The Best Bites at Pig Island 2019
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Last weekend, more than a thousand barbecue and food festival fans gathered in Red Hook, Brooklyn for Pig Island 2019, one of the last large barbecue events that will be held in NYC this year. This event featured more than 20 pitmasters and chefs, all serving sustainably raised pork from family farms in New York and South Carolina.
With partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 70s, the weather was perfect for the outdoor event. Even more pleasant than the weather was the food, with more than half of the dishes I tried being flavorful and well executed.
"I've been going to Pig Island every year since 2012 and this was the best year yet as far as the food is concerned," Adam Poch, lead judge for Pig Island, said. "The last few years some of the restaurants mailed it in but this year seemed like everyone was on their A-game. The food that was being presented was spectacular across the board, which made it hard for the judges."
The winner for Best In Show (aka the Josh Ozersky Memorial Award) went to Brooklyn's The Pig Guy (aka Thomas Perone) for his smoked chorizo sausage stuffed with provolone and topped with pickled shallots and a chimichurri mayo. The dish was inspired by Perone's Italian and Argentinian heritage.
"It felt great to win the competition, and to beat out the likes of Tank Jackson, Carl Ruiz, and Robert Cho is a big deal to me," Perone said.
Given how steep the competition was, The Pig Guy's win for Best In Show was a surprise. Perone has had personal and financial setbacks the past few years and was unable to compete at last year's Pig Island. He views his big day at Pig Island as a new chapter, and next up is opening a brick-and-mortar location that has more barbecue chops.
"I have a lot more to bring to the table," Perone said. "We are working on getting this thing to be perfect this time. The focus is to make a real barbecue company instead of serving things like bacon on a stick."
In the highly competitive category of Best Whole Hog, there were lots of contenders but Tank Jackson of Holy City Hogs and Ed Randolph of Handsome Devil BBQ took top honors. Jackson was distinct in that he is a hog farmer first and foremost, with his sustainably raised hogs being sought after by many top restaurants. He was the only contender at the event who raised the hog that he served at the event, showing off a direct connection between the farming and making of the food.
"We joking that Tank 'cheated' because his pigs are so delicious and are 40 percent fat and any true pork lover knows the flavor is in the fat," Poch said. "The pig was perfect. That was a judge's no brainer."
Additional awards that were handed out at Pig Island 2019 included:
Prime 6 Charcoal Pit Boss Boss (aka Best Charcoal Dish) — John Fuchs and Vinny Ferrante from the FDNY Red Hook Raiders — Slow braised ribs finished on the grill with homemade BBQ sauce.
The Ingenious Pig (aka Most Creative Dish) — Roxanne Spruance from History Channel's The Butcher — Vietnamese pork shoulder with cilantro, mint, and fish sauce.
You Look Mahvelous (aka Best Presentation) — Carl Ruiz and Mario Chape from La Cubana, New York — Puecro a ló Cubano: A whole rotisserie hog wrapped in bacon.
Bad to the Bone (aka Best Rib) — Rob Cho from Kimchi Smoke Barbecue, New Jersey — Smoked Memphis-style baby back ribs topped with Gochujang glaze, sesame seeds, and scallions.
Tacoriffic (aka Best Taco) — Billy Kooper from Route 66 Smokehouse, New York — "Gringo Taco" with Asian BBQ sauce, cucumber, coleslaw, and salsa verde in a hard shell.
Rookie of the Year (aka Best First Time Participant) — Matthew Worgul from Gentle Giant Barbecue, New York — Porchetta wrapped in house-cured bacon.
When Pigs Fly (aka Long Distance Award) — Phil Wingo from PorkMafia, Chicago — Whole hog with coleslaw.
Pig Impact Award (aka Making a Difference Through Food Award) — Mike Petrovitch from Que Chevere, New York —Puerto Rican style roast pork shoulder with rice and pigeon peas.
While they didn't win awards, I was also impressed by pulled-pork-and-grilled-pineapple tacos from Morgan's Brooklyn Barbecue, the pork-and-beef-blend burger from Hudson & Charles, the BBQ pigtail from Jase BBQ, and the apple-cider-brined half hog and buttermilk biscuits from chef Jesse Jones.
For drink options at Pig Island, there were many places to try beer, whiskey, bourbon, and scotch. Among those options, the single best item I had was the smoked Old Fashioned from Knob Creek. Funny enough, Knob Creek also was serving up tasty garlic sausage, with help from pitmaster Daniel Northcutt from Scholz Garten in Austin, Texas.
All in all, the event could not have turned out better with perfect weather and delicious food from some of the city's best chefs and pitmasters. Nearly every event participant and attendee I spoke to had a great time, and I already can't wait for Pig Island 2020.
Founder, NYC BBQ
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Popular food site The Infatuation has released an intriguing list of the 14 best barbecue joints in New York that includes all the names you know and a few you might not. Some of the restaurants on the list are rated from 1 to 10 and some are not, but their highest marks went to Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook and Blue Smoke in Flatiron.
Eater NY has an updated list out of 22 hidden gem private dining rooms in NYC and the list includes Hometown Bar-B-Que, which can be rented out for private events.
Pete Genevese, one of New Jersey’s best food writers, has compiled a list of the 33 best places to eat Taylor ham/pork roll sandwiches in the state. (For non-Jersey residents, North Jersey calls it Taylor ham, South Jersey calls it pork roll, and Central is split on the issue.) Genevese visited nearly 50 places and drove 1,383 miles in his search for the state's best THEC/PREC sandwiches.
While it might seem early, Thanksgiving is only a few months away and Hill Country BBQ is now taking reservations to dine-in on that day. Hill Country is one of a handful of barbecue restaurants in the country where you can spend Thanksgiving day with friends and family.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro and the Tri-State area:
September 13-14: The Coors Light Seaside Heights Country Music & BBQ Fest, will take place on September 13 and 14 with two days filled with country music, food trucks, award winning BBQ, crafts, beer trucks, and more. Performers include Julia Still, Dushane Band, Spensha Baker, and headliner Thompson Square. More info here.
September 14-15: The Country Rocks The Park Music and BBQ Fest will soon take place at Mill River Park in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. Over two days, Country Rocks The Park will feature the area’s top food trucks and vendors. Performers include Granger Smith featuring Earl Dibbles Jr., RAELYNN, Willie Jones, Alisan Porter, and more. More info here.
September 14-15: The first annual Bergen County Food & Wine Festival, benefitting The 200 Club of Bergen County, will be held at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in New Jersey. It will feature a Burger Bash with 30 vendors on Saturday and a Tasting Village with 70 vendors on Sunday. More info here.
September 15: If you love burgers, don’t miss the 9th Annual Philadelphia Burger Brawl. Taking place in Philly on Sunday, Sept. 15, the event will feature 60 Philadelphia region restaurants battling for burger bragging rights. Tickets start at $45. Proceeds go to The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia to support hardware needs to implement math and reading literacy programs in underserved elementary schools. More info here.
September 20-21: The Greenwich Wine and Food Festival 2019 will take place September 20 and 21 in Greenwich, Connecticut, offering a grand tasting with more than 150 restaurants; a bartender showdown, lawn games, and live music from acts like Little Big Town. More info here.
September 20-22: The Oinktoberfest 2019 event in Clarence, New York (outside of Buffalo) is the longest continuously running barbecue competition and festival in New York State. It attracts many competition teams and also features music and food for families who want to hang out. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is $8/person. More info here.
September 21: The 15th Annual (And Final) Vendy Awards, a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, will take place on Governors Island. This will be the final Vendy Awards ever. During the event, 25 of NYC's best street vendors will go head-to-head and compete for the ultimate prize — The Vendy Cup. More info here.
September 22: The Dining For Justice Pig Roast at Anable Basin in Long Island City, Queens will feature an awesome roasted pig and more from Don Rodrigo Duarte, acclaimed butcher at Caseiro e Bom and New Jersey’s “King of Hams.” Side dishes will be provided by Chefs Consortium and Betty Bakery will be serving desserts. The event will be held at Anable Basin in Long Island City, Queens. Profits from this event go directly to Immigrant Families Together, a network of Americans committed to the unification of families separated by the zero tolerance policy at the U.S./Mexico border. Buy tickets here.
October 5-6: The Infatuation’s food festival, EEEEEATSCON, is returning to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens – and this year, it’s two days. On October 5th and 6th, they’ll be bringing together top-rated NYC restaurants like Crown Shy, Tokyo Record Bar, Di An Di, and Mama’s Too. There will also be non-NYC food vendors like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken from Nashville, Sanguich De Miami, and Bite into Maine. More info here.
October 12: The New York City Wine and Food Festival’s ultimate BBQ event returns on Saturday, October 12, and this year it’s called Titans of BBQ. It will be hosted by Italian butcher Dario Cecchini, meat master Pat LaFrieda, and Food Network host Michael Symon. More than 20 chefs and pitmasters from NYC and around the country will be there serving up incredible bites. The ticket prices are steep but the food and drinks will be top-notch. More info here.
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