Tag Archives: Local Products

Pig Island PorkFest 2010

Yesterday at Governors Island was evidence of yet again why New York is such a wonderful food city.  The sunny, slightly cool fall day was perfect for the first Pig Island festival, celebrating the area’s food, drink, and music.  Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 put together an amazing gathering featuring pork dishes assembled by 20 chefs using 80 pigs from local farms along with beverages from Sixpoint Craft Ales and NY State Wines.  Below is a photo that I got at the Greenmarket on Wednesday when the pigs were delivered.  Part of the proceeds of the event went to Food Systems Network NYC to support their efforts to bring together the stakeholders in the NYC food community.
Leaving from Manhattan at about 9:00 a.m., I was one of the many volunteers who helped assist with the event.  It seemed like everyone who offered to help out was pork- and food-obsessed, which was perfect for this activity.  While waiting for everything to start, we could see the chefs firing up their grills and getting their ingredients ready for the hungry hoards.  The aroma of barbecue scented the air.  I couldn’t wait to try everything there was to eat on my break.

As I was working the event, and bringing plates back to my fellow volunteers, I managed to grab just a few photos with my phone.  I had opted not to bring my camera with me, as I wasn’t sure how the day would evolve.  The Whole Hog Sausages with Harvest Pickles from Matt Weingarten of Inside Park at St. Bart’s were robust and meaty, served on brown bread with a range of mustards and fresh horseradish.  This is the kind of meal my father loves to eat.  

Another of the few photos I took was of the spicy cool Malay Style Sausage served with a Crab Salad and a Chili Sauce that Ducks Eatery’s Will Horowitz brought to the event.  These were such great small bites that I went back for a second of them when I was on my next break.  If they make it on the menu (I don’t see them on the on-line version.), these might just be tasty enough to make me break out my old ping-pong paddle and head to SPiN, where the restaurant is located.
Although I wasn’t able to get to every station, my task to collect tickets determined by the routine of the arriving passenger ferries from Manhattan, I did get to sample quite a few of the other dishes.  From Porchetta, someone brought me back one of their famous Porchetta Sandwiches filled with savory chunks of roasted, seasoned pork.   The table for Great Performances catering featured a Jerk Pork Rillette with Pickled Peach Relish on Coco Bread which was the perfect marriage of sweet and salty, end-of-summer fruit combined with fall meat.
From Rub, someone brought us over a plate of North Carolina style BBQ with Moravian Slaw, which was good, but didn’t quite take me back to the barbecue dreams of meals I’ve had in my home state of Virginia.  Some of the best pork I had was on a slider with marinated cabbage.  I’ve already gotten in trouble from one family member who swears that pork and kimchee don’t mix (see Krave’s tacos), but she just hasn’t been able to try the Braised Pork and Kimchee from Mama Oh’s Kheedim Oh.
One of my favorites of the dishes I managed to sample was The Food Experiments Pulled Pork, Braised Fennel Stuffed Porcine, Salt and Vinegar Potato Salad with Chimichurri Aoli.   This seemed to be a big hit with the other volunteers as well, as we went back for several plates’ worth.  The pork-with-more-pork combo was a great marriage of textures that matched well with the tang of the potato salad and the hit of the chimichurri.  Lucky for us that these food competition veterans teamed up for this event.
Not everything was savory, as Heather Carlucci from Print demonstrated.  I think her Maple Bacon Sticky Buns might have been the first food item to run out yesterday.  They were gooey sweet with a hint of smoky-saltiness from the bacon.  My mom’s cinnamon rolls disappear quickly as it is.  I can’t imagine the scrum over them if she’d decided to add bacon to them.  Unfortunately, I was just able to get a small sample of them from some kind soul who brought a plate back to the volunteers at the front table.  This means I’ll have to go track down a whole one for myself at her restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.
Of course, there were also some great drinks with which to wash everything down. Red Jacket Orchards supplied some of their wonderful juices, including a fuji apple cider, an apple-raspberry drink, and an unfiltered apple cider.  Sixpoint Craft Ales brought with them several selections from their brewery.  I had some of their lager and a sample of their Signal label, a smoked pale ale.  It would have been great to have had a chance to try some of the other beers that they brought with them, but that will have to wait until another time.  For now, my stomach and my heart are happy and content, full of good food and drink and memories of a perfect day in the city.
Buon appetito!

Foraging in Central Park with "Wildman" Steve Brill

What did you do over your Labor Day weekend?  Well, aside from checking out the food trucks on Governors Island for the Parked food festival, I ended up looking for some real locavore eats.  On Monday, I joined about 30 other people for a tour of the edible plants that can be found in Central Park.  “Wildman” Steve Brill has been leading tours of this and other areas in and around the city and upstate to show people the bounty that can be found right in their back yards.

This activity has long been on my to-do list; I’ve read stories about it for years.  Brill is a font of amazing information and stories about the plants and herbs that are right under our noses.  I still wouldn’t really feel confident about going around and picking things out of the ground to eat or to cook with, but he makes it seem like it could really be possible to find some great culinary and/or medicinal items in and around us in our local parks.  There were several folks who were repeat customers on his expedition.

He hunted down the local apples that we gathered and American hackberries that we sampled.  Some impressive poison ivy was pointed out to us, from which we were told to stay away.  At the same time, we were shown the plant that would take away the ivy’s itch, should we get too close to it.  I never knew that a sprinkling of epizote on cooked beans could cure farting, but I do after yesterday’s tour.  I also discovered that sorrel in several forms grows in Central Park and, when tender, is great in salads and soups.

Sheep Sorrel

The tour was about four hours long, including a brief lunch break (pack your own) and a bathroom break along the way.  He gears his talks to the audience, allowing children to be the first to sample some of the pickings.  The amount of information that he shared and the number of photos that I took were too much and too many to post them all here, so I put them on Facebook under the blog’s account.*  Please check them out there.  Unfortunately, I think it was too early to be able to pick my own mushrooms.  I was so hoping that we could find chanterelles so that I could have some for dinner that night!

Buon appetito!

*Caveat – This was my first time on the tour so I tried to take as many notes as possible and have tried to be accurate regarding the plants we saw; however, no one should just pick what he or she finds on the ground and eat it without being absolutely certain of what it is.  My notes should not be taken as a guide to your own foraging efforts.

New Amsterdam Market Ice Cream Festival

This Sunday, when I looked outside, it hardly seemed like appropriate weather to head downtown to the Ice Cream Festival at the New Amsterdam Market.  Still, the chance to try six sample-sized cones of handmade, artisanal treats for just $20.00 was too tempting to keep me lounging around my apartment for long.  Besides, I had written about how much my grandfather had enjoyed eating ice cream, and this would be a way to honor his memory as well as that of his Dutch ancestry, as that same site has housed many of New York’s markets.

My first stop was to try MilkMade Ice Cream’s Blackberry and Gingersnap flavor.  I loved the tart fruit paired with the peppery backnote of the ginger.  This one definitely topped the fruit category for me of the samples that I had at the market.  They offer a monthly delivery program where you can have a pint of locally-sourced, handmade ice cream right at your door, if you live within a certain area.  I discovered that I am in one of the zip codes they serve, which makes this an item to put on my holiday wish list.

The next stand I visited was Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, which has a store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and several trucks stationed around the city.  I opted for Pistachio, which can sometimes be a difficult flavor to love.  This one was rich and creamy with lots of nuts.  On an errand of mercy later in the market, I grabbed a cup of their Chocolate for Karen Seiger, who was manning the table for her terrific book, Markets of New York City.  She raved about how delicious it was.

For my next two choices, I went a bit out-of-the-box as far as ice cream flavors go, at least for me.  I stopped by Roberta’s (based in a pizzeria in Brooklyn) and Early Bird Cookery (a catering and food-delivery service).  At the former, I had their Husk Cherry cone.  This is based upon a fruit called the cape gooseberry, which is a small, papery-husk covered yellow orb.  The taste is something like a cross between a cherry and a pineapple.  It made for an interesting sample.  I could see having a scoop of it along with a molten chocolate cake or a slice of pound cake as a tangy-tart counterpoint.

At the latter place, I tried their Hay ice cream.  Yes, that is right, hay.  This one tasted a lot like honey with a nutty backnote, which was not an unpleasant flavor at all.  One of the more interesting aspects of this stand, however, was that the bowls they were using are made of a compostable sugarcane base.  The spoons were made of birch.  This is a long way from the plastic-coated paper cups of my elementary school days.

Finally, I was faced with a dilemma.  Two tickets left and two stands to go.  Should I pick one flavor to try from each, as I’d done with the others?  I asked the two women who were standing next to me as I finished up my most recent selection.  Go to The Bent Spoon and try their Bourbon Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel, they advised, you can’t miss it.  Oh, they were so right!  It is a good thing that I didn’t have this as my first flavor of the day, as I don’t think I would have continued to eat anything else.  At first bite, my synapses fired on high alert: bourbon, vanilla, salty, sweet, creamy, decadently smooth, rich lusciousness all at once.  This was ice cream heaven!

The other recommended flavor (on the left in the photo) was the Nectarine, which had a deeply fruity, refreshing palate cleansing taste.  It is made from Terhune Orchard produce, which I know from visiting their stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays.  Still, I think that my favorite ice cream of the day was the first one that I tried from The Bent Spoon.  Apparently, other folks thought the same way as I did because it had the longest line of any of the stations.

My apologies for not visiting Marlow and Daughters, but I ran out of tickets by that point, and the downpour had become torrential.  I hope that the New Amsterdam Market folks decide to hold another one of these events, so that I can get there next time.  There were also so many other flavors that I had wanted to try including Peach and Black Pepper and Concord Grape.  It was wonderful to see all the ice cream being made locally and with seasonal ingredients, and I think that my grandfather would have enjoyed making a trip with me to check out all the samples.

Buon appetito!

New Amsterdam Market is located near the South Street Seaport, between Beekman Street and Peck Slip, near the site of the former Fulton Fish Market.  See website for directions and closest means of transportation.  From Sunday, September 12, 2010, the market will be functioning on a weekly basis.

Fancy Food Show – NYC

These two photos do have a story behind them, lest you think they are just random. I was given these wonderful bottles of delicious, superior quality extra virgin olive oil from Apulia in Italy by the owner of said groves as a thank you for having helped out at the Fancy Food Show in New York earlier this week. It was a great experience and really gave my Italian language skills a fantastic workout.
Mr. Cazzetta, like many of the vendors at the trade fair, is looking for a way to introduce his product into the U.S. market. Having seen this process first-hand, I realized how unbelievably competitive it seems to be to try to knock on the doors to get buyers to even look at your wares, not to mention trying to get a deal done to get into the shops where we, the consumer, would actually consider purchasing some of them. After a while, all the sauces, cheeses, oils, mustards, pastas, jams, jellies, and sweet things on display seemed to blend together. It was, however, also interesting to see new items from the well-established brands that I recognized.

How did I end up there, at the end of the day on Monday, sipping wine and sampling the wonderful and unique olive grappa that Mr. Cazzetta also makes? Right now, I’m networking for another job and trying to see if I can use this blog to launch myself into a different career area, much like I’d discussed very early when I started this project. The fates have intervened, and I was let go from my position in banking at the end of March. A couple of months of consulting work later, and I find that now I’m searching for the opening that will let me combine my passion for food with the dire need for a steady paycheck and benefits.
Along those lines, I’ve been trying to network almost everyone I know about entrepreneurial opportunities, how to make a business work, opinions about continuing in financial services, etc. The people who get to sample my results are all firmly in the category of those who say that I should be pursing something culinary-related. I’m grateful for their support (and willingness to eat my products), but I’m still a bit gun-shy about how it can turn into a viable enterprise.
One of the groups of contacts to which I’ve turned has been my graduate school colleagues, many of whom have started their own businesses. On Monday, bright and early, but after I’d already had coffee, I met up with one of them at a diner in my neighborhood. Susannah Gold has been running her own communications company for several years and was kind enough to let me buy her breakfast and pick her brain about the concept of my going on my own.
As part of her client development, she was going to attend the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center over on the far west side of town. She kindly asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her as a guest. I jumped at the chance to get some firsthand experience at how this market works. As I mentioned above, it was pretty eye-opening. The New York Times did a breakdown of the show here. So, we made our base at the booth of Mr. Cazzetta to help him with his promotions, and that was how I ended up with the olive oil. Not a bad way to end an eventful and enlightening day!
Buon appetito!