Volume 23, Number 10 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 16 - 22, 2010

Downtown Express photo by David McCabe

There were numerous options at Meatopia, but Joe Mizrahi went for the gusto and prepared a whole pig.

Governors Island taken over by meat-lovers

BY David McCabe

An estimated 5,000 hungry carnivores took the ferry from Manhattan to Governors Island last Sunday for Meatopia, an event that promised to showcase some of the city’s best chefs cooking all manner of animal products, from rib-eye to pork shoulder.

The event was organized by food writer Josh Ozersky, who has done stints blogging for New York Magazine and Citysearch.com, and restaurateur Jimmy Carbone, who owns the beer bar Jimmy’s No. 43 and has organized the popular fundraiser Taste of Tribeca since 1994.

Meat-lovers from all over the city — ferries ran from Manhattan and Brooklyn — bought so-called tasting tickets, ranging in price from $30 to $150, that entitled them to a certain amount of food in the form of small tasting portions from each booth. Throughout the event, bluegrass bands from around the city played in return for some free tastings and beer.

Diners were not at a loss for options when it came to how to use their tickets; a total of 25 booths spread across Colonials Row on the island served everything from tacos to pulled-pork sliders to classic steak sandwiches.

Greenwich Village eatery The Little Owl offered diners Baron of Beef, a succulent slice of rib-eye steak perched on top of lettuce and onions, all anchored by a flat-bread from Sullivan St. bakery. They also provided an extra treat: corn-on-the-cob buttered and seasoned on a stick.

Another popular booth was that of a restaurant that isn’t even open yet — the Hurricane Club. Lawrence Knapp, who identified himself as the Chef-de-Cuisine of the establishment, said that it would emulate a “Polynesian supper club.” Their contribution to Meatopia, honey-glazed baby back ribs with Thai basil and mint, was almost as evocative of the South Pacific as the Hawaiian shirts the staff was wearing.

Porter House New York, a swanky steakhouse with views of Central Park, served up steak sandwiches on potato buns garnished with a corn salad and chimichurri. Chef Michael Lomonaco said that while the beef wasn’t local — it was from the Midwest — it was “natural.” While the Porter House chefs were assembling sandwiches at a rapid pace, they couldn’t quite keep up with demand, and a long line formed in front of the stand, even early in the day.

Long lines were prevalent all day, but some chefs tried to make the waiting less painful by schmoozing with guests. Abe and Arthur’s chef Franklin Becker was seen joking around with patrons waiting in line for the hefty portion of pork-ribs his staff was serving up. He said that you wouldn’t be able to get the ribs in his restaurant, describing them as “me having fun.”

The public also had a chance to sample some recipes that aren’t available in a normal restaurant. The I-Que BBQ team, which took home top honors at the Jack Daniels World Championship of Barbeque last year, cooked 350 pounds of pork shoulder for the event. Chris Hart, I-Que’s head chef, said that they had driven through the streets of Manhattan early in the morning — all participant were required to arrive at around six in the morning — while pulling a BBQ smoker from the back of their truck.

Some of the event’s proceeds benefited the nonprofits Slow Food NYC and Just Food. But ultimately, Carbone said, the event promoted Governors Island, as Meatopia was the first large-scale food event to be held in the now City-owned park. He said that unlike other sites, visitors have to take the ferry to the Island, so they are more inclined to stay for four or five hours.

The event was also a major part of Good Beer Month, a designation bestowed upon the month of July by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the behest of Carbone’s group, the Good Beer Seal of Approval. Six Points Craft Brewery, based in Brooklyn, made a beer exclusively for the event called Signal Ale.

By the end of the day, many of the booths had run out of food, much to the chagrin of many customers. But overall, the event was a success; running out of food only meant it was really, really good.

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