The clouds strode up menacingly over the Manhattan skyline. I had just arrived with my son and my brother a half hour after the main doors opened. I drove down from Saratoga with my son after having attended the Saratoga Fall Wine, Food, Ferrari and Fashion Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center earlier in the day. I was hoping that the rains would hold off for just a few more hours. Instead, they held off for about a half hour, then the sky opened up. Somehow, despite being out in the open, we didn’t get soaked to the bone. The rain came heavily, but it didn’t last. It sputtered here and there and dampened everything, but never extinguished the fires or the spirits of everyone at the 2012 Meatopia on Randall’s Island.The worst part of the rain for me was that it forced my camera to stay in my bag at some inopportune times. It limited my photos of Sean Brock and the rest of the crew from The Fatback Collective and caused me to miss photos of Aaron Franklin and his incredible Austin, Texas beef brisket and Zachary Pelaccio and his whole roasted ducks amongst others. As wonderful as the food was (it was fantastic!), these events tend to be great social occasions. I got to say hello to friends like Steve Plotnicki of Opinionated About, the phenomenal Men Who Dine, Paesano extraordinaire Peter Francis Battaglia of A Food Obsession, Tina Wong of The Wandering Eater and occasional Docsconz contributor, Sara Gardener, not to mention all the incredible men and women behind the grills. A few personal favorites included the aforementioned brisket from Aaron Franklin (the most moist and delicious brisket I have ever eaten) and the Flintstonian “Charred and Scruffed” short ribs from Adam Perry Lang (same as the brisket). Neither cut is something I typically seek out. I find most iterations to be ordinary, but these showed me how wonderful these cuts can be in the right hands. Pork tends to be well represented at meat centric events and this was no exception with many standouts including everything from Sean Brock, Rodney Scott, Donald Link and the rest of the South’s The Fatback Collective; Thai inflected hog collar all the way from Los Angeles via Kris Yenbamroong; Anthony Goncalves’ Paella Portuguesa (which I almost missed) with Pork Belly and April Bloomfield’s Kansas City style whole hog pulled pork amongst others. Birds may not have ruled the roost here, but they were still high in the pecking order, especially with such tasty examples as Hemant Mathur’s Tandoori chicken with creamy pistachio, fennel and cinnamon sauce and Zach Pellacio’s Spit Roasted Duck with Lady Jayne’s Cured Citrus amongst others. Pat LaFrieda’s Whole 1000 Pound marinated Creekstone steer was a true feat of culinary engineering, putting out perfectly cooked and delicious roasted beef. Offal had its role too. Andy Little brought his wonderful Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple. With the rains, much was ruined and they had to go back to square one to make more, but they pulled through and I was happy they did. Takashi Inoue showed the potential of a variety of beef parts grilling heart, nakaochi kalbi (the parts between ribs), tongue and belly with various Japanese inflected marinades and sauces. Jonathon Sawyer’s “Brains and Bread” challenged, but rewarded those who accepted it. He made lamb brains scrambled with eggs and crisp sweetbreads.
Because of rain, time and limited stomach capacity, I missed too many stands I would have wanted to try, but I managed to find space for Jeri’s Splendid Ice Creams, who came all the way from Columbus, Ohio. The word “splendid” is not hyperbole. These were wonderful ice creams. They only came in two flavors – the very meat friendly “Yazoo Sue with rosemary, nuts and cayenne ice cream and the refreshing Rainbow Yogurt (lemon, passion fruit and raspberry). This was the perfect way to end what turned out to be a wonderfully fun and delicious evening.
For more of my photos from Meatopia, please see my Flick’r set.