in our home kitchen.  A burnt-ish aroma of caramelizing sugar combined with an overpowering scent of fermenting sweetness in the air.  Remnants of the space’s former use were still in evidence, with piles of leftover sugar having accumulated on pieces of the factory’s support structures, which are still intact all around the space.

Sugar on the base of column - DominoSugar on the base of the columns

The scents and the remains of this industrial history emphasizes the starkness of the sugar structures dotted around the floor – the children with their baskets for collecting the harvest.  These pieces also share the effects the physical changes taking place in the space due to exposure to the strong seasonal sunshine.  They and the remains of the industrial infrastructure, along with the lingering aromas, are like long-ago ghosts whose hard work continues to echo in the vast, empty chamber, even now after the factory has been closed for so many years.

Kara Walker Domino - sugar statue moltingStatue of a child slave

Grains of sugar are bunched around the statues, as they are breaking down, while the baskets they hold seem to be filled either with the refined substance or a molten version of it, highlighting the different stages of production for this crop as it reached these shores.  There’s something sad and beautiful about these sculptures.  The largest piece seems to be looking over them, perhaps trying to guard them from a harsh fate or maybe she’s powerless to stop it.

Kara Walker - melted sugar sculptureA transforming sculpture

Unfortunately, however, the chemical effects of the sugar plus the heat plus time (something that we learn quite a bit about in cooking) means that these statues aren’t immune to collapse and crumbling.  Several of the smaller works were already in pieces when I saw them.  From a culinary point of view, it was also fascinating to see the several stages of disintegration of the works.  Some of the sugar turned to pools of syrup decorating the factory floor, while shards of sweet film seemed to resemble shredded cloth.

Kara Walker Domino - melted, fused sugar Sugar melting

More detailed aspects of the pieces had become obscured during the melting process.  The impermanence of it all and the decomposing of a few of the sculptures as a result of the environmental decay was a little disturbing, especially in a few cases where you could still recognize the humanity of the subject.  It was almost as though a worker had collapsed in the steamy, hot fields, mid-workshift.

Kara Walker Domino - SphinxThe main piece

Even with the largest sculpture, the “Sugar Baby,” time exposed to the elements of this industrial space has made it more transparent.  Drips of sugar hang from her headpiece, like saccarine beads of sweat.  Between her breasts you could see where the grains had fused together, as happens when moisture gathers in that spot on sweltering summertime days.  The statue kneels down on a bed of fine white grains, further tying together this exhibit with the former nature of this space.  Is it a statement on our dependence upon this import and its role in our society?

Kara Walker Domino Exhibit - entranceFactory exit

This is definitely not an exhibit to be missed for the works and their medium as well as for the space itself.  With so many of the older, industrial spaces in the city, especially in parts of Brooklyn, on the chopping block, it was also a unique chance to look inside the factory and to experience it un-retouched.  Below is a longer slide show of the pictures that I took, including some shots of the crumbling walls of this building, which seem to ooze sugar, a reminder of its previous existence.

Brooklyn Uncorked 2014 by Edible Magazine

Brooklyn Uncorked signage

Every year I say this, and each year I mean it: Brooklyn Uncorked is one of my top favorite food (and wine) events of the year.  It’s also one of the events that I recommend to people to grab a ticket to when they ask me what local food festivals they should try to attend.  Local restaurants + local area vineyards = great food bites & wines.  It’s the perfect recipe for a fantastic evening.  As with the past few years, it was held at One Hanson Place in Brooklyn, which has some gorgeous architectural features, as you can see in some of the photos below.

Wine glasses at entryEmpty wine glasses waiting to be filled

Chef Annette Tomei and I teamed up to wander around and visit all the tables, food and wine alike.  Having been at this event the past few years, it was really nice to have a wing-person and also to get another viewpoint from a more trained set of tastebuds.  As we’ve worked together in the kitchen many times over the past couple of years, we have a familiar frame of reference and could shorthand some of our findings throughout our adventure.  The slideshow below shows a few of the things that we sampled.

I tried to capture as much as I could, but, inevitably, there were a few tables that we couldn’t get to due to the overwhelming number of folks who wanted to taste the various foods and wines.  There were also a couple of tables that were finished serving their dishes before we got around to them.  It was also lots of fun to bump into our friends and colleagues in the industry, which just made the evening feel even more like a giant celebration of the region’s culinary bounty.

The Good Fork - Mung Bean Pancake with Chilis, Perilla, and KimcheeThe Good Fork – Mung Bean Pancake with Chilis, Perilla, and Kimchee

Macari Early WineMacari Vineyards’ Early Wine

I even ran into one of my culinary school classmates who was helping out the team at the restaurant where he formerly used to work, The Good Fork, a returning participant.  They had one of our favorite pairings of the night, a tangy-spicy Mung Bean Pancake, which went really well with the bright fruit flavors of Macari Vineyards’ Early Wine.

Nightingale 9 - Vietnamese Tacos - Lemongrass Beef Tacos, Coconut, Cilantro, Lime, Chili-Peanut YogurtNightingale 9 – Vietnamese-style Tacos

Ravines Wine Cellars - RieslingRavines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2013

Tacos seemed to be the preferred vehicle for edibles this year.  There were lots of them served, as the photos show.  One pairing that I thought worked well was actually a table that we stopped at early in the evening.  Nightingale 9 offered Vietnamese-style Tacos composed of lemongrass beef , coconut, cilantro, lime, dressed with a chili-peanut yogurt.  In other words, this small plate had a lot of different levels of flavors – heat, spice, citrus – happening at the same time.  Fortunately, nearby were the folks from Ravines Wine Cellars who were pouring their 2013 Dry Riesling, which had just the right level of sweetness and acidity to work well with the taco.

No 7 - Double Decker Broccoli Tacos - Black Beans, Feta, Fried ShallotsNo. 7 – Double Decker Broccoli Tacos with Black Beans, Feta, and Fried Shallots

Marco Polo - Marinated Octopus - Mango, Lemon Yogurt, Black Quinoa, HerbsMarco Polo Ristorante – Marinated Octopus with Mango, Lemon Yogurt, Black Quinoa, and Herbs

A couple of other dishes that I thought were stand-outs for the evening – one taco and one non-taco – were the plates presented by No. 7 and Marco Polo Ristorante.  I went back (unashamedly) for seconds on the first dish and seriously contemplated doing another loop around the venue to grab a another plate of the second one.  Both of these had amazing flavor combinations with or without the addition of a wine pairing.

Bridge Lane - bottles on tableBridge Lane Wine

On the wine front, there were definitely some interesting vintages to sample.  Bridge Lane brought their boxed wine which are a whole different species of the unpleasant college experiences with the original boxed wines.  They also had a White Merlot, which was very intriguing and, when lightly chilled, has all the hallmarks of a perfect summertime food wine.  No surprise that I also enjoyed their Rosé, as they are the second label producer for Lieb Cellars, whose Rosé has been a go-to beverage of mine when I can find it on tap.

Brooklyn Winery selectionBrooklyn Winery

Another wine that I tasted at the event, that really made me say “Wow!” was the 2012 Barrel Fermented Riesling by Brooklyn Winery.  It has some of the same acidity as a traditional Riesling, but, having been fermented and aged in oak barrels, it comes out with extra earthy, funky notes due to the time spent in the wood rather than in stainless steel.  I sipped this wine independently of any food, and I’d like to spend some more time getting to know it and its particular personality.

Brooklyn Uncorked entry way2014 Participants

As always, there’s far to little room in a website post to cover all the wonderful food and drink that we had that evening.  Thank you to all the folks who made this event possible this year.  For information on the participating restaurants and vineyards from previous years, as well as to see photos of some of what was available to eat and drink, please see my write-ups from 2011, 2012, and 2013 (links take you to other pages on this website).

Buon appetito!

Brooklyn Uncorked 2013 by Edible Magazine

Brooklyn Uncorked 2012 by Edible Magazine

Brooklyn Uncorked 2011 by Edible Magazine

Thank you to Edible Manhattan for providing me with a press pass so that I could attend this event and cover it for this website.  The opinions and tasting notes are mine, as unrefined as they may be, and were not influenced by any of the food or beverage partners or by the magazine and its staff.