New York City might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of the sustainable meat industry, but this week the Big Apple is playing host to Meat Week, a series of culinary and educational events aimed at celebrating the chefs, farmers, and markets that are growing that concept into something beyond a niche idea.
Jimmy Carbone, the event’s organizer, said at Monday night’s kick-off event, “Meat with a Twist,” that his goal is to spread awareness about what he calls the city’s “pulsing” local and sustainable meat movement. "It’s about creating conversation around the many facets of the budding industry,” said Carbone, who is the chef and owner of the Lower East Side’s Jimmy’s No. 43 as well as the founder of Food Karma Projects. “Should meat be labeled 'organic' or 'pasture-raised’? What exactly is sustainable meat? Should we support small farmers? Or local? Or regional?"
At Meat With a Twist, local drinks -- beer from Wandering Star Brewery, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for example, and Peace Vodka from New York’s Catskill Distilling Company -- were paired with dishes like Corey Cova’s beef tartar with caviar-like pickled mustard seeds and avocado poised on a waffle fry. Michael Ferraro, the chef of Delicatessen, presented a country-style pork terrine with a local apple-cider chutney. And Matteo Boglione, of Tribeca’s White and Church, pleased the crowd with a polenta and braised-buffalo-short-rib crostini.
A few feet away, Jessica Wilson, a New York–based “gatherer, grower, creator, and chef,” had set out a series of dishes centered around goat meat, including her signature goat’s-liver crostini topped with braised kale. "Goat is something that doesn't get used very much," said Wilson, who gets hers from Daniel Honig, the director of special products at Brooklyn’s Heritage Foods. (Honig sources the goat from three small farms in Vermont, New York State, and Maine.) The busy distributor -- his goat is currently sold out -- sells meat from 50 domestic farmers who’ve been chosen for their humane growing and slaughtering practices and their stewardship of the land. In one of the evening’s most memorable tastings, Nate Smith, chef at the Williamsburg hotspot AllsWell, fused the colonial and the colonized in a curry potpie made with free-range chicken sourced from farmer Nick Westervelt of TBA sustainable farm in Lisle, New York.
Making their way from booth to booth, the attendant foodies had the opportunity not just to sample creative takes on all manner of local meat but to join a meat-focused CSA (community-supported agriculture program) on the spot, in hopes, perhaps, of re-creating their favorite dishes back home.
Toward the end of the evening, WNYC radio host Leonard Lopate presented the sustainable meat honors to winners Chip Allermann, chairman of the board of Glynwood Farm, a 250-acre sustainable farm in the Hudson Valley; Dan O'Brien, the owner of South Dakota’s Wild Idea Buffalo Company; and Heritage Foods’s Honig (who half-jokingly cautioned the crowd against eating mass-produced turkey marinated in its own excrement this Thanksgiving).
Having done considerable reporting on the topic of meat production -- from its horrors to its saving graces -- said Lopate, he’d recently decided to "practice what he preached.” He is now dedicated to promoting sustainable and humanely raised meat. It’s industrial-scale production of the stuff, he added, that has made meat “a dirty word.”
The evening’s array of carnivorous delights should help drive the demand for local, humanely produced meat -- thereby ensuring the livelihoods of those who produce it -- but Meat Week isn’t just about good eating. Earlier in the day, a panel had considered the challenges of bringing New York state-raised meat to city restaurants and consumers, touching upon topics from animal husbandry and flavor to regulations and economics. And events still to come include a sausage-making class at the Brooklyn Kitchen, a cooking demonstration highlighting meat and produce from the Union Square Greenmarket, a kielbasa and sauerkraut tasting at the East Village Meat Market, a livestock tour of Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, and a screening of the film Green Beef: A Story of Grass Fed Beef, to be followed by a grass-fed-burger tasting.
”The folks involved,” said Carbone, who has been working with local farmers for several years to source the beef, pork, lamb, and duck that he serves at his restaurant, “from Slow Food to Just Food to Glynwood, are all working to increase awareness of small family farms and meat processors. This,” he added with a grin, “is a big first step.”
Image: Duck liver-beef brisket boudin balls with handmade Creole mustard by Tchoup Shop's Simon Glenn. Photo by Juren David