Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pig Island 2014

Let's raise a toast to Pig Island 2014 and to Veritasty's 3rd birthday!

Thank you to Food Karma and Jimmy Carbone for hosting us and hundreds of other pork enthusiasts!  I'm still in a semi-food coma after last week's brilliant Pig Island at Erie Basin Park in Red Hook.  It was extraordinarily hot and humid yesterday, and my skin is almost as blistered as some of those pigs that were served, but it was worth it!

This was the second year that Pig Island was at Erie Basin Park right next to the Brooklyn IKEA, so perhaps we'll work on rebranding it Pig Park.

We were greeted by dessert first: Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies.  These cute mini-pies were served in daan taat tins on colorful trays.  The creamy lime custard sat on top of a crumbly graham cracker crust that was just the right texture and consistency to scoop up with the little folding spoons they gave us.  It was the perfect bookend to my lunch at Pig Island, since I had another on my way out.  Our next step is to discover the famous "Swingle": a mini key lime pie covered in dark chocolate, frozen, and impaled with a popsicle stick.  Mmm.


Next was the "Red Hook Hamchetta" by Fleisher's (Isn't Fleisher a Jewish surname??).  A play on the Roman roasted pork porchetta, the Hamchetta had huge chunks of ham, honey dijon mustard, and a slightly funky cheese on ciabattina bread.  The ham/pork meat was incredibly tender and juicy, probably the most succulent piece of straight-up pork I had all day.

The next group, Revolving Dansk - purveyors of Danish street food - had a mini hot dog and a pulled pork crostini.  The pulled pork was accompanied by a spicy barbecue sauce and topped with a sour pickled slaw.  However, I have to say the grillpøser hot dog was my Favorite Dish of the Day!  The hot dog had a remoulade sauce, fried onions, raw onions, and sweet pickles on top.  My first bite had the incredible (like literally, unbelievable) sound effect of a sharp snap as I bit into the casing.  Love.  The hot dog flavor was also beyond anything I've ever tasted: the same texture as standard American hot dogs, but with sweet and savory intermingling, probably of spices popular in Denmark.  The toppings were along the same idea of America hot dog toppings (something tangy, something with a kick), but the remoulade coated the mouth with its creamy sweetness.  Delicious.


I floated on my Scandinavian hot dog high over to Randall's Barbecue, who dished up a yummy smoked pulled pork slider with vinegar slaw.  It was a solid pulled pork sandwich, one I'd be happy to munch on all the time.

At Fairway's table, they were cutting up something that look like a very mushy loaf of bread and possibly a pork sausage. What could it have been?!  Turns out it was a sort of pork wellington!  A pastry dough encased chopped pork meat.  It was a little weird to look at, but quite good!  I think Gordon Ramsay could help with making pork wellingtons more mainstream.






Then, at Ends Meat (haha!) we had little fried corn fritters stuffed with pork (very inventive!) and two types of sausage.  They topped the corn fritter with a whole grain mustard like nothing I've seen before: the grains of mustard looked like yellow fish eggs and were in such high concentration that it was like all seeds and no "mustard" that I'm used to, the yellow saucy stuff.  It was also not as spicy as I thought a whole grain mustard would be.  Rather, the seeds just popped in my mouth like little caviar.  How curious!

One of my favorites from last year returned: Neuman's Kitchen (another Jew ditching kashrut?).  They made a roasted pork belly with a corn-and-razor-clam-salad topped with crispy pig ears.  Where else can I get pig ears like this?! Please tell me I don't have to go another year before having pig ears!

The pork belly was juicy and tender, and although I'm used to having the skin in Chinese pork belly dishes, the skin on this pig was a little chewy.  No matter, the corn and clam salad on the side was a nice mellow component to balance out the fattiness.  I downed every last sliver of fried pig ear.  The slivers of pig ear are basically one very thin piece of ear cartilage with a little flesh on either side. Looks like hell, tastes like heaven.  So crunchy, so smoky.

Jimmy's No. 43, the restaurant of host Jimmy Carbone, served a couple of little amuse bouches that were fantastic.  Alex raved about the roasted plantains covered in chocolate.  Alex's brother, who joined as a co-photographer, was a fan of the fresh corn embedded in their corn bread.  Then, we had Jimmy's main dish, a Cochinita Pibil (Mexican slow-roasted pork) chopped up on a homemade tortilla and laden with hot sauce.  At all of these outdoor food events we've been to, the homemade tortillas really make a difference: a little hefty, a little gritty, but much more flavorful.

Short intermission while I got a screen-printed T-shirt!



Joe & Misses Doe served a mini pork cemita with queso fresco, tomatillo sauce, and a pickled cabbage slaw.  I was intrigued by the sesame seed bun, which I thought would be a little out of place when not sandwiching a hamburger, but the cemita was very good and the ingredients all contrasted very well: the saltiness of the pork with the creaminess of the crumbled cheese and then the sour/bitterness of the cabbage to cut through the fat.

Next, at Butter, we had a tasty chorizo taco with a diced watermelon salad.  However, every year Butter is responsible for a delicious dessert dish and they did not disappoint! Behold, the banana bread mini cupcakes with praline and candied bacon caramel on top.  My eyes lit up as a tossed back this cupcake in one mouthful.  The banana bread was moist while the candied bacon gave a little salty crunchy contrast.  I kowtowed to the chefs of Butter.  Side note: their staff had the best T-shirts:










The last thing that I ate came from the Hecho en Dumbo table, though it was not so much their main dish as their garnish. Alex somehow finagled the server to rip off a huge hunk of chicharron...fried pork skin.  I guess you could call it a love-hate relationship between me and chicharrones.  It tastes super porky and has that airy crunchy texture that I love in my shrimp chips, for example.  Others may be turned off by the pork funk and the fact that its texture resembles cardboard.  Not me though.  The only downside is that...it's literally a chunk of pork fat, and after three little nibbles, I couldn't do it anymore.  Much heavy!  So calories!  I regret not having a Tupperware to bring it home and save it for later.

And thus concludes our foodventures at 2014's Pig Island.  We had a marvelous time, and somehow we worked it out that this year I didn't emerge from this ready to give up pork.  In fact, I am coming to appreciate this meat more and look forward to tasting even more of its unique preparations.


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