Writing here has its perks. So it was last weekend when The Feisty Foodie tapped me to represent at this year’s Meatopia, a celebration of carnivorous gluttony with an eye toward locally-sourced, organic meats. TT went last year, so I took one for the Feisty Team this year. Actually I took a lot of photos, so this is one long post of meaty indulgence!
Held on the not-yet-opened Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, the wide expanse of concrete helped space out the booths and limit the lines. If only it wasn’t so hot and humid! But no matter, I forged ahead, armed with a press pass and unlimited non-alcoholic hydration. Naturally I couldn’t really hit every single stand without dying, but I made it to most of my must-try choices before tapping out.
Going beyond the typical parts used in a meatfest, Meatopia also showcases head-to-tail use of the animal, so this was a perfect venue to sample the wares of over three dozen chefs and restaurants, both local and countrywide, and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Once inside the venue, why not stop at the first stand? The Meatball Shop served up lamb Sloppy Joes, slider-sized hard-to-eat sandwiches. While it retained all its Sloppy Joeness, the fact it was lamb was lost among the tomatoes and spices, though it was of course very tasty.
Next door, Edi and the Wolf had prepared Crispy “Mangalitsa” Pig’s Head Torchon, with green beans and horseradish. Parts generally not used, deep-fried to a savory goodness. My kind of place!
Bar Basque had many different pork parts for consumption. Here one of the chefs preps the Pig Head Terrine with Rick’s spicy relish.
Doesn’t that look disgustingly rich and fatty? Don’t worry, it was. Definitely a small bite, as a larger one would have been too much.
The Pig Trotter Croqueta, dressed with sriracha mayo, fared well also, combining a little heat with so much offal-y goodness.
Early on I knew I wouldn’t eat everything, but the Roasted Pork Bun was on my short list if I made it through alive. The meat looked so tender and tasty!
But it was on to Amanda Freitag and the only chicken dish I really wanted to save room for. Her Jamaican Jerked Chicken smelled amazing, cooking on the grill in her space; you can see the bottle of “juice” she reserved from the first pan of chicken she served.
Yes, that “juice” was used to douse the servings, on a dense, hard chunk of “New York cornbread” and dressed with a single grilled green onion. So spicy, but the chicken stayed moist even without the extra fat and was surprisingly easy to devour.
Across the way the Pat LaFrieda cow lay smoldering, just teasing early arrivals with the promise of meat.
Each booth’s sign let us know the source of the animal used at that booth, with many, like Osteria Morini, sourcing from a local farm through Whole Foods. Michael White stood guard at his booth, churning out his Meatopia dish.
Okay, his assistants churned them out. Still, their work was not for naught…
Spit-Roasted Hampshire Porchetta with Sage, Rosemary and Lemon. A good portion of pork, well-spiced, though the “shell” was a bit much for the meaty goodness inside. As was typical, I ate the innards while eating as little of the bread as necessary. (Forks are a must at Meatopia.)
Besides Fiji water stands, a couple of entrepreneurs set up shop. Honeydrop, distributed by Whole Foods (though nationwide even without their help), offered three flavors of juices sweetened only with honey: green tea, lemon tea, and this, the blood orange drink. Very refreshing and not too sweet, the drinks were a big hit on the day.
Floyd Cardoz’s North End Grill served up Roast Baby Goat. My closeups failed me, but the simply-dressed meat, rather salty and a little chewy, retained very little of what some call gameyness. It was served cool, too, which I think helped.
My first out of town stand on the day came from Portland, Oregon. The Country Cat Dinner House and Bar — great name, by the way — serves scrapple every day at the restaurant, and I indulged as well, as it was stuffed into Crispy Pig Head and served on a hunk of biscuit with “Oregon Chow Chow”.
That’s a lot of words to describe what could be a perfect hangover food. Pig, pig parts, a little vinegary kick, and a fluffy biscuit. Heaven.
Mike Price and Market Table served up nose-to-tail Ground Veal Hoagies with Pickled Peppers.
While the pickled vegetables didn’t much register, the ground veal, piled atop thin slices of what I think was tongue, was a messy revelation. Loved this, and almost got a second. This was also one of the few places where the bread was a worthwhile part of the dish.
The Hurricane Club set up festively, to serve its Grilled Duck Magret with Green Papaya, Roasted Peanuts and Pickled Onions.
The roti was really just a way to contain what amounted to a duck taco; the use of pickled onions worked here — lots of booths were using pickled something on the day, with varying degrees of success. Additionally, the chewy duck was so spicy even I was reaching for water while eating, though it was a flavorful spiciness and not just heat.
Julia Jaksic of Employees Only created Grilled Cevapi (Croatian sausage), flavored with kajmak, onions, and tomatoes. The sausage had that telltale Eastern European spice that I taste in every restaurant specializing in E. Euro fare; at any rate, the sausage wasn’t as dry as it appeared in photos, though it was rather crumbly, and the sauce complemented it well.
I’m not sure it’s legal to hold a meat-fest without April Bloomfield and The Breslin, so she dutifully appeared, dressing her Barbecued Whole Mulefoot Hog for our consumption.
Each slider was accompanied by a mini pork stew which seemed to leach all the bean flavor from the beans into the liquid, so I didn’t have to eat beans. Delicious!
But of course not nearly as delicious as the pork itself, topped with slaw and sauce, soaking the bread… yeah, this wasn’t exactly going out on a limb recipe-wise, but the taste’s the thing, and this had the taste.
I think I’d earned a break at this point, so I walked under the shady, shady tent to watch the finals of Whole Foods’ nationwide butchering contest, where their best butchers were graded on quality and saleability of cuts produced from a lamb… shank? I forget what the whole cut was called. Anyhow, mirrors, of course, were helpfully provided for the audience’s enjoyment.
But too soon I was back at it, this time seeking out Sean Brock (HUSK) and Rodney Scott (Scott’s BBQ) of Charleston and their whole hog.
This beautiful, simple dish? The simply-named Carolina Whole Ossabaw Hog BBQ with Field Pea and Ramp Chow Chow, Cooked over Wood Embers and Pig Bone Charcoal. Yup, barbecue and slightly-pickled vegetables, on a slab of white bread. And so wonderful.
I was nearing capacity by this point, and the lines at Pat LaFrieda had gone down, as had the amount of cow on the grill. Okay, more specifically, he, a Black Angus Donley steer, who’d been whole-roasted and made into lots of little beef sliders all day.
Each slider was then graced with a healthy dollop of horseradish to make for a tidy little slider. It wasn’t the best meat I had on the day, but it did come from a whole animal, so it earned its cool points.
I took this for Yvo. I knew at this point I was down to my last couple of tastes, and I couldn’t bring myself to get his Baohaus “Doomtopia” stew with one of them.
My only real misstep was not finding Michael Psilakis and Kefi sooner. I know my tolerance level for offal, and while this was a pure showcasing of lamb parts in his Greek Lamb Offal Mixed Grill, at this point it was too metallic and grainy to really judge properly.
Filled to capacity, I soldiered to one last stand, the other Portlandian in the bunch. As you can see from the sign, the description looks mighty promising.
And it delivered! The sour cherry glaze shone through and cut the grease on what amounted to one of the best pot roasts — I’d expected something different texturally — I’ve had occasion to eat.
I stumbled out after two-plus hours completely stuffed to the hilt. And I’d only barely made a dent in the offerings, lamenting the number of places I wanted to try but never managed to get to. Some, like RUB and Chipotle (yes, them) had lines all day; others were in the VIP-only section; and still others just fell by the wayside. It’s just too much to handle in the portion sizes offered.
Would I recommend Meatopia? Of course, with caveats. It’s an unparalleled gathering of chefs and personalities in one informal space where everyone’s on the same page: celebrating meat. But paying for admission? If money is no object and meeting lots of passionate chefs and talking to them about their dishes has no price tag, then step right up. I’d have been wary of the timeframe, weather-wise — though it did start at 5:30 for the cheapest tickets — and $85 for unlimited meat and non-alcoholic beverages, plus the talks and demonstrations? That’s kind of pricey. Add in Amstel Light and a few special booths (plus a T-shirt), and an extra hour of sampling for $130, and we’re talking serious cash. The format is much improved from last year’s “six tastes” limit, that’s for certain. And Whole Foods can be counted on to bring in top names, even in sweltering heat. It’s a wonderful event and will be memorable, if you want to afford it.
Please note that my attendance at Meatopia was courtesy of the sponsors and their PR. I received no monetary compensation for this review, nor was I obliged in any way to post about this experience, positively or otherwise. This is my own opinion of Meatopia and I feel it was unbiased; you are free to take from this what you will.