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Edible Manhattan Celebrates the Meat Issue

Instead of crowding into some random local pub to raise a pint in honor of being Irish, last night I joined several hundred other people atOpenhouse Gallery (also the location of Park Here) at 201 Mulberry Street tocelebrate Edible Manhattan’s Good Meat Issue.  What better way to use up my special dispensation for Lent,having given up eating meat this year, to indulge in some quaffable New YorkState beverages and delicious small plates made with locally-raised meats.  I was not disappointed at all with thisdecision.

As guests walked into the space, we were greeted by a trayof crostini with pork rillettes topped with pickled vegetables courtesy of Northern Spy Food Co. The crispy bread with therich, smooth rillettes was balanced by the crunchy and anise-flavoredcelery.  A few of these would bethe perfect way to start off any cocktail party.

At the next table was a selection of Aged Raw Milk CheddarCheese and Grilled Summer Sausage from Organic Valley, representing a cooperative of farmers who bring these products to market.  It was interesting to try these here atthis gathering with more sophisticated dishes ahead of me.  The creamy, tang of the cheese andsmokiness of the meat, however, would be great additions to a summer barbecue snack tray.

The 2009 First Crush Red and 2008 Taste Red from Bedell Cellars each had different flavor profiles but would make great pairings withthe night’s dishes.  Both of thewines are aged in stainless steel, not oak, giving them a lighter feel thanmore robust barrel-aged vintages. While I found the 2009 wine to be very light and what I would call agood all-around table wine, suitable for everything from the shepherd’s pie(below) to the cheese and sausage, my real favorite was the 2008 which had adeep, luscious, ripe berry/cherry/plum fruit aroma and a bigger flavor profileto it.

I decided to skip the drinks selections at this stage tohead for some more of the food before the crowds started to arrive.  I headed straight to the back of theroom to check out the Shepherd’s Pie from The Cleaver Co & The Green Table,which has a wonderful restaurant at Chelsea Market.  This was probably my favorite plate of the evening.  Using beef from Grazin’ Angus Acres,the base of the pie was deeply flavorful and meaty, studded with carrots andpeas, and topped with a perfectly-browned crust of buttery mashedpotatoes.  This is definitely not the shepherd’s pie that you dowse with HP Sauce or ketchup!  Leave it be and enjoy all the hearty tastes of the meat and veg mixed together (although an English ex-boyfriend of mine would dispute the inclusion of the peas and carrots).

Fortunately, to wash it down, these folks had their tableright next to Kelso of Brooklyn.  Their NutBrown Ale, which I was told came out of the fermenter yesterday, had a clean,crisp finish that was definitely food-friendly.  It would also havegone superbly with the Fresh Roasted Ham Legs served on wheat bread with adollop of My Friend’s Mustard cut with a little crème fraîche as served up byJimmy’s No. 43.  The subtle flavorof the ham received a wallop of spice and heat from the mustard.  With a sip of Kelso’s ale, it was aperfect party bite.

Print also served meat from Grazin’ Angus Acres.  The Braised Short Ribs were served in anest of creamy potato purée topped with cubes of cooked vegetables andsprinkled with gremolata, which provided a citrusy backnote that livened up thedish.  I enjoyed the tender,melting, pull-apart meat, however, I agreed with the remark I overheard that itneeded a bit more depth of flavor to it.

Another great match for Kelso’s was the charcuterie andpickle display by Cookshop and Hundred Acres.  I selected a spoonful of the rillettes and a slice of patéto have along with a spoonful of quince paste, the grainy mustard, and thesmooth mustard.  Putting some ofeach of the meats and accompaniments on each of the crispbread and soft oliveoil rolls that were also with the display.  The sweet quince pastewent equally well with either of the meats, but I could see it being a greatmatch for the cheddar cheese, too. The mustards were tasty, but I really liked the punch of the mustardthat was at the Jimmy’s table.

Off in the side room were the folks from Fatty ‘Cue whobrought with them a hearty, rich lamb rib dressed with a lemon-garlicemulsion.  The outside fat wascrispy and the meaty interior was so delicious I saw folks licking theirfingers and eating clean down to the bone.  This is complete proof that well-done dishes need only thesimplest of adornment.

Another of my favorite bites from the evening has to havebeen the Sweet Italian Pork Sausage from Fleisher’s Grass-fed and Organic Meats.  Whatever it is in the spices or the meat for these, theycreate a juicy, flavorful sausage which would be perfect in many a pasta dish.  It went well with the Sweet TomatoChutney with Black Mustard from DP Chutney Collective that was served alongsideof it.  The Rockin’ Moroccan LambSausage had some heat to it but that was diminished when paired with DP ChutneyCollective’s Apple Chutney.  Again,I could have taken some of that chutney and put it quite well with some of theother pork dishes I had last night.

I’m not really a whisky or bourbon drinker.  When I put it to the person serving theselections from Tuthilltown Spirits Hudson Whisky, he suggested that I try their vodkasinstead.  Made from New York State apples,the triple distilled vodka reminded me quite a bit of a grappa with itspowerful, fire-water style finish and its clean taste.  The double-distilled had more of aliqueur feel to it with hints of the fruit still coming through with each sip.

To wrap up my dining, I headed back to the Cookshop tablefor a cookie.  This was not justany cookie, though.  TheChocolate-Chip-Bacon cookie was perfectly baked with a soft, chewy interior anda crispy outer ring.  Deep, darkchocolate chunks and smoky, salty bacon bits made it all more delicious.  There’s a trend in chocolate chipcookies to sprinkle them with salt to bring out more flavor.  This combination amps that upconsiderably.

Aside from all the wonderful food and drink, part of thisevent was also dedicated to the means of production of quality meats.  The Piggery had a sausage makingdemonstration.  (The blur in thephoto is where he is describingthe grinding process.)  They run aFresh Pork & Charcuterie CSA using the meat from the pigs that they raise themselves.  It looks amazing, but a share isprobably more meat than I can handle. The Fleisher’s folks also deliver meat to Manhattan, so that could beanother option for me to check out.

There was also information on what the “Animal Welfare Approved” label means.  I’ve had acouple of conversations recently where we tossed around all the appropriateresponsible eating designations. All of them are good, but it’s hard to figure out which one is the mostcorrect when it comes to making a choice when you are standing in front of themeat counter.  This is an auditprogram that gives a USDA-approved label to farms who follow certain humane,environmentally responsible, and safe methods to rear livestock and poultry.  Please see their website for more informationand for how you can look for this label.

This event was a great way to celebrate the wonderful work thatthe New York State farms that produce good meat for us to eat.  It was nice to be able to try so manyvaried plates that used different cuts and products.  Paired with wines, spirits, and beer also from the region,this gathering showcased the bounty of this part of the country and just howspoiled we all are for choice by living in it.  I’m hoping Edible Manhattan plans to have many more of thesein the future.

Buon appetito!

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