Tag Archives: Governors Island

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.

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!

Cook Out NYC 2012

Cook Out NYC signageYesterday’s soaring temperatures (reaching almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 35+ Centigrade) did not diminish any of the fun being had at Cook Out NYC (put together by Food Karma Projects) a featured event for July’s Good Beer Month.  With plenty of beer, water, and sangria on hand to keep them hydrated, attendees chowed down on hotdogs, burgers, other grilled meats, ice cream, and kimchi and relaxed on the lawn in front of Colonel’s Row on Governors Island while several local bands took the stage throughout the afternoon.  The day was capped off by the Mama O’s Super Spicy Kimchi-Eating Contest, or Second Annual Kimchipalooza, as it was billed.

Waiting for the start

I attended Cook Out NYC courtesy of a press pass from Food Karma Projects and was also asked by Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 to be one of the judges for the hot dog and burger topping competitions.  Knowing from past events the amazing combinations that the guest chefs pull together for these gatherings, I was more that happy to lend my tastebuds to this effort.  My tour of the food stations was organized around getting to every competitor’s table to give each dish a try.

Hot dog Competition votes for People’s Choice 

Sabrett’s Hot & Spicy Hot Dogs Toppings Competition

Local manufacturer Sabrett’s (they have a production facility in the Bronx) has introduced a new Hot & Spicy Beef Frankfurter to their line up, which features red pepper and jalapeno mixed into the hot dog meat.  These had a great kick to them and were a terrific platform for competing chefs to show of their expertise at creating complementary toppings.  I also felt that for some of the participants, the extra seasoning provided a bit of a challenge, compared to what they might have been used to working with in the regular version of this product.

Sabrett’s

Event sponsor Sabrett’s brought out the traditional toppings to showcase their Hot & Spicy hotdogs, loading them up with Sauerkraut and Classic Onion Sauce.  While I loved the trademark snap of the casing when I bit into the meat, I was less won over by the balance between the hot dog and the balance with the sauerkraut and onions.  It felt as though the sweet-and-sour profile of the toppings clashed with the fiery seasonings.

Lucky 777 Chili

Greenwich Village-based Lucky 777 Chili entered another classic flavor combination – hot dogs and chili – into the competition.  Using a slight variation on the theme with their Turkey Chili, they created a super-meaty, loaded Chili Dog.  I enjoyed it, although it was a bit too heavy of a dish to really dig into with yesterday’s steamy weather.  I saw several folks walking away with separate cups of their hearty chili to enjoy on its own.

My Friend’s Mustard – 3rd Place Winner

Using Sixpoint Brewerys products (also a sponsor of Cook Out NYC), My Friend’s Mustard has united mustard and beer to create some unique and dynamic condiments that deserve a place in everyone’s refrigerators.  Their Hotdog with Tomatillo-Radish Slaw & Agave-Sixpoint IPA Mustard worked harmoniously together with some heat, a bit of sweet, a slight tanginess, and a nice pop from the mustard seeds.

Chef Josetth Gordon – 2nd Place and People’s Choice Winner

The vibrant colors of the Piquant Celery Slaw and Currant topping for this hotdog made a dramatic visual presentation for this entry.  The cool, crunchy slaw and sweet currants were a favorite of several of the judges, and it seems the event participants.  A few other folks I ran into, as well as myself, weren’t completely won over by it.  I found that the toppings were overwhelmed by and got lost in the spiciness of the meat.

Rich Pinto Catering – 1st Place Winner

A favorite of the judges and my personal #1 pick for the hotdog consumption portion of the day were these Vietnamese-inspired, almost Banh Mi-like creations, by Rich Pinto Catering.  The cool, creamy, spicy mayo and crispy pickled vegetables (carrots, cucumber, dill, Thai basil) provided the perfect balance of flavors, heat, and freshness for the seasoned meat.

High Point Farms grilling up burgers

Burger Toppings Competition

Alobar

Using meat from Fossil FarmsAlobar dished up a Wild Boar Burger with a savory herb salsa.  The boar was very tender, but several of the folks I talked to (and several fellow judges) felt that it lacked a punch of seasoning that they would have liked to see and that it was a bit bland overall.  “I wanted tusks,” commented one person.  “I wanted it to do more, maybe gore me a little bit,” was the reaction of another.

STK Out

Before I even had a chance to try this burger entry, I could smell the perfume of the truffle oil that was used in these Kobe Burgers with Truffle Aioli and see quite a few folks really enjoying eating it.  A sturdy bun held this perfectly-cooked, medium rare burger dressed with a pungent mayonnaise and a sliver of cheese.  The pickle and tomato cut through the richness to pull it all together.

Blind Tiger Ale House – 3rd Place Winner

Several entrants into the competition took the non-traditional route for burgers, like the Salmon Burger with Kimchi and an Asian Relish in this photo.  I saw people coming back for seconds on these and with one bite I understood why.  This dish took salmon from the water to the land, bringing out its meaty heart.  The tart, sour, hot toppings worked really well together to make this a completely unified dish.

Zio – 2nd Place Winner

Unfortunately, I was not able to get a sample of the Lamb Burger with Goats Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade which was the entry for Zio.  The photo above is the other dish that they were giving out yesterday, a grilled Pork Belly with Figs. These seemed to fly off of the table the minute they were set down.

High Point Farms – 1st Place Winner

With a grass-fed burger, perfectly cooked to a tender medium-rare, dressed with just a bit of pepperjack cheese and a squeeze of ketchup, the Classic Burger by High Point Farms came in as the clear winner in this category.  This was a great example of top-quality, locally-sourced meat that needed little dressing up at all to make a delicious dish.

Best in Show – Jimmy’s No. 43

As competition announcer Mike Edison of the Mike & Judy Show on Heritage Radio Network clarified when he gave out this award, there was no fixing involved.  The judges were nearly unanimous in giving the overall, non-hotdog, non-burger Best in Show nod to the Sirloin with Chimichurri Sauce put together by the team at Jimmy’s No. 43.  This is one of my favorite nibbles that I’ve eaten at the food events that Jimmy’s has put together.  The richness of the thinly-sliced, tender grilled meat pairs nicely with fresh, herbally, slightly-acidic sauce.  A thin, crunchy bread round soaks up all the extra juices making it a great treat at the end of every bite.

Mama O’s Super Spicy Kimchi-Eating ContestSecond Annual Kimchipalooza

The Second Annual Kimchipalooza took place towards the end of the afternoon on Saturday, with a fearless group of contestants battling for iron-clad stomach and spice-tolerance supremacy.  Kheedim Oh, the founder of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee, gathered up the group to test their kimchi-eating prowess.

Kimchi eating contest in process

Each contestant was given three jars of the super-spicy version of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee, made with the fiery ghost pepper (which Kheedim says he can only handle while wearing gloves the heat it gives off is so intense).  They had three minutes to see how much they could consume.  One competitor left the stage after about 30 seconds.

The Winner

With 2 1/3 jars of the super-spicy kimchi finished in three minutes, Graham “G-Man” won the day’s contest.  “My face is on fire right now,” he said after he’d been declared the victor, beaming as he held his trophy.

John Brown Smokehouse – Skirt Steak with Vinegary Slaw and Jalapeno Relish

Cook Out NYC continues today, too, with more chefs, lots of other grilled meat dishes, hot sauce tastings, drinks, and music.  Check out some of my other favorite things to eat at this event, like the Kimchi Taco from Bar Bruno or the Skirt Steak with Vinegary Slaw and Jalapeno Relish from John Brown Smokehouse (winners of the 2012 Brisket King of NYC).

The Lex by Melt Bakery (Brown Sugar & Cornmeal Cookie with Maker’s Mark Bourbon Ice Cream)

To cool down and treat yourself, why not pick up one of the ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery or the shaved ice concoctions from Wooly’s Ice (note that these items are for separate purchase at the event).

Pat and his wife Vivian manning event sponsor Sixpoint Brewery‘s tent

Thank you to  Food Karma Projects and Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 for providing me with a press pass to attend this event and for inviting me to be one of the hot dog and burger toppings judges.  Thanks so much to all the volunteers and vendors as well for toughing it out under sweltering conditions yesterday to keep us all well-fed and hydrated.  All opinions in this article (unless otherwise stated) are mine and my responsibility alone.

Tickets for the Third Annual Pig Island festival to be held on Saturday, September 1st, also put on by Food Karma Projects, are now on sale.  The special price of $55.00 is good through July 13th.  If you are a fan of pork in all its forms, you will not want to miss this feast.

Buon appetito!

Preview of Cook Out NYC with Kimchi-Making Demo by Mama O’s Premium Kimchee

Have you been out to Governors Island yet this year?  If not, here’s another terrific reason to plan a day out of the city (sort of) to check out this bucolic spot just a short ferry ride away from Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Cook Out NYC will be taking place July 7-8 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  This event will feature delicious dishes prepared by fantastic local chefs, refreshing brews by Sixpoint Brewery, and for all you kimchi lovers, a Spicy Kimchi Eating Contest to be held on Saturday.  I’m pleased to be able to offer you a $5.00 discount on tickets to this event, courtesy the sponsors.  Enter the code “BlogOutNYC” at check-out.

Kheedim Oh of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee

As part of the press launch for this event, several fellow bloggers, local media folks, and I gathered at Jimmy’s No. 43 last night for a kimchi making demonstration by Kheedim Oh, the founder of Mama O’s Premium Kimchee. Both Jimmy and Kheedim met when they each had stands at the New Amsterdam Market.  Kheedim started off by explaining the origins of his four-year-old company.  After relocating from Maryland, he missed his mother’s kimchi and hadn’t been able to find any store-bought version that stacked up to her homemade one.  After convincing her to teach him how to make it, he would travel to and from New York with coolers full of it.

Ingredients for Kimchi

Not able to eat all of it himself, he offered it to friends who told him that he should be selling it.  A butcher in his Lower East Side neighborhood fell in love with it and started to carry it.  Things grew from there, and now his product can be found in many Whole Foods stores in the region as well as at Murray’s Cheese Shop and other specialty food retailers.  He said he goes through about 500 pounds of cabbage a week making kimchi.  He treated us to a brief explanation of how it all comes together:

Explaining how to prep the cabbage for brining – slice it lengthwise

After 24 hours – unbrined (left) vs. brined (right) cabbage

Making the spicy paste – pounding garlic by hand (he did most of this by machine)

Making the spicy paste – slicing ginger

Making the spicy paste – pulverizing ginger

Making the spicy paste – juicing a few limes (with help from the audience)

Making the spicy paste – adding dried red pepper

Making the spicy paste – adding more dried red pepper

Making the spicy paste – oh, let’s just add a little bit more dried red pepper

Spicy Red Pepper Paste

Cutting up the brined cabbage (cut out the core at the bottom and discard it)

Slice a few scallions

Chop up a pile of cilantro

Give it all a good toss together

Guests were able to pack it up to take home with them

My own personal jar of kimchi, ready to go home

Thanks so much to Kheedim for his highly-entertaining demonstration of how to make kimchi.  I’m not sure I’m going to try doing this in my own kitchen, but I’m looking forward to tasting the results of last night’s event when they are ready.  Remember, Cook Out NYC will be taking place July 7-8 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  There’s a $5.00 discount on tickets to this event when you enter the code “BlogOutNYC” at check-out.  I’ll be there as well, covering this event for my website courtesy of Food Karma Projects.

Buon appetito!

5 Boro Picnyc – Opening weekend at Governors Island

Food from 5 Boro PicNYC

Beer!  Sausages!  Grilled cheese!  This photo shows just a small sample of the great food and drink available this weekend at the 5 Boro PicNYC on Governors Island.  Fortunately, the rainstorm held off yesterday until the event was over, so we were treated to bright sunshine and a relaxing and enjoyable day just a short trip away from the shores of Manhattan.

Arriving on the ferry from Manhattan

I met up with several fellow NYC food bloggers over on the island.  The first photo is of our picnic table, where we gathered up the sample plates and noshed.  The early group got there and staked out a spot so that we could have a space to eat, talk about the food, and, of course, take pictures of the different dishes.  I’m not sure that we picked an all-out favorite of the day, but there were several that were really tasty.

Crisp Lager – Sixpoint Brewery

What better way to start off the day’s festivities and tame some of the impending heat than with a Crisp Lager by the folks at Sixpoint Brewery.  This beverage, along with their Sweet Action and Redd brews were being served on tap.  Several other selections were available in cans, including Apollo, their version of a German wheat beer, another ideal summer drink.  In addition to beer, attendees could also quench their thirst on a variety of teas from PlanTea and glasses of ruby red sangria from Madria Sangria.

Boudin Blanc with caramelized onions and grainy mustard – Vandaag

Boudin Blanc and Blood Sausages – Vandaag

What could be more perfect to go along with said beer than sausages.  Fortunately, there were several stands where they’d taken this theme to heart.  The Boudin Blanc by Vandaag was ethereal.  Light in texture with subtle seasoning, the onions lent a slight sweetness to the combination.  The mustard added a dash of heat and tanginess to the mix.  They also grilled up some blood sausages, which were equally tasty, with a bit more spice and richness to them.

Kielbasa with pickled cabbage and mustard – Peels Restaurant

Many of the chefs had cooked up their dishes using locally-sourced meats and products, including the Berkshire pork from New Jersey that went into making this dense, hearty, garlic and poblano smoked kielbasa from Peels Restaurant.  Paired with vinegary cabbage and a splash of hot-spicy mustard, each bite had a bit of zing and along with a peppery punch.

Bison and Chipotle Sausage with corn-jalapeno relish – Alobar

Lamb Merguez with creamy cucumber-yogurt sauce – Alobar

In addition to the Boudin Blanc from Vandaag, my other favorite dishes of the day were by the team at Alobar, who works with Fossil Farms as a source for its meats.  Spicy merguez met a generous helping of a refreshing cucumber-yogurt sauce for a balance of heat and coolness, which was for me the perfect summertime pairing.  A sweet-hot corn and jalapeno relish complemented the richness of their bison sausage without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the meat.

Sausages, cabbage, and mustard – Jimmy’s No. 43

Bahn Mi – Jimmy’s No. 43

Brisket with chimichurri – Jimmy’s No. 43

Potato Salad Jimmy’s No. 43

Several of the stations at the event were organized by Jimmy’s No. 43, whose Food Karma Projects was the organizer for the weekend’s activities.  With the assistance of budding chefs from community programs like Teen Battle Chef and the Kingsborough Community College, they turned out several crowd-pleasing dishes including a spiced, porky sausage paired with savory yellow-style mustard and dressed with a sauerkraut-type slaw.  They also had a bahn mi with crumbles of savory sausage or tofu dressed with slivers of carrot and slices of cucumber and drizzled with creamy, spicy aioli.  Slabs of juicy brisket with just the right amount of char were garnished with a heaping dollop of tart, bright-tasting chimichurri.  To go along with these small plates, they had also prepared a refreshing potato salad, ideal for a hot early summer’s day.

Lucky 777 Chili Company trays

For those not in the mood for sausages, there were also several kinds of chili (7 bean, pork, and turkey) to choose from by Lucky 777 Chili CompanySlow Food NYC had whipped up a chicken taco that I thought needed a bit more juiciness to make it just right, although it had welcome additions of cheese, green sauce, and onions.  Another taco from Left Bank, made with barbecued pulled pork, was a hit with the crowds.  They were gone before I could even get on the line to try one.

NYC Hot Sauce display

Barbecued chicken was also on the menu at a few places, including at Jimmy’s No. 43 and at one of the hot sauce vendors, Heartbreaking Dawns.  Their Jalapeno Pineapple sauce had a lot of spicy heat that just hung out on my tongue for a while before it finally faded.  I didn’t try the samples from High River Sauces, as they looked a little bit out of my depth, spiciness-wise.  Of the sauces that I tasted yesterday, NYC Hot Sauce had one that I think needs to find a place in my fridge.  The hotter of their two sauces had a nice garden-like taste up front with a long, lingering heat, the kind that just makes you want to go back for another taste of whatever it is drizzled upon, dunked on, or otherwise slathered.

Jarlsberg USA grilled cheese competition prizes

By way of full disclosure, I was one of the judges for the Grilled Cheese Cook-off on Saturday sponsored by Jarlsberg USA so I had a bit of an ulterior motive for sampling all the ooey-gooey melty goodness that was being prepared for the event’s participants.

Grilled cheese sandwiches from Big Food (left) and Marky Ramone (right)

Two of the entries in the competition seemed to be more meat-focused than cheese-oriented.  The pork sandwich with corn chips and cheese from Big Food needed more umph for me.  Everything seemed to get lost in a jumble without any major flavor notes working in harmony.  Marky Ramone‘s meatball pâté with cheese and his own sauce seemed to be a riff on a classic meatball sub.  While the meat was well-seasoned and tasted great, kind of liked a smushed version of a classic Sunday-style Italian meatball, I didn’t think it paired all that well with the Jarlsberg.  The sauce was layered inside the sandwich, which meant it disappeared into the bread, making me wish I’d had just a side of the marinara in which to dip the sandwich.

 OMG Grilled Cheese – Chrissy’s Cooking Club / Bushwick Campus Farm

This was the steadiest line all day long, and massive amounts of credit for keeping up with the demand goes to the team of organizers and students behind the OMG Grilled Cheese, which was the winner of the day.  This isn’t just my tastebuds talking; it was the decision of the judging team, too.  The students grew many of the ingredients for these sandwiches, including the side salad and the garlic scapes that went into the exterior coating of butter that you can see in the photo above.  What sold it for me, was not just the terrific contrast of cheese, sautéed peppers and scallions, and the bright freshness of the soffrito dressing the sandwich, but that this dish focused on the cheese and not letting that get lost in all the other flavors going on at the same time while also having a great garnish of peppery salad that contrasted perfectly with the nutty, rich melted dairy.  Unfortunately, I wolfed down my sample in a couple of bites flat, neglecting to take a photo.  You can see a good shot of it here, taken by one of the other judges.  Congratulations to this team for taking first prize at the Grilled Cheese Cook-off!

OG sundae – Wooly’s Ice

After all the sausages, cheese, and beer, it was now time to cool off a bit.  Good thing some of my favorite dessert folks had made the trip to the island, too.  Available for purchase were ice creams from Van Leeuwen and shaved ice concoctions from Wooly’s Ice.  As much as I love ice cream, I was in the mood for something a bit lighter after having had all that food.  Wooly’s fit the bill perfectly: light-as-snow flavored ice with slices of sweet strawberries and chunks of chocolatey brownie.  It was the perfect way to wrap up the day’s eating adventures.

Buon appetito!

Thanks to Jimmy and his team for a great time at Governors Island!

Thank you to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 for providing me with a press pass to attend this event.  Thank you, too, to The Burrell Group Ltd, who represent Jarlsberg USA and who selected me to judge the Grilled Cheese Cook-off.  For a complete list of the winners of the events taking place this weekend as part of the 5 Boro Picnyc, including the sausage cook-off, which I also judged, please see here.  All opinions in this article (unless otherwise stated) are mine and my responsibility alone.