Tag Archives: Pig Island

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!

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!