Tag Archives: Pig Island

Pig Island 2017 and Jimmy’s No. 43

Pig Island check-in

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 the Smoker

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 NavarroDavid 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.

Arrogant Swine

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.

Smoke Show BBQ

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.

Jakes Handcrafted

 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.

Belly Korean Bacon Shop

BELLY Korean Bacon Shop

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.

Clay Gordon

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.

Catskill Food Company(1)

Catskill Food Company

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.

Jimmy's No 43

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.

Pig Island 2014

Pig Island 2014 signagePig Island 2014

For the second year in a row, chefs, pig dishes in hand, and the folks who love to indulge in porcine goodness gathered in Red Hook, Brooklyn at Erie Basin Park for the fifth annual Pig Island festival organized by Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43.  As in past years, this event featured hogs raised by upstate farmers, local wine, cider, and craft beer, and a lot of creativity, showcasing the range of culinary creations that can come from using the whole animal.  Fortunately, as well, even though there had been an early threat of thunderstorms, the inclement weather held off until the very end of the day.

Butter - adding grate to grillButter – putting the grate onto the hot grill

This year, I felt that there was definitely a broader range of dishes and concepts for using the pigs than has perhaps happened in previous years.  The tortilla seemed to be the vehicle of choice for delivering pork products to hungry mouths, whereas, last year, more bites seemed to be on sliders or bread.  There were so many incredible offerings that it is difficult to select just a few stand-out items.  There was an esteemed panel of judges that had that heavy responsibility, so I can just talk from the point of view of my own tastebuds here.

Hecho en Dumbo - Sample PlateHecho en Dumbo – sample platter

Taking home the award for “Fearless Stomachs Only,” Chef Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo created Volcanes de Chorizo Casero.  Two different versions of pork meats topped with tomatillo salsa: a red Mexican sausage called Longaniza and a green chorizo, where the herbs were blanched and then mixed in with the meat.  The small square item at the top of the picture is a version of chicharrones made in Mexico where some of the meat is still left connected to the skin, and then they are fried together, creating a crispy, puffed, pork fritter-like morsel.  I could have eaten plates and plates of these offerings, the flavors blended so well together, fatty meat, creamy cheese, hearty tortilla, and spice and acidity that just cut through all of that to bring the dish together.  I’m only sorry that I didn’t get a chance to swing by at the end of the event to pack up any leftovers that they might have had.

Jesse Jones - Pulled Pork StrudelJesse Jones – Pulled Pork Strudel with BBQ Sauce and Pickled Cucumber

Another memorable dish that I ate on Saturday was this inspired creation by Chef Jesse Jones.  For a spin on the usual pulled pork sandwich with slaw or other vinegar-based toppings, he built a strudel using slow-cooked pork.  The rounds were heated up on the grill and served with a barbecue sauce from Fairway, his event sponsor, and dressed with lightly pickled cucumbers, which were still crunchy enough to provide a nice textural balance to the succulent meat and pastry.  This is the kind of plate that makes me want to come back to Pig Island year after year because chefs just go for whatever they think might work to celebrate the hog, and sometimes it just comes together beautifully.

Revolving Dansk - Copenhagen Street Dog w Salty LadkrisRevolving Dansk – Copenhagen Street Dog

A newcomer to this food festival, Revolving Dansk went for a more traditional-with-a-spin for one of their dishes.  Taking their cue from the Danish hot dog wagon (pølsevogn), which they mention is virtually the only street meat in that country, they served up the Copenhagen Street Dog complete with a tangy remoulade, crisp locally-made Scandinavian pickles, crunchy onions, and a drizzle of a Danish salty licorice sauce, upon request.  It might sound like an unorthodox combination, but it worked.  I’m not a huge hotdog fan, and I would have gone back for seconds on these.  The hotdogs themselves were served on rolls made by Brooklyn bakery Leske’s.

Ends Meat - Pork NuggetEnds Meat – Pork Nugget

Those three plates were my favorites of the day.  For a complete list of the participating chefs, visit the Pig Island website. Here’s what the judges decided were their best dishes:

Fearless Stomachs OnlyHecho en Dumbo‘s Volcanes de Chorizo Casero

Best Nasty Bits – Ends Meat’s Pork Nuggets

Best Naked MeatOvelia‘s Spit-roasted Pork

Most RefreshingFlinders Lane‘s Pork Salad

Most MayanJimmy’s No. 43‘s Cochinita Pibel

Best Scrapple from the Apple Egg‘s Scrapple Taco

Best on BunsPig Guy NYC‘s Pork Sliders with Lime Chimichurri

Best Sweet CheeksButter‘s Bacon Banana Bread with Caramelized Bacon

Best to the TableThe Good Fork / Fort Defiances‘s Mer-Pig (read more about how they made it here)

Most Succulent SauceHometown BBQ and Balthazar‘s Tasso Pork Belly Taco

Pig Island - watermelonPig Island 2014

There were lots of great dishes filled with various versions of pork and pig bits, so it wasn’t easy to narrow down the best things I ate to just three items, as many of them were really quite delicious so it feels a bit like splitting (hog) hairs.  All the chefs and their teams worked in blazing hot conditions under bright sunny skies, behind smoky grills, to bring us yet another terrific event.  When I got on the bus to head back over to the subway, I overheard one volunteer say to a friend, “I smell like barbecue and pork.”  His companion chuckled, “As you should!”

Buon appetito!

A big “thank you” to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 and creator of Food Karma Projects for inviting me to participate in this event and to cover it this year for him.  The food opinions stated here are my own.

Pig Island 2013

1 - Pig Island 2013 entryPig Island 2013

Under gorgeous azure skies with just a hint of a breeze blowing off of the water, Pig Island 2013 took place yesterday on the Red Hook waterfront, site of some of the worst flooding last year in New York City from Hurricane Sandy.  Featuring 25 local area chefs, 80 hogs that come from the surrounding areas, all the food you can eat, and beer, cider, and wine that you can drink, this is the ideal mix for a festival that celebrates all the bounty of the region.  “This is pig heaven,” said a woman who passed by me while visiting the food stands.

2 - Sixpoint Brewery - The CrispThe Crisp – by sponsor Sixpoint Brewery

As usual, there were some absolutely stand-out items, and ones that I thought could have been constructed a bit better.  Before I launch into the pork dishes, several of the sides that were served with the pork also deserve a special mention.  Route 66 Smokehouse had one of the most delicious potato salads that I’ve ever had to go along with their Roast Porchetta Sandwich.  They’re opening up a place down in the Financial District, so that’s a place I’m going to add to my list to stop by for a meal.  The folks at Fort Reno (who are also behind Pig Island veterans Palo Santo) made a crunchy, tangy coleslaw with the exact right balance of seasoning that went perfectly with their roasted pulled pork.  I wished I could have taken a container of each of these salads with me to eat today at home.

3 - Peter Kaminsky announcing judges decisionPeter Kaminsky, author of Bacon Nation, announcing the judges’ decisions

While there was no formal competition for best dish of the day, a group of judges (including me) were asked to recognize some of the more stellar creations. Peter Kaminsky, food book author and writer, Jonathan Forester, Food and Beverage Writer & Consultant, and Mike Edison, from Heritage Radio Network, judged the day’s results.  As you can see from the list below, this wasn’t the most serious of battles, more a chance to acknowledge all the hard work that the chefs and their teams did to make the day a delicious success.

5 - The Good Fork + Ft Defiance - mer-pigThe Mer-Pig

The Best Roast PigThe Good Fork / Fort Defiance

Two chefs + 1 pig + seaweed = The Mer-Pig.  This dish of succulent seaweed-wrapped roasted pig plus and housemade kimchi sauce was the creation of chefs St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance & Ben Schneider of The Good Fork.  Ben had mentioned at the Pig Pick-up on Wednesday that they were going to dig a hole in the ground and roast the pig in it.  From a simple cooking concept to a plate filled with big, bold, smoky-tangy flavor, this was definitely one of my top tastes of the day.

6 - Neuman's Kitchen - Pork Menage a TroisMénage à Trois

The Best MénageNeuman’s Kitchen

This Ménage à Trois was a three-way pork treat for your tastebuds.  Roasted pig plus crispy pig’s ear plus bacon vinaigrette brought a meaty, fatty, crispy combo that was made fresher and lighter with the addition of a salad of frisée and apples.  This dish was definitely a crowd pleaser, with one guest saying to the staff: “That was awesome.  Thank you for that.”

7 - Fort Reno - pulled pork & coleslawPulled Pork with Coleslaw

The “Cue”-estFort Reno

Several participants decided to go with straight-up barbecued pork and fixin’s.  One of these was Fort Reno, whom I mentioned also gets my “best coleslaw” nod for the day.  They served up big pieces of braised pork and let guests dress it with several of their housemade sauces: smoked jalapeno and garlic, habanero with mustard and tumeric, and a fermented chili and garlic, along with traditional vinegar and barbecue sauces.

9 - Jimmy's No. 43 pork taco Mexican styleMixiotes “Mexico”

The “Realest Mexican”Jimmy’s No. 43

There were a few chefs who decided to tap into their Latin American roots for this porkfest.  One of these was David who helms the kitchen at Jimmy’s No. 43.  His juicy marinated pork (something I wish I had more of again to eat today) was partnered with sautéed onions and cactus as well as with spiced pickled onions.  Part of the reason he received this accolade was for his use of avocado leaves, a Mexican ingredient not generally used here.  He manged to capture spicy, sweet, meaty, with a touch of heat and a punch of zingy all in one, making it one of my favorite dishes of the day.

10 - Zarela Martinez serving her pork dishZarela Martinez serving up whole roasted pig Oaxaca-style

The Boldest “Balls Out” pigZarela Martinez / Arrogant Swine

Teaming up with Tyson Ho, creator of the Arrogant Swine North Carolina barbecue events, restauranteur and cookbook author Zarela Martinez chose to display the whole entire pig, stuffed with fruit and vegetable picadillo in the style of Oaxaca.  This was a terrific combination of meat with a tangy-sweet mixture that balanced out the richness of the pork.

1 - Ducks Eatery - Crispy Pigs Ear in Lettuce WrapCrispy Pigs Ear Lettuce Wrap

The “Loudest”Ducks Eatery

Having really enjoyed his dishes at past food events, I have to say that Chef Will Horowitz’s dish of Crispy Pigs Ear with Smoked Pork Pâté, Fermented Chow-Chow, and Black Sesame Seeds all put together in a bib lettuce “wrap” was one of the more interesting dishes that I tried yesterday.  Creamy pâté and crunchy pigs ears paired with vinegary chow-chow all nestled in a crisp lettuce holder made this an intriguing combination.  After lots of sandwich bread, tortillas, and rolls, I was also very glad to see him serve a bread-less option.

2 - Bitter green -trio of saladsA Quartet of Salads

The Most KosherBittergreen

While there weren’t a lot of options for non-pork loving diners, as in past years the organizers had a special featured tent with a vegetarian plate.  Chef Tim Cavaretta created a selection of refreshing, hearty salads that many dinners dove into as a break from all of the meat dishes.  I really enjoyed the cool Watermelon and Radish Salad with Cilantro for its brightness and sharp, peppery snap.

4 - The Chocolate Life - Peach with Peach confit on a White Chocolate Bacon BiscuitBacon-fat Grilled Peach with Peach Confit on a White Chocolate Butterscotch Bacon Buttermilk Biscuit

The SweetestThe Chocolate Life

Didn’t think we’d be talking about desserts, here, did you?  Well, a few chefs decided to tap into their sweet tooths for this event.  Butter made Lardo-glazed Cinnamon Rolls with Bacon.  Davis Famous whipped up a batch of Bacon Brownies and served them with whipped cream and Candied Bacon.  The winner in this category went to Chef Clay Gordon who grilled his peaches in bacon fat, made a peach confit, and served it all up on fluffy, decadent biscuit with chocolate, butterscotch, buttermilk, and more bacon.  Sweet, meaty, bacon-y, chocolatey, fruity – what more do you want?

5 - Parish Hall - Sesame pig skin noodles w SausageSesame Pig Skin “Noodles” with Spicy Sausage, Scallion and Pickled Mushrooms

The Most InventiveParish Hall

I can’t argue that probably the most inventive dish of the day goes to the folks at Parish Hall, who decided to turn pig skin into noodles to serve it alongside their housemade sausage.  With invention sometimes goes risk, and unfortunately, this dish when I tried it was really gummy and unappealing.  I was so disappointed, as I’d really looked forward to trying this dish and to see how they’d pull off the concept.

3 - Ovelia - serving meatKontosouvli (Slow-roasted Rotisserie Pork)

The Best Hunk ‘o MeatOvelia

For most stripped-down presentation of the day, the award should also go to Ovelia, who chose to serve their dish simply from skewer to plate.  I really, really liked the flavors in the marinade and basting sauce; however, I felt, and at least one of the judge concurred with me on this, that the meat could have been much more tender; it was actually kind of on the tough side.  It was such as shame as it tasted fantastic.

7 - Joe Doe - burrito“White Guy Burrito” – Tip-to-tail Pork, Green Salsa, White Cheese

The Best “White Guy”Joe Doe
Before turning your nose up at this dish from Joe Doe as just another burrito, you should have been there to give it a try. Hunks, I mean hunks of juicy pork, were cradled in a thin white tortilla and loaded up with salsa and cheese plus an optional dollop of hot sauce. This was a hearty start to my food adventures for the day.

6 - Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ dishGinger Soy Pork with Bok Choi Slaw and Chick Pea Salad

The Best “Asian-ish”Fletcher’s Brooklyn BBQ

A few chefs took their pork dishes for a spin on the other side of the world, including the guys at Fletcher’s.  The ginger-soy pork had a deep full flavor balanced out by the crunchy slaw, which I really enjoyed.  I sort of thought that the dense potato bun didn’t do the combination any favors and could have seen it served on something much lighter with to highlight more of the Asian influence.

8 - Mosefund Farm - Pork n BeansSpice-rubbed Mangalitsa Pork Loin with Spicy Dominican Baked Beans

The Best Rare BreedMosefund Mangalitsa

Have you had a chance to try mangalitsa pork meat yet?  You should definitely treat yourself to some as soon as you can.  It’s tender, flavorful, moist, and just all-around delicious.  Chef Michael Clampffer and his team treated guest to a riff on pork-n-beans yesterday that was full of spice, hearty tastes along with a pop of contrast from the pickled onions, greens, and crushed tortilla chips.  If you want to pick up some of his meat, drop by New Amsterdam Market the next time they are in town on September 29.

9 - Pig Balloon for Pig IslandSee you next year!

As the food was finished and beverage cups were drained dry, everyone seemed to be having a good time, lounging around on the lawn listening to the live music.  Kids were running around doing cartwheels and couples were boogie-ing to the tunes.  I saw several chefs finally sitting down after hours of serving the hungry hoards, tossing back their beers and breaking down their stations.  It was then time to say good-bye to another very scrumptious Pig Island.

A big “thank you” to Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 and creator of Food Karma Projects for inviting me to participate in this event.  The food opinions stated here are my own and do not, unless otherwise specified, reflect those of the other judges.

Buon appetito!

Pig Island 2013 Pig Pick-up

1 - Pigs waiting to be picked up by chefsMike Yezzi of Flying Pigs Farm with the pigs

It’s T minus two days until Pig Island 2013!  Yesterday, participating chefs stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket to collect their pigs from Flying Pigs Farm.  Founder of the event, Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 coordinated the pick up and made sure that everyone had a chance to meet each other as well as to talk to a few of us writer-types to give us a bit of scoop on what’s in store for this weekend.

11 - Parish Hall - pigs loaded into carPigs loaded into the car

The energy in the air was bright with everyone eager for Saturday to come and to get the pigs in their possession so that they could start cooking.  The wholesale aspect of the Greenmarket also delivered pigs to several of the chefs who couldn’t get to the market to pick them up personally.  Here’s a few of the folks who dropped by:

7 - Tyson Ho, Zarela Martinez, Flying Pigs FarmTyson Ho with Zarela Martinez

Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine, known for his Carolina-style barbecues and pig roasts, is teaming up with Zarela Martinez, restauranteur, teacher, and cookbook author, to create a Mexican-themed whole pig dish.  They are a few of several chefs who are taking their pigs on a more south of the border spin.

2 - Hecho en Dumbo - Danny Mena & Jimmy Carbone & pigDanny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo with Jimmy Carbone

Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo revealed that he’ll be serving up a Yucatan dish featuring Rellenos e Negro on freshly-made tortillas.  The folks from Jimmy’s No. 43 will also be cooking up something with Latin flavors.

5 - Jesse Jones, Matt Fisher & Bill FletcherJesse Jones with Matt Fisher & Bill Fletcher of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue

Jesse Jones shared that he’s going to be fixing some pork shanks in puff pastry and then serving them with a sauce and sides that pay homage to his late grandmother, giving his dish a Southern U.S. angle.  Matt Fisher and Bill Fletcher of Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue are taking a more Asian route with their offering.

6 - Jimmy Carbone, George Weld, Evan HanczorJimmy Carbone with George Weld and Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall

Another Pig Island veteran chef team tapping into Asian flavors for this year’s event, are the folks at Parish Hall.  I got to eavesdrop a bit while they were talking to Mike Yezzi about getting their hands on some extra pig skin with which to make their crispy pork noodles.  I’m definitely getting on line on Saturday to give that dish a try.

8 - Ducks Eatery - Will Horowitz & his pigWill Horowitz of Ducks Eatery

I didn’t get a chance to find out from Chef Will Horowitze of Ducks Eatery what he’d be fixing for the day.  Given our conversation at the press preview for the event, I’m guessing he might be doing something involving some type of charcuterie.  From what his co-chef who came to the pig pick-up said, I guess a few ideas have been bandied about for what they are planning to make.

9 - St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance & Ben Schneider of The Good ForkSt. John Frizell of Fort Defiance & Ben Schneider of The Good Fork

Two chefs who are going to going to take their pig and prepare it a bit old-school are St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance and Ben Schneider of The Good Fork.  As Ben explained, they are going to dig a pit and cook it.  It’s a bit of an experiment, they revealed, but they are confident that their prior joint barbecuing experiences will produce successful results.

10 - The Darby-Butter - Chef Michael Jenkins picking up his pig

Michael Jenkins from The Darby/Butter picking up his pigs

One team keeping their dish under wraps until the big day is the group from The Darby/Butter.  These folks had one of my favorite nibbles at last year’s gathering, so I can’t wait to try what they come up with this time around.  They also served dessert, which is something their promised to do again this year.  The words lard, butter, and flour were tossed around, so you know they are going to be making something great!

3 - Tim Cavaretta of Bittergreen with vegetables for Pig IslandTim Cavaretta with Jimmy Carbone & Rachel Wharton

For the non-carnivores, Tim Cavaretta of Bittergreen, with whom I’ve worked on a few catering events, will be at the helm of the vegetarian offerings for the event.  He stopped by yesterday to pick up a pile of gorgeous seasonal produce from the stands and the market.  Here’s a peek at his shopping bag to see what might be on the plate.

4 - Pig Island posterA list of the chefs and participating restaurants

Some tickets are still available for this event, but they are going fast.  Tickets are all-inclusive of food and drink, of which there will be plenty, along with live music.

Buon appetito!

Pig Island Press Preview at East Village Meat Market

1 - East Village Meat Market shopfrontEast Village Meat Market

On Thursday evening, the press preview and pig butchering demo was held at the East Village Meat Market to highlight this year’s Pig Island gathering to be held on September 7 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The first time I’d ever been to the market was last year, when Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 invited me to watch the pig he was going to use for the event being divided up to set aside for cooking and brining. This year, several chefs and food writers and photographers got together as two master butchers divided up the two 100-pound pigs that had been donated by Ag Local, an organization that champions responsibly-raised meat.

3 - Sausages in the curing boxSausages curing

We were treated to a tour of the market, including a peek into their sausage curing cabinet. At the East Village Meat Market, they make all their cured meat products in-house each day. They also produce other older-world delicacies like head cheese (also in a chicken version, which I’d never seen before), jellied pigs’ feet, stuffed cabbage, white and red borscht, and homemade soups and other delicatessen-type products.

2 - Beer Sausage & Garlic SausageBeer Sausage & Garlic Sausage

For the press preview, we were fortunate to be able to sample some of their house-made meat products. There was a platter of their velvety-smooth City Ham (they brine and smoke the hams on premises and sell them bone-in and bone-out). We snacked on their hearty, robustly-meaty beer sausage (which Jimmy has on his menu) and their more delicately-fragrant garlic sausage. As delicious as the meat was, one of the highlights was that they served it alongside pots of their fiery-strong, nasal-passage-clearing house mustard.

4 - Extra Strong Mustard - housemadeHouse-made mustard (extra strong)

The real event of the evening was not just in the eating of these products, but also in the process of how the pigs are broken down to be used to make them. “These guys are the real deal,” said Jimmy, taking of Andrew, George, and Vasily, who were our hosts for the evening. They have been butchers for decades and have seen the neighborhood and the clientele change with the years. Now, they said they get large amounts of orders primarily during the Orthodox and Christian Christmas and Easter holidays, with families buying large amounts of their smoked meats for their tables. They do a steady business with the locals as well as with NYU students, as their prices are relatively reasonable and they carry homemade soups.

5 - Butchering tableA well-worn butcher’s table

The evening was a way to show respect for and to celebrate this craft that we all get to enjoy once those meats hit our palates. It was also a great kick-off to one of my favorite food events of the fall season – Pig Island. I can’t wait to see what the chefs bring with them this year, as they can create any dish they want to using the pigs supplied by local-area farms. Here’s the link to last year’s event recap, which will show you in all its porky glory why I like this gathering so much.

Tickets are available now to purchase for this event and get you all that you can eat plus beers from sponsors and Brooklyn brewers Sixpoint, who supplied the beer for the press preview. An early-bird ticket also nets you a digital copy of an e-book being produced about the history of Pig Island, produced by Jimmy Carbone and Rachel Wharton and photographed by John Taggart.

Buon appetito!

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.