Blog: Pig Island 2012
Once again, the red carpet was rolled out for one of our favorite four legged friends with a big snout. Yes folks we’re talking about hogs. These majestic beasts were the guest of honor yet again for the 2012 “Pig Island.” It should be no surprise to anyone that Pig Island is one of the LocalBozo.com crew’s favorite annual events. Where else can you head to an actual island that is filled with pork prepared numerous ways by some of the city’s best chefs and pit masters. So like every year we gathered the troops bright and early, boarded the ferry to Governor’s Island and celebrated the salty and savory animal we love so much- by eating it.
As with all day-long eating events, one needs to pace themselves in order to get the most out of the day, and of course make it to the very end. This seemingly easy task sounds basic in theory, but as soon as we passed through the entrance gates and smelled that first piece of expertly prepared pork, it was officially on. Before digging into the vast selection of meats it was priority for us first to wet our whistles. Luckily Brooklyn’s own Sixpoint Brewery was on dry land to dole out suds all day long providing a great balance to all of the smoked pig tastings. Ticket holders had the choice of Crisp, Sweet Action, Bengali Tiger IPA, and Signal IPA, for a plethora of tasty gulps.
Each of the brews on their own seriously hit the spot, but when combined with a cornucopia of pig you had a real winner there. And speaking of beer and pig combinations, one of the first food offerings we sampled was an outstanding sweet and salty combination. The Heritage thick cut bacon was sliced and dipped into a dark chocolate fondu that infused bacon fat with Sixpoint’s Signal. The dish came to us from the great people at Heritage Radio Network. The bacon used reminded us of the thick cut varieties we might find at many of the city’s high end steak houses. The chocolate fondu was sweet as it should be, but also presented the bitter notes of the Signal IPA and salt from the bacon fat. This sampling was such a huge winner that the line wrapped around the venue for most of the day. Williamsburg’s Betto showed up for Pig Island with a porchetta and bean plate that was much more than meets the eye. First off, the side of beans was more like a salad offering fresh minced veggies, rosemary, and hints of refreshing lemon zest. The slow roasted heritage porchetta offerings were generous yielding a great mixture of meat, skin, and of course the beloved fat. We were so into the crispy skin and delightfully fatty pieces that the kind chef allowed us to try just that. Needless to say, we found ourselves was in hog heaven.
I know we are taught to never play with our food, but it is of the utmost importance to play with the way it is prepared. Avenue C’s Edi and the Wolf came to the island serving pork belly, which is bacon before bacon. Pork belly is bacon in its purest form since it is uncured. The chef took each of the perfectly grilled fatty pieces and placed them on a bed combining arugula, peaches, and rye bread vinegar providing a real back to nature approach. Next, Waterfront Ale House came with an inventive head cheese pork terrine topped with mustard and sauteed onions on black bread. This dish would impress any European who grew up eating dishes like country pates. Finally, popular sandwich mavens, Joe Dough hit the festival with not only a branding iron to place the word, “Joe” on some of the pigs heads, but they choose to serve the animal a few different ways. Our favorite was a broth containing a cooked down portion of heart and other sections which are immensely popular with the “snout to tail” movement. During Saturday’s very hot weather we were surprised to enjoy a soup this much.
Although there were tons of joints throughout the grounds doing tasty innovative pig dishes as seen with the fantastic selections listed previously, sometimes it’s important not stray too far from the roots of it all. Harlem’s Dinosaur BBQ came with a classic “Pulled Pork Sandwich” so pure and satisfying it deserves top billing. The pork coming directly from the pig laid out tableside was served on a soft sweet bun, and loaded with their signature thick BBQ sauce. One the side (or on the sandwich, your choice) came a sweet and sour vinegar based slaw loaded with crunchy vegetables. This sandwich alone is reason enough to take the train to Harlem any day of the week.
Families, friends, and foodies all know what’s up. 2012′s sold out Pig Island blew us away, taking the pork game up a notch. It was fantastic to see new restaurants and classic joints all in one location serving up some of the best reasons why we love pork so much. And in the end it was a great way to spend one of the last remaining days of summer with a great group of people just looking for a fun yet decadent time.
- Jay Rubin