If there's one lesson I learned at Meatopia this Saturday, it's that meat lovers do not mess around. And I'm not just talking about the mind-blowing array of succulent meat dishes prepared by the dozens of chefs who formed the infrastructure of Josh Ozersky's "City of Meat." I'm talking about the perseverance of the hundreds of ordinary people who stared down a post-apocalyptic storm with their collective determination to eat as much of that meat as their stomachs could handle (and then some).
We arrived on Randall's Island in the late afternoon via water taxi, greeted by a vast circle of tents arranged into neighborhoods with sardonic titles like Beaktown, Carcass Hill, and Offalwood (a personal favorite). A central stage hosted live music and a friendly competition for Whole Foods' "Best Butcher." The sun was shining, the grass was green, and Pat LaFrieda's 1,000-pound steer was sending billows of sweet, meaty smoke into the air. It was the perfect day for a feeding frenzy. Lines for star chefs like April Bloomfield, Michael White, and Tim Byres wrapped around the field, and picnic tables were packed with guests gleefully gorging themselves on slabs of brisket, pork jowls, and venison.
The clouds first appeared as little more than a distant shadow on the horizon, but in a matter of minutes, gusts of wind battered the tents and the storm loomed dark over the festival, poised for attack. When the rain turned torrential, I expected defeat to spread through the crowd. Instead, guests squeezed under tents and fashioned ponchos out of garbage bags. People threw back beers and launched cheers and laughter back at the storm. And though it all, the chefs kept cooking and we all kept eating.
Check out the slideshow to see a blow-by-blow of Meatopia 2012: the City of Meat.