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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.