I’ve been fixing to get to this spot in The Pennsy for a while, and I finally had the opportunity last weekend. I organized a bunch of Instagram food savages to come in and shoot pics, sample the menu and promote the LaFrieda brand, which I have come to love so much.
First up, the roast beef sandwich:
This baby is served cold cut style, with bleu cheese, horseradish aioli, pickled red onions and watercress on a toasted semolina roll.
It’s very difficult to choose a favorite among so many selections here. It really depends on what mood you’re in.
Next was the black Angus steak sandwich.
That’s sliced filet mignon with melted Monterey Jack cheese, caramelized onions, baby spinach and au jus on a toasted ciabatta roll. Awesome.
Grandpa’s meatball sandwich is pretty tight.
Tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella on a pressed ciabatta roll. Simple and delicious.
This fucker was intensely flavorful.
Slow roasted pork with broccoli rabe and melted provolone on a ciabatta roll. So juicy!
“World’s Greatest Hot Dog” is a bold claim for a menu item to make, but LaFrieda really delivers with this.
This baby is actually two hot dogs with honey mustard, caramelized onions and hot peppers.
As you can see, the dogs are split and grilled, which is a big win for me. I love that preparation.
And finally, the short rib platter.
This is slow roasted and maple glazed, served with greens and a celery root slaw.
For $15 this has to be one of the best buys in NYC for a steak.
This stuff is fork tender too. I was barely able to pick this up without it falling apart – that’s how soft it is!
Do yourself a favor and get this right away. 9/10.
My wife had the genius idea to pop all the items from the soft rib platter onto one of the LaFrieda homemade potato chips.
Pretty incredible! And wash it all down with fresh lemonade or iced tea from the taps.
PAT LAFRIEDA MEAT COUNTER
2 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121
If you dine out often in this great city, you’ve no doubt seen the name Pat LaFrieda featured prominently, in bold or italics, beside some of the best beef offerings at the finest restaurants.
The name has become synonymous with top notch quality beef, along with other proteins like lamb, poultry, game and pork. Personally, I can vouch for this. Many of my favorite dry-aged, high end cuts of steak and delicious burger grinds come from LaFrieda. In fact, the best steak I’ve ever had in my life was a LaFrieda tomahawk from Osteria Morini, and I’ve eaten a lot of fucking steak!
Currently, the LaFrieda business is a 36,000 square foot processing facility in New Jersey that ultimately feeds 300,000 carnivores a day. But it wasn’t always like that. So, what happened, and what makes LaFrieda beef so great?
Like all great success stories, LaFrieda’s started with a vision. Or perhaps it was a lack of vision, to be precise. You see, in late 1800’s Naples, a young Anthony LaFrieda was popped in the face during a street fight, resulting in a black eye. A butcher came out of his shop from nearby and slapped a cold steak over Anthony’s eye to soothe the pain. But that butcher ended up giving Anthony a job, and that’s when the family business took root.
Anthony learned the art of butchery in Italy and brought it with him to the US in 1909. Eventually he opened a meat shop in Brooklyn, 1922. He ran it with his five sons, Pat (the first) being one of them. They began servicing restaurants in the 1950’s with a shop in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, and in 1964 Pat and his son (Pat the second) took ownership of the business, calling it Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.
The business grew, and the shop changed locations a few times throughout the west village, eventually landing at Leroy Street for 30 years, starting in the 1980’s. It was there that Pat the third, age 12, began to learn his family’s trade, thereby carrying the business from great grandfather, to grandfather, to father, to son; a four generation meat dynasty!
The Business Today
Pat the third’s vision for the business was a bit different than his elders. He wanted to work directly with restaurants to provide them with the best product, trimmed and portioned exactly to their specifications. He even went so far as to begin creating custom burger blends for his customers. He wanted to help restaurants develop products that showcased their chef’s talents, and to treat restaurant customers as if they were also LaFrieda customers.
It worked. This concept made the Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors brand a highly sought after commodity among the NYC restaurant elite. But the meat isn’t only relegated to high-priced steakhouses and fancy “white table cloth” joints. You can find Pat LaFrieda custom burger blends and steaks all over the place, from bars to neighborhood mom and pop shops. The concept that Pat the third created allows for all kinds of budgets, since custom portioning and cutting is the specialty.
I mentioned earlier that the operation is now run out of Jersey in a large facility. Well, there, LaFrieda has a full aging room on site, with over 5,000 primals aging at any given time. LaFrieda supplies both choice and prime beef, and grinds upwards of 50 unique burger blends every day. In fact, LaFrieda grinds out 75,000 burger patties every day, in all different sizes, including all different proteins, and within all different niche markets (like organic, all natural, grass-finished, etc.). Amazing.
But LaFrieda beef isn’t only just for bars, restaurants and hotels. Pat the third stays true to his great grandfather Anthony’s original butcher shop business model, as you can order directly from their website for home delivery. In fact a friend of mine just recently ordered up and grilled a bunch of rib eyes for a party he hosted.
I did the same as well, actually. It was tremendous. Take a look HERE, as I documented the whole thing.
LaFrieda currently works with small farms and processors from all around the country to acquire the best meats from the best producers. As my “Meet Your Meat” series continues and develops, I will be featuring some of these farms in similar articles. My goal here is to provide you meat maniacs with a better understanding of where your food comes from, from feed to food, so to speak.
Interview with Pat
I had the pleasure of communicating with Pat via email before publishing this article, and it made for some interesting Q&A. Take a gander below:
Me: Okay, first, some more serious questions. I have this romanticized notion in my mind that you get to hang around beef and taste steak all day long while beautiful maidens fan you and feed you grapes. But deep down I know it can’t be beautiful and dreamy like that. So what is a typical work day like for you?
Pat: Johnny, that is a great question and one that is asked often. When I first joined the family business, my Dad began his day at 3am every morning. Although that sounds early, in order to grow and maintain the customers that we already had, I changed our start time a little earlier every so often. The way NYC works for a chef is a logistical nightmare. With storage space being so tight, chefs normally wait until after dinner service to place their order for the next morning, roughly at 10 pm. Most restaurants want their delivery before 9 am. In between the time that a chef orders and the time of delivery, the butcher needs to translate the order into a computerized system, custom portion whatever was ordered, weigh, package, load and invoice the restaurant before sending the order off in a delivery truck, into the Hell of NYC traffic. That all boils down to me beginning my day at 3pm, running the labyrinth I just described until 5am. Never wanting to disrespect my Dad, I never asked him to start his day any earlier so my last two hours at work are the most pleasurable, being that they overlap with his. A beautiful maiden offering grapes he is not, but funny he is.
Me: I’ve always joked that I must have been a butcher in a past life or something, given how fascinated I am with the art and skill of it. But I’ve actually heard that being a butcher is really difficult work with odd hours. I suppose like any career, there are challenges and rewards. While your current business is much different from the shop your great grandfather opened, what are some of the challenges and rewards you’ve experienced in your lifetime of butchery, processing and meat purveying?
Pat: Space, was always the biggest challenge and it came in more than one form. For storage and portioning meat, we were always tight for space. As our expansion increased from the mid-nineties, real estate prices began to soar so butchers had to operate within the space that we had. Growth was great, but it made our quality of life worse because there was nowhere to put our inventory after a short few years. The thought of leaving Manhattan was a nightmare, but when the city put a bicycle lane through our loading area, we knew it was time to build a new facility out of the city. Another form that space takes is the worst part of the meat business and that’s the time between when we need to pay our farmers and the time in which our customers pay us. The gap is so vast, it would put most out of business faster than we got parking tickets in the bus lane of our loading zone.
Me: I’m always trying to give my readers a better understanding of where their food comes from. What are some of the farms you deal with when sourcing the meat that you process? Anything local or big-name that us steak aficionados might know?
Pat: Long before the recent political campaign, we have always preached to buy domestic, yes, product that is raised and grazed in America. We have the safest meat supply in the world and since meat is one of our last natural resources, with manufacturing jobs plummeting, why would Americas not want to preserve that? I believe that “Local” is a gimmick however. In NYC for instance, NY State does not grow beef anywhere near as good as Kansas, so why would I want to pedal that garbage to prestigious NYC institutions that count on an amazing experience to survive. As for other meat, like rabbits, there is no place better than NY State to source them. That is how we base our sourcing, locating the best in class for each category as long as it’s domestic.
Me: How often do you interact with the farmers who actually raise the animals or run the feedlots?
Pat: We work very close with farmers for our sourcing. My cousin is in Dodge City right now as I write this, to ensure that our product is humanely handled, properly raised and finished.
Me: I’m a huge fan of dry-aging beef because the process concentrates flavor and increases tenderness, along with adding earthiness. Often we see steaks that were aged for 28-35 days on menus, but some places tout steaks that are aged upwards of 100 days like they are delicacies. Is 28-35 days a sweet spot for how long the beef should age, and is there any downside to aging for longer periods of time aside from the normal loss of weight that happens from the dry-aging process?
Pat: We age up to 120 days. As long as the humidity is controlled, the temperature is constant and the air circulation is vast, the meat will not rot. After 120 days, diminishing returns will begin to effect the product in that the funk of the dry age gets a bit bitter. 28 days is the young side of the range and is very universal whereas 120 days is the far end and is intended for those who have acquired the pallet for such.
Me: Okay now some fun stuff. There’s an old myth that a butcher’s favorite steak is the hanger, or “butcher’s steak,” as it is aptly called. Is there any truth to that, and what is your favorite cut? Dad’s, grandfather’s and great Grandfather’s favorite cuts?
Pat: Hanger was a butcher’s favorite because it is the only muscle in the animal that must get removed first before the animal is split. It is not symmetrical so before today’s practice of removing it first, the net result would be an ugly steak that only the butcher would eat because it was not appealing to the public back then. My family’s favorite cut has always been Outside Skirt steak.
Me: Are you like me, in that beef is your favorite meat protein? If not, which is your favorite?
Pat: Beef for sure because it is universal in cooking, with Lamb close behind.
Me: How often would you say that you eat red meat or beef?
Pat: I eat red meat daily. It is an amazing source of protein and crucial vitamins, it was intended by nature for us to eat and I happen to have a decent amount of it at any given time.
Me: Do you have a favorite steakhouse, or place to eat steak when not making your own?
Pat: I’m often asked to pick a favorite restaurant and from the bottom of my heart, I mean what I say when I answer that it truly depends on where I’m standing when I’m hungry, what my pallet is desiring at that moment and the friends that I’m with at that time. If you let that be your guide, you will have many favorites as I do.
Me: And finally, your Sophie’s Choice moment: If you could only have one for the rest of your life, would it be a burger or a steak?
Pat: I had to think long and hard on this one. In my lifetime, I could have answered this question differently every week depending on my last experience before being asked. A few days ago, I would have responded STEAK because I just had a great one at Benjamin’s, then our corporate chef made me a truffle burger yesterday that has had me hungry for another ever since, so because you are asking me today, it’s all about the BURGER.
Pat LaFrieda. You’ve all probably seen the name before, and you’ll definitely see it again – especially because I’m about to publish a feature article on LaFrieda early next month for my “Meet Your Meat” series. But the man is a top notch, high quality beef purveyor with a rich family tradition of killing it in the meat biz. He provides the goods to the restaurants and chefs that make my favorite steaks.
He recently sent over two cuts of steak for me to enjoy at home; both dry-aged for 60 days, both prime, and both 2.5″ thick. One was a porterhouse, and the other a rib eye.
This stuff is not just set aside for restaurants and hotels! You can order it for home delivery right here.
So, what to do with all this beef? I mean, I would have loved to eat it all myself, but that’s just rude. Instead, I invited over a handful of foodie friends and cooked up a feast for them.
Here’s how it went down:
For starters, I sliced up some truffle salami and made a very basic wedge salad with iceberg, grape tomatoes, thick bacon and a crumbled blue cheese and black truffle oil dressing.
I decided to cook the porterhouse in the sous vide machine, and then finish it off with a hard Searzall blowtorch sear. I loaded the sous vide bag up with some truffle oil (I froze this ahead of time, that way the contents in the bag were dry when I sealed it), rosemary and thyme. I also seasoned the steak with salt and pepper before sealing it up.
After about four hours in a 128 degree bath, I pulled it out and dropped it into some ice water to stop the cooking process. After a few minutes, I removed it from the bag, dried it off and blasted it with the Searzall to get that nice outer crust.
Before serving, I sliced it up and plated it, then drizzled black truffle oil on top, and hit it with some finishing salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
I picked up an extra filet from the grocery store as well, which I cooked the same way. This was mainly as extra meat, in case we didn’t have enough, and also as a control group to compare the meat quality from a nice grocery store cut against Pat LaFrieda. The cut I picked from Morton Williams looked nicely marbled and it was reasonably thick for just under $12.
When comparing the filet side of the LaFrieda porterhouse to the grocery store filet, the LaFrieda steak was hands down WAY better. There is no question about it. That 60-day dry-aging process really infuses an incredible amount of flavor into the meat.
If you are a beef lover, then Pat LaFrieda cuts are the way to go. In fact, one of my friends cooks up Pat LaFrieda steaks every Friday, and he calls it “LaFrieda Fridays.” HA!
For the rib eye, I went with a traditional cast iron skillet sear with maple bacon fat and herbs, and then I finished it in the oven. I let it rest, and then sliced that up and served it on a salt block, also with a drizzle of truffle oil.
Unfortunately for me, the temperature jumped from 120 to 145 WAY faster than it was climbing while going from 68 to 120. I turned around to snap pics of the porterhouse and BOOM. The steak went beyond medium rare. Lesson learned. In any event, it was still incredibly delicious at medium. The fat cap was heavenly!
To go with these steaks, I roasted some bulbs of garlic for slathering onto the meat and grilled some lemons.
I put together a nice side of roasted mushrooms and onions, sauteed broccolini (got to have something green I guess), and made a big bowl of tater tots.
But no meal at Johnny Prime’s Food Research Lab would be complete without a dessert by The Cake Dealer!
The inside of the cupcakes were marbled vanilla and red velvet, which was perfect to represent the marbling of good prime beef!
Or it was just because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner…
Oh and by the way, here are the foodies that came by. Check out their profiles for pics of the feast, if you have a chance:
My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for Le Rivage, with which we shared a 62-day dry aged, bone-in Creekstone Farms/Pat LaFrieda New York strip steak, two sides, a bottle of wine and a dessert for about $100. Pretty great deal, especially if you can use a discount when buying the flash deal.
Anyway, Le Rivage is a cozy French joint in the theater district on 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.
They gave us some nice table bread with whipped butter to start:
And the wine was an 80% Merlot 20% Cabernet blend that was actually pretty good.
The long, 62-day dry aging process imparted a bit of nuttiness and funk to the flavor of the beef. This baby was masterfully prepared. It definitely can hang tough with some of the best steakhouse cuts in the city. Get your ass over here and try it, if it is still available on special. I give it a 9/10. Why not the full 10? I felt like it needed just a hint more salt, maybe just some finishing salt even, but not much.
The steak came with two sauces, so dipping into these added some of that saltiness that I was looking for from the seasoning. The sauces were a wine reduction and a peppercorn:
Our sides were actually very abundant. We ordered broccolini and fries, but they brought out two dishes of fries, one dish of broccolini and one dish of carrots. We had lots to bring home.
I’m a big fan of broccolini, and I cook a mean broccolini at home quite often. I was impressed with it here. It was simply treated with seasoning, garlic and oil. The carrots were buttered and slightly sweet-glazed, and the fries were nice and crisp.
For dessert, we went with the chef’s recommendation, which was a Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie and a sweetened, spiked milk.
So simple, yet so tasty. After chatting with the chef for a bit, we learned that he is best friends with Pat LaFrieda, and that Jaques Torres is his godfather! That’s a serious pedigree, and it shows in Chef Paul’s abilities. He did a great job on the steak, especially.
I definitely recommend giving this place a shot, especially if you like to take advantage of Gilt City deals (not sure if this one is still available), or even just their regular three course price fix specials, which are offered daily for between $25 and $40. Very reasonable.
UPDATE – 6/30/16
I went back to Le Rivage to try Chef Denamiel’s award winning French Onion Soup Burger today. Holy fuck, people. This thing is absolutely amazing. It’s not a surprise that he won the “Judge’s Choice” award in New York City Wine & Food Festival’s 2013 “Burger Bash” with this baby, beating out the likes of burger master Chef Capon in the process.
His patty grind is usually between 60/40 and 70/30 lean/fat, and the beef also comes from Pat LaFrieda, just like the steak I reviewed up above. He seasons the patty with salt, pepper, drawn butter and brown sugar before it hits the grill. After the first flip, he puts on a slice of a Swiss gruyere type cheese called Emmenthal, which melts around the patty to seal in the medium rare juices. This then gets placed onto a butter-toasted sandwich-sized English muffin, and then topped with cognac-reduced confit onions, and then a bechamel cheese sauce for good measure. The top bun is placed on top, and then the French flag toothpick with roasted cocktail onion and gherkin gets popped on. Viola – perfection.
This is definitely one of my new favorite burgers; it really is unique. I walked out with a full belly, but I was still craving another one. Pretty sure I will be back again very soon, especially because the place is close to both work and home.
Burger still on point:
Even my maniac food photographer homies agree:
Croque Madame is stellar!
Quiche is the best I’ve ever had in my life:
You can even buy it frozen, to go, to fire up at home!
And the escargot is executed with perfection:
Garlic bacon frisee salad: amazing. Tangy and delicious.
Beef Bourguignon: hearty and soul-warming.
DECKLE FOR FOUR
This is probably the greatest thing you can eat. The deckle for four is the spinalis part of the rib eye, wrapped and rolled into a pinwheel. It gets quickly seared for crust on the outside, and then finished low and slow like a roast. Call two days ahead for this to reserve it.
My wife was recently browsing around the Instagram foodporn landscape when she came across this image of a massive rib eye:
I was immediately intrigued when she shared it with me, but I kind of just put it on the mental list of places that I needed to try. Like any fool who is just looking at photos and not actually READING captions, I missed the integral part of what was going on and why my thoughtful wife sent it to me:
120 fucking days?!?? Wow. So a few days go by and I get this frantic text from my wife: “GET YOUR CAMERA AND MEET ME AT OSTERIA MORINI TONIGHT AT 6PM!”
I responded. “Okay. Why, what’s going on?” Then she proceeded to explain to me the details of what I had glanced over a few days earlier. She’s a very patient person. I do this often, apparently. But my mouth dropped. She had secured us one of the seven 52oz, 120-day dry-aged Pat Lafrieda/Creekstone Farms rib eyes just a week or two in advance of our 7-year wedding anniversary. They only offer them on the first Wednesday of every month, so scheduling is limited. Anyway, I ran home and got my camera, because we were about to celebrate with the best steak we’d ever eaten.
The steak is not trimmed of any excess fat, and the bone is left with all the meat still attached prior to cooking, as you can see in the Instagram photo above. This is ideal when dry-aging, because eventually you have to trim off the outer bark and you inevitably lose some meat when that happens. Better that it be fat and gristle than your spinalis dorsi. Even still, this particular cut is still left with tons of surrounding meat and tenderized fat. Ours came out to the table pre-sliced, beautifully plated and ready for gorging:
Everything is edible on this. Even the fat breaks down into a really delicious beef jelly after that much time aging.
The cap was truly something to behold. Packed with tons of flavor and so fucking tender. As for the eye (longissimus dorsi), just take a look at this perfectly cooked masterpiece of a slice:
I half expected something so funky and nutty that it would almost be unrecognizable as steak, and more akin to blue cheese. But it was mild and pleasant, not so robust that it became odd tasting, like what can happen with some long aging processes. This was just right. I was smiling the entire time. This is the best steak I’ve ever eaten. 10/10, and still a 10/10 on a second visit years later.
But let’s not brush aside the other great Italian cuisine going on here at Osteria Morini. The bar has a great selection of Italian-inspired cocktails that are really unique and interesting.
The atmosphere is home-ish and comfortable. It’s warm and inviting, with lots of wood tones.
By 8:30pm the lights had dimmed significantly and the place was wall-to-wall jammed. The food is so great, it is no wonder why. But when you take the stellar service into consideration, a packed house becomes a no-brainer. GM Phillip Buttacavoli made us feel very much at home, and all employees from servers, to kitchen staff, to bartenders were really helpful, pleasant and nice.
The foccacia table bread was warm, toasty and nicely seasoned.
We started with the stracci pasta: long, wide ribbons of egg-forward pasta with a braised wild mushroom sauce and rosemary oil.
Perfectly cooked, and delicious through and through. The other pasta dishes all sounded great too. I will definitely be back to survey more of those selections.
The steak, which was a very fair $145, came with our choice of two sides as well. We went with the parmigiano roasted asparagus and the parmigiano fingerling potatoes.
The asparagus reminded me of the kind my mother used to make. Very simply cooked but with parmigiano over the top to add in some salt and flavor. And the potatoes were perfectly crunchy and nicely seasoned all around.
For dessert, we tried the gianduja budino: a baked chocolate and hazelnut custard with candied hazelnuts, brown butter and salted chocolate cake crumbles.
I loved it. It had just the right amount of sweet and savory to strike a great balance. They even gave us some complimentary glasses of saffron and cardamom amaro to go with the dessert.
We ended up using a great Gilt City deal on this meal. My wife paid something like $145 for $200 worth of credit to apply to the bill at pretty much any Altamarea Group restaurant (except for Marea). That left us with a little bit to cover at the end.
What a fantastic meal. I can’t wait to go back!
Had a bunch of pasta dishes, which were all excellent:
Octopus was really tender, and had a nice char on the outside.
Incredible “White Label Burger.” Custom Pat LaFrieda beef blend with tomato, speck aioli, and fontina cheese with sides of parmesan and parsley onion rings and fonduta.
And crispy breaded veal wrapped in prosciutto and covered with truffle cream sauce.
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
Originally set up by the late meat enthusiast Josh Ozersky, this is the 11th Meatopia event. Meatopia also happens in other cities worldwide, expanding like my belt size after indulging in these delicious meats.
The concept here was pure wood and coal fire, no gas or electric. Just flames and meat carcass. Some shit was done quick on the flames for a sear, and other shit was done low and slow in smokers like these:
With heavy hitters like Creekstone Farms and Pat LaFrieda involved in the mix, you can imagine how excited I was to be here. And without mincing words I will simply say this: Meatopia is the greatest food event I have ever attended in my life.
Upon walking out onto Pier 92, I was blasted with the invigorating scent of roasting meat, and bathed in the billowing bovine smoke that was coming off of the giant Pat LaFrieda fire pit. Heavenly rays of sunlight shone down through the smoke and kissed the meat, as if God himself was proclaiming this to be a righteous undertaking.
What a sight to behold! And nothing was wasted from this animal. As you can see, even the head got picked apart by the savage carnivores that roamed the pier. Even the guys at Gotham Burger Social Club took a bite.
Want to know the most depressing part about the LaFrieda station? I didn’t know this meat was for the crowd. I thought they were providing the meat for all the other stations to use in their dishes, like a supplier of sorts. By time I figured out that I could eat this shit, they had run out. That’s right – they ran out of 1000lbs of meat!!! I was on line for it, five people away from getting a bite, when they finally called it quits on the beast. Not even a scrap!
I did try every other item at the event, however, which is probably a rare claim to make for anyone who attended, I would imagine. There was so much food. I think maybe 30 stations or more. It was very easy to get full if you weren’t smart, or fat.
My first and last stop of the day was this killer broth made by Marco Canora’s “Brodo.” This hearty and hot beef stock was just the right thing needed to keep warm on the windy pier.
As I wandered around with childlike wonder, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the Beatrice Inn station, where Chef Angie Mar was slinging pig for her hungry meat minions. I found myself just staring at this shit. Something deep inside me was triggered. Something primal and cave man -esque…
These not-so-little piggies were roasting on a spit all day and night.
Watch them spin!
So the actual food item being served here was a whole roasted wild boar, blackberries, port and mash. Here’s what a small plate looked like. My photo does it no justice:
This was succulent, juicy, crispy and savory. It had a slight hint of sweet from the berries that made the pig flavors pop. It was one of my top choices of the day, for sure.
Another favorite was Hometown Barbeque. This was a masterful execution of beef rib. So tender and juicy. I know those words are used up like cheap hookers, but they are accurate. The bark on these ribs was crisp without being too hard – just enough to lock in all the meat juices. It had sweetness, but the savory beef flavor was the star of the show.
Occasionally some meat angel would come around and plop one of these dinosaur bones in your hands for you to gnaw on for a while. Some were from Hometown, and some were from LaFrieda.
Another favorite was this sri racha pork belly by The Backroom at Moody’s. I went back for it twice. The belly was cooked sous vide style for 48 hours (okay that probably involves electricity), and THEN smoked. It had a nice pungent flavor that reminded me of fish sauce or Vietnamese food.
They also presented a nice array of charcuterie:
My favorite of the day, just slightly ahead of that pork belly, was this hot beef tongue sandwich by Harry & Ida’s Meat & Supply Company. The meat was so soft, unlike what you might expect from common tongue preparations that can sometimes be rushed, or have the consistency of deli meat.
This was more like pulled meat, or braised stew meat. Absolutely delicious. And they even had a nice tongue hanging on display for food porn photos:
I’m jumping around again here, because I want to front-load this review with the most interesting shit up top, in the event that you meat minions start to nod off, or the ADD kicks into high gear.
CHORIZO ICE CREAM!
There. Did that wake you up a little? It was actually good. These novelty ice cream flavors always strike me as purposefully odd – done with the intent of shocking someone rather than actually delivering a good flavor. But this chorizo ice cream was lightly chorizo flavored, and it was balanced by the presence of caramel. Oddfellow’s is not pulling stunts here. This is good shit.
There was a healthy variety of rib eye and prime rib preparations going around (Hawksmoor London, Andre Lima de Luca and Balthazar, in particular). Never did I feel like the shit was overlapping or redundant. I was actually surprised at how nicely cooked they all were, given the windy conditions and an open flame that is hard to control or regulate in terms of temperatures.
Speaking of those wind conditions causing problems, I think Jason French and the guys at the Ned Ludd station were battling what was probably the worst of the wind conditions. They were one of the first booths next to the large tent in the back. As the wind whipped in from the southwest, it gathered along the tent walls and flowed directly to their station, which was on the south-facing side of the pier. WHAM. The wind over there was bonkers. I have no idea how they were even able to cook in such conditions.
The meat quality of their lamb dish suffered a bit, at least in the plate I had, as it was overcooked and slightly tough. My guess is that these guys were concerned about serving something raw, and wanted to keep the meat roasting despite the wind – so they had to keep stoking the flames. It was still really tasty despite all that nonsense, which is a testament to the chef and cooks. I think if they had more control over the environment this would have been a winning dish: Whole roasted pastured lamb with grape leaf cumin yogurt sauce, and a basmati rice salad with golden raisins and cilantro.
And I was glad to see a nice lamb carcass gracing their work station:
Perhaps the most prominently featured cut of the day was short rib. Check out all the different varieties below:
Tough to choose a favorite between those. If I had to, I’d probably lean toward The Cecil (their veal was really memorable), or Hill Country.
Naturally there was some brisket as well:
One interesting item was this braised beef cheek terrine from Employees Only. Super soft and flavorful. I was hoping to see more cheek represented at this event, but this was really nice with the pickled tomatoes and radishes on top.
The only place featuring strip was El Blok. It as really nicely cooked with fresh turmeric and sour orange, sitting on a side of smoked calabaza.
And several other pork and non-beef items, most notable of which was probably this Portuguese porchetta fried rice from 42 The Restaurant – a very interesting mash up of Asian and Portuguese flavors:
Funny thing about that last photo: I was joking that chicken doesn’t really count as meat. The sauce on there was actually really great though, so it became acceptable to serve at this event, in my eyes.
This station sent me home with a packet of Badia spice seasoning. I always like samples!
There was even some dessert as well. I didn’t take a picture of the cookie I ate, but this banana chocolate turnover with maple bacon and peanut butter from Oceana was excellent. In fact their menu looks pretty brilliant, and it’s somewhat nearby, so I will have to go with my wife soon to try it out.
Don’t look so glum, whoever you are working back there in the pit… There’s meat hanging behind you and I’m sure there will be other Meatopia celebrations in the coming months. Can you say MIAMI?!?
That about does it guys. What an amazing day. I don’t want to wash any of my clothes because the lingering smell of smoke and meat is too precious to cast aside. It should somehow be bottled and sold as cologne.
Oh yeah… one last photo – my stalker pic of Iron Chef Michael Symon, who was the host of the event. People were waiting for hours just to press the flesh with him. I was too busy eating for any glad-handing with celebs!