Yesterday at Meatopia 2011, was literally the hottest event I’ve ever attended. Temperatures in New York City was in the high 90s, feeling like 100 and being surrounded with the attendees and have burning coals and smokers nearby to make you feel even hotter. (I even witnessed a chef taking half a bag of ice and placed it on his head for 30 seconds for relief.) Thank goodness for the unlimited supply of cold bottled Fiji water and Honeydrop iced teas to cool you down, and Capogiro gelato set up two carts. Otherwise, most of us who aren’t VIPs eating in tents, were out waiting in line and eating in the scorching sun.
If you discount the heat, this event was meat-filled fun, focusing on utilizing the whole animal. Almost 50 chefs and restaurants came out to participate in the smoked meat affair. While most chefs are NYC-based, there were a few notable chefs who are from South Carolina, Oregon, Florida, and California. So, here were my favorite dishes of the event…
My favorite dish of the evening was from Chefs Sean Brock of HUSK Restaurant and Rodney Scott of Scott’s BBQ: a Carolina Whole Ossabaw Hog BBQ with field pea and ramp chow chow, cooked over wood embers and pig-bone charcoal. The soft, subtly sweet slice of potato bread worked with the succulent sweetness of the smoked hog and the faint onion and sweet corn of the chow chow. The best present was when Rodney Scott came down from his huge grill and handed me a large piece of pork skin. This is my equivalent of pig candy. Sweet, crisp and slightly chewy – this was awesome. This team managed to blow away the judges and won Best in Show later that evening. Congratulations!
(Side note: the colorful character/farmer of EcoFriendly Foods, Bev Eggleston (seen here) was comedy relief from the intense cooking that Chefs Brock and Scott endured and for the eaters at the event. Eggleston also let me take a swig of their potent “Shine”, almost clandestinely packaged in water bottles. After that sip all you can think is Good morning!)
Other non-New Yorkers blown me away with their ‘cue: Chef Naomi Pomeroy of the BEAST Restaurant from Portland, Oregon with braised beef cheeks with sour cherry glaze and rustic summer herb salad was insanely tender. The beef cheek was insanely tender that there’s little effort to pry apart the large chunk of beef with a plastic fork. The sour cherry glaze added some needed acid and the herb salad added some lightness to the dish.
Coming back to my home turf, Chef Robert Newton of Seersucker cooked a pretty darn awesome bacon and sorghum-glazed quail with watermelon-sweet corn salad. The quail was very moist and subtly sweet and smoky from the bacon and sorghum. The watermelon-corn salad was my favorite side dish that I don’t mind recreating this at home and eat it all summer long. It’s sweet, refreshing and it screams summer.
You might recall me going rhapsodic of my dinner in the fall of Chef Brad Farmerie at Public. He was there cranking out black pudding waffles with red wine poached pear. Chef Farmerie’s talents with pig’s blood and a knack for making it sweet-savory (a prime example is his legendary pig’s blood popsicle). The waffles were no different. When you bite into the crisp, fluffy waffle you don’t think “black pudding” it tastes like a delicious waffle with some slight mineral undertones from the blood. Poached red wine pear was a great addition to the waffle to play with the sweetness and the wine continued that mineral undertone.
When I walked up to Chefs Michael White and Bill Dorrler of Osteria Morini I was salivating over the spit roasted Hampshire porchetta. Look at that perfect, gorgeous, deep golden brown pork skin enveloping the herb and lemon, rolled up pork. The sandwich itself was stuffed with the thinly sliced porchetta and fresh arugula. The problem was, the bread was dry and in dire need of sauce or even the rendered pork fat drippings from the porchettas would suffice. Beyond that issue, the flavors were wonderfully robust of pork and lemon.
For desserts to cool you down, I really loved Capogiro’s peach bourbon and cucumber vodka sorbets. They’re not too sweet, refreshing, and the touch of booze in both sorbets made it really nice. If it weren’t for the hot weather, making most of the event goers lining up the two carts, I would have made additional rounds.
As for another option was Bar Basque‘s dessert offering, bacon ice cream with chicharrón. Similar scenario to Capogiro, they were in the weeds as at least a dozen people at a time were waiting for the team to serve up the cones but they had only one ice cream scooper and the dry ice froze their ice cream rock hard. As for the taste, this was a pretty good version of bacon ice cream though I think the candied, chopped bacon bits sprinkled on top were the real carriers of the smoky, sweet bacon flavor.
Overall, Meatopia will definitely leave you feeling extremely full that you want to take a siesta or hit a food coma. When you’re heading home all you can think of eating this week is nothing but salad and fruit.
Brooklyn Piers, Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park