25 Chefs, 80 Hogs: Scenes from the Fourth Annual Pig Island
The Fourth Annual Pig Island took place in Red Hook this past Saturday and the event saw a large, jubilant crowd enjoy all manner of smoked and braised pork under perfect blue skies. The event struck an excellent balance between crowds and vendors to serve them, and even the longest lines didn't see more than a 10 minute wait.
This year, 25 New York area chefs participated, cooking up 80 locally sourced hogs for the hungry mass. Remarkably there was very little in the way of traditional American barbecue, with only Fort Reno serving up straightforward pulled pork "sliders" with house made slaw and pickled vegetables. But other smoke joints mixed things up—Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ for example served a "slider" but stuffed it with ginger- and soy-rubbed pork along with a chickpea salad. Pitmaster Doug Keiles (Ribs Within) teamed up with Jesse Jones and served up a pulled pork strudel with Carolina Slaw and sweet hannah sauce. Burritos, tacos and bowls of rice were as common as regular sandwich buns, but George Weld and Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall completely replaced the carbs with pork serving up a spicy Sausage over pig skin "noodles"—tender shredded pig skin.
The cooking methods varied as much as the dishes. Peter Giannakas of Ovelia cooked his pork over a coal-fired rotisserie. Next door, Jonathan White and the crew at Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse used a La Caja China roasting box to cook a whole hog. While Hecho en Dumbo grilled their pork meatballs (later to be served in tacos) directly over coals, Butter used sheet pans placed over the coals as a make-shift griddle to cook the patties for their homage to the McMuffin. Perhaps the most unique preparation was the collaboration between Red Hook favorites Fort Defiance and The Good Fork, who wrapped their whole hog in seaweed.
Kudos to the event organizers and the chefs involved—the lines where reasonable, there seemed to be more than enough food (although one vendor ran out of plates rather early on) and enough variety to make the event enjoyable for all. Take a look at the slideshow for highlights from the day.
About the author: Nick Solares is a NYC-based food writer and photographer. He has published Beef Aficionado since 2007, with the stated purpose of exploring American exceptionalism through the consumption of hamburgers and steak. He has written over 350 restaurant reviews for Serious Eats since 2008 and served as the creative director for the award-winning iPad app Pat LaFrieda's Big App for Meat. You can follow him on Instagram (@nicksolares) and Twitter (@beefaficionado).