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Wake N’ Bacon this Weekend with The Great Big Bacon Picnic

Unlimited craft beer and bacon. Have I got your attention? That’s what you’re promised at the Great Big Bacon Picnic, oinking its way to the Old Pfizer Factory (630 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn) in Williamsburg this weekend.

And while that’s enough to prompt many to say something along the lines of “just shut up and take my money,” be advised that tickets start at $99–that’s a lot of pork. Here’s a preview of what you’ll get in return.

The 2.5 hour-long event is spread out over three installments, a 12PM and 6:30PM session on Saturday, followed by a final brunch engagement at 1PM on Sunday. Your ticket includes access to over 100 restaurants, as well as dozens of food trucks, local distilleries, breweries, and culinary experts.

For the vegetarians and Kosher-observant eaters shuddering at the thought of an endless parade of swine, fear not. Just kidding. Be very afraid. There will be no soy substitutes on-hand. Every dish at the festival must come from bona fide boar. As per the website:

“It can be cured and/or unncured, and can be from any cut from a pig that might be prepared as bacon including Slab Bacon, Back bacon, Collar Bacon, Cottage Bacon, Picnic bacon, Irish Bacon, Canadian Bacon, Pork Belly, Pork loin, Fatback, Lardon, Pancetta, Rashers, Ham Hock, Jowl, Guanciale, and good old Sliced Bacon.”

Bacon sushi? Check. Bacon potato chips? You bet. Woven bacon, bacon art, bacon wrapped in bacon. Even Kevin Bacon (this has yet to be confirmed). If it somehow involves salted, fatted pork, you’ll find it this weekend. If that doesn’t make you salivate, you’re going to go home hungry.

But not necessarily thirsty. “We’ve curated a list of incredible craft beers, ciders and spirits, with the majority being produced right here in NYC,” says festival co-founder Craig Taylor.

Entertainment is provided by the locally-based High & Mighty Brass Band. And, as anyone that’s ever been to New Orleans can tell you, things tend to get rowdy when you combine live horns with limitless liquor.

“The Great Big Bacon Picnic will be unlike any other NY area bacon festival,” promises Taylor. “Every single chef that’s participating in this festival must prepare a dish that highlights bacon.” Having already sampled many, he seems particularly enthralled by some of the more unique applications, such as Table’s Panko/Bacon encrusted Lobster & Bacon spring roll, and dessert offerings like URBO’s homemade bacon oreo cookie, and the maple bacon pecan ice cream from Oddfellows.

If you’re on the fence of this pig pen, this ought to push you over the edge: 10% of net proceeds will be donated to City Harvest and No Kid Hungry. Tickets range from $99 all the way up to $249 for VIPs, which includes early entrance and top shelf booze in a private lounge. Click here to purchase.

“And on top of all that, we’re going to have a Bacon Bar,” Taylor gloats. “That’s right, a bar that just serves bacon. This is what you dreamed of when you imagine a bacon festival.” If you are plagued by recurring visions of bacon, head to the Great Big Bacon Picnic this weekend…Right before seeking a therapist.

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Carry a Big Steak at Midtown’s Bill’s Food and Drink; Wave Goodbye to Lesbians and Hello to Pork at the West Village’s Swine

Our own Tejal Rao reviews Bill’s Food and Drink, a “flashy John DeLucie joint.” Bill’s Food and Drink is the recently revamped former speakeasy that once held Bill’s Gay Nineties. The Midtown restaurant is “cluttered with maps, Victorian portraits, and taxidermied animal heads… it can feel like the wedding reception of a wealthy, well-connected acquaintance.” The partygoers in this crowd “come to the new Bill’s for a piece of protein and to take in the scene.” If that’s all you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.

Also at the Voice, Robert Sietsema bids lesbians adieu at Swine, in the West Village. The space, once belonging to the girl-bar Rubyfruit, lives up to its moniker. In his review of Swine, he writes that “one would assume that, consistent with the name, it would be mainly pork products, with belly and bacon scattered around like Easter eggs on the White House lawn come springtime,” but the “expansive menu” features “plenty more to love” in case you’re more concerned with looking like a babe than eating one.

At the Times, Pete Wells ushers in 2013 by heading to Jersey City’s Thirty Acres, where chef Kevin Pemoulie “cross[es] borders and jump[s] oceans without leaving the kitchen.” And despite its oft-mocked locale, “a restaurant like Thirty Acres would be a find in any state.” He awards the restaurant two stars.

NY Post’s Steve Cuozzo argues that the Arlington Club “is the city’s finest new steakhouse since Minetta Tavern,” but suggests passing on the restaurant’s sushi menu. The Upper East Side restaurant, from chef/partner Laurent Tourendel and the unce-unce-heave Tao group, is both glitzy and old-world. Local “big-spenders” often trade glares with the young “mobs mill[ing] as if at a Bushwick loft party.”

Also on the Upper East Side, Stan Sanger at the Daily News visits Czech ale-house Hospoda, where “meals begin (and most end) with beer.” And while chef Katie Busch’s menu “may begin in Prague…her culinary wanderlust is revealed in dishes drawing inspiration from across the EU.” Try the wobbly and seductive Parmesan poached egg ($18) but stay for the “think plank” of veal schnitzel ($29).

At The New Yorker, Amelia Lester discovers “further proof that Brooklyn is set to become the new Manhattan,” at La Vara. The tapas restaurant draws on Moorish and Sephardic flavors but also draws in chic family crowds. Lester notes that “it’s hard to get out for less than seventy dollars per person, but there seems to be no shortage of parents with strollers who are willing to pay more than they are accustomed to for a meal that is hard to fault.”

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Swine: The 5 Best Things to Eat There

Looking like it was wrested from the English countryside, this West Village Tudor house is now home to Swine.

A few months ago, the old Rubyfruit space was transformed into Swine. A pork-centric place? Well, not really. The menu is mainly based on small dishes, charcuterie, and bar snacks, but there are a substantial number of entrées. Here are FiTR’s five favorite dishes encountered there.

Bacon Braised Rabbit Leg — Served on a bed of polenta with plenty of gravy, the bunny has absorbed a smoky flavor from the bacon, and the brussels sprouts are an added boon. It’s the perfect one-dish meal for early winter.

Bone Marrow & Brisket Burger — This is one of the juiciest hamburgers in town, with a richness conveyed by marrow, and a smothering of Gruyère over a mantle of caramelized onions. A tomatillo marmalade comes alongside, if you want to get kinky.

Pastrami Reuben — The Reuben has come a long way since being invented in Murray Hill at a now-defunct deli in the ’40s. In this case, a nutty toasted bread, artisanal pastrami in a smoked meat vein, and sauerkraut that was probably made in Brooklyn.

Five-Selection “Board” — From the lively sections offering cold cuts, charcuterie, and cheeses, one is invited to select three, five, or seven, each of which comes accompanied by cunning condiments. The selection pictured above includes (left to right): foie gras torchon, homemade chorizo, rabbit terrine, cured salmon gravlax, and Twin Maple Hudson Red cheese.

Poached Laughing Bird Shrimp — Why are the shrimp (or the birds) laughing? Who knows, but the dish is delectable, served on a schmear of white bean puree.

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Swine: Farewell, Dear Lesbians…

For nearly two decades, the whitewash-and-timber Tudor house near the corner of Hudson and Charles was a bi-level bar named Rubyfruit, after Rita Mae Brown’s landmark novel Rubyfruit Jungle, said to be revolutionary in its explicit portrayal of erotic love between women. But just as Brown herself turned from books of political import to writing about cat detectives, the bar lost its way in the past few years, as potential patrons moved to Park Slope and the management installed a series of failed restaurants in the lower quarters, while keeping the upstairs tavern intact. Eventually, the lesbians left, to be replaced by Swine.

The restaurant called Swine, that is. What an unlovely moniker, I thought as I gazed up the stairs where a rainbow flag used to hang. Yet like the exterior, the layout of the new place looks remarkably similar to the old one. On the more desirable second floor, there’s a comfy bar and a scattering of tables lit by votive candles. A rear alcove remains a sort of padded conversation pit, where customers once sat out of sight and canoodled. Downstairs still seems like a basement, which it partly is—the tables are bigger, the decor sparer, the feeling danker. The single advantage to sitting there: An open kitchen occupies the deep interior, allowing you to roughly calculate how long it will take for your grub to arrive.

And the food? One would assume that, consistent with the name, it would be mainly pork products, with belly and bacon scattered around like Easter eggs on the White House lawn come springtime. You’d only be partly right. While fatty pork constitutes a powerful but somewhat outdated lure, there’s plenty more to love on the expansive menu.

One pane of the foldout document lists separate categories of charcuterie, cheeses, and cold cuts. Arriving on an elongated carving board, a five-selection assortment from any category ($27) easily appeases three diners as an app. Among my recommendations: The sliced lardo (cured white hog fat) is especially yummy when draped over a piece of toast. The foie gras torchon proves wonderfully cold and oily on the tongue, like marble, and generous for the price. The recently added gravlax is off-theme but welcome, and the chicken-liver mousse turns out to be no slouch, either. With the exception of the homemade ricotta, the cheese selection leaves much to be desired, so go with flesh instead. Each hillock comes with a cheery dab of jam or chutney and a supply of cornichons and grainy mustard.

One step up from the boards are the Toasts, which are like small toasted-cheese sandwiches. But small doesn’t mean non-filling, and the pastrami Reuben ($14) is one of the finest and densest concoctions to fly from a griddle this season. There are several more menu areas—Pickles, Sides, Condiments, and Snacks—the last including deviled eggs (good), cashews roasted in duck fat (blah), and a gloppy version of nachos made with charred potato chips ($9). That dish looks awful but tastes grand. Get the picture? A menu of concentrated salty and greasy tidbits is thought by modern restaurateurs to encourage an enhanced consumption of booze.

But become distracted by nibbles and you’ll miss some of the restaurant’s better offerings. The division called Plates, which has been expanding since Swine’s debut a few months ago, features a nice burger ground from brisket sweetened with bone marrow ($18), a meal-size salad of delicata squash flavored with mint that would have benefited from a more assertively flavored winter vegetable, and, best of all, a chorus line of a dozen Laughing Bird shrimp bounded by pink grapefruit segments and bitter greens. It comes on a schmear of white bean puree like a canvas behind a fine painting. The crustaceans are said to be sustainably farmed in Costa Rica.

The ostensible centerpiece of the mains is a pork cut the restaurant has the hubris to call Swine chop ($21). It’s not particularly large nor tasty, and masticating it requires more energy than it’s worth. Go instead with the gentler bunny. Planted in a lake of buttery polenta, the braised rabbit leg ($19) comes in a rich and savory brown gravy dotted with baby brussels sprouts. Tons of bacon ups the flavor—thank you, swine! For a change, Bugs doesn’t taste like Foghorn Leghorn.

rsietsema@villagevoice.com

For more food coverage, check out our food blog, Fork in the Road, at voicefoodblog.com. Follow us on Twitter @ForkintheRoadVV.

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Is Bunny the New Bird in NYC?

Gee, it doesn’t quite look like fried chicken, does it? Fatty ‘Cue’s fried rabbit with spicy vinegar dip

Is rabbit the new chicken? Well, probably not! But Fork in the Road has been encountering rabbit all over New York menus in the last few months, and it seems to be more than a fluke. It all started this past March (So March Hare!), when we encountered a novel rabbit cacciatore at Zero Otto Nove, depositing a good-size and tender haunch in a rich tomatoey hunter’s sauce shot with capers and onions, and thought, “Gee, this is great.” Somehow, the hare, with its firm pale flesh, stood up much better to a sauce that would have overwhelmed and nearly dissolved a piece of chicken.

Rabbit cacciatore at Zero Otto Nove

In short order, rabbits were flying out of area kitchens like Peter Rabbit’s siblings hopping out of the hutch into Farmer McGregor’s fields to steal carrots. Fatty ‘Cue (the one on Carmine Street) established deep-fried bunny as its signature dish, looking very much like a misshapen version of fried chicken and served with a tart Southeast Asian dipping vinegar. Meanwhile, cooler heads at Daniel Boulud’s Boulud Sud were offering a rabbit porchetta configured as a room-temp roulade.

Debuting this summer near the Barclays Center, Woodland featured Bugs basted in Riesling on a bed of spatzle that was almost bread pudding, while the recently opened Le Midi deposits a dark rabbit ragu, Italian style, on thick fettuccine.

The Organ Meat Society has also been downing lots of bunny lately, including deep-fried rabbit livers with tartar sauce at Hospoda, and rabbit hearts with garlic and olive oil at Porsena.

Fried rabbit livers with tartar sauce at the Upper East Side’s Czech restaurant Hospoda

Next: More bunny!

Rabbit ragu served with pappardelle at French newcomer Le Midi

Not to be outdone, area Sichuan restaurants have hunted down the hopper. Lan Sheng tenders a rabbit with pickled chiles in Midtown on 39th Street – a favorite lunchtime haunt of office workers – while Lower East Side Fujianese spots have long braised every bunny they can find in red-wine lees. In this vein, the version of lichee rabbit at Food World is more than worth chasing into the hutch.

Just last night, rabbit meatballs were spotted as a special at Monument Lane, where the menu also lists braised rabbit with herbed spaetzle and hedgehog mushrooms.

But by far the most rabbit intensive menu so far has occurred recently at Swine, a West Village boite that took over the old Rubyfruit space. You can begin with a rabbit-and-mushroom terrine and a handful of rabbit croquettes, then proceed to the wonderful bacon-braised rabbit leg, served on a bed of pillowy polenta.

Really, the question is no longer where can you find rabbit, but, if a restaurant doesn’t have hare, why not?

Rabbit croquettes at Swine

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What’s Happening This Week: Whiskyfest and NYC Official Halloween Bar Crawl

Monday, October 22

Sherryfest. Today starts Sherryfest, a week-long celebration of everything sherry. Union Square’s newest wine bar, Corkbuzz, offers the perfect excuse to day drink at a tasting and Q&A on Tuesday afternoon. For the more experienced, try a Spanish sherry and food pairing at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Find all of the sherry-addled events here.

Tuesday, October 23

Leadbelly Oyster Vodka Pairing. Lower East Side oyster bar the Leadbelly will create the perfect aphrodisiac: a one-night oyster and vodka pairing menu. Reserve a $45 meal of a dozen oysters paired with three flights of vodka. Arousal probably included.

6th Annual Taste of Red Hook. Make the trek to Red Hook to taste dishes from more than 40 Red Hook restaurants at the neighborhood’s new art space, the Intercourse.

Amor y Amargo’s Boozy Book Series. Every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the classy cocktail bar is holding a book series celebrating a different mixologist-turned-author. Cocktails tailored to the authors’ work will be served. This week, David Wondrich, of Imbibe!, will speak, sign books, and mix his own Improved Hollands Gin cocktail.

Wednesday, October 24

Omission Beer Tasting at Swine. Swine will offer a selection of the best gluten-free beer (it exists!) in honor of Celiac’s Awareness month (this exists, too!).

Friday, October 26

Whiskyfest. Head over to the New York Marriott Marquis for a two-day whiskey party. Tickets are pricy at $175, but guests will spend three hours tasting more than 250 of the world’s finest whiskeys.

Saturday, October 27

NYC Official Halloween 2012 Bar Crawl. From noon to 9 p.m., put on your costume and join the masses for the midtown east bar crawl. Creepy crawlers can start at either Opal or McFadden’s for $10 or $15. Drink specials are $3 for a beer and $5 for shots and mixed drinks.

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Robert Sietsema at Chao Thai Too; Tejal Rao at Sel et Gras

Robert Sietsema is at Chao Thai Too, maybe one of the best Thai places in the city. He notes that they serve blood Jell-O “interspersed with pork meatballs, and crispy stir-fried frog legs flavored with basil (pad kra prao kob). Gnaw on these, and you might never go back to chicken wings.”

Tejal Rao is over at Sel et Gras in the West Village. It’s French food in a restaurant whose theme is the French revolution: “If you really want to eat like a king, order french fries with your snails and dip the crisp, Parmesan-dusted potatoes into pools of hot, garlicky butter.”

Adam Platt is at Ootoya, the Japanese-import with affordable alternatives to sushi: “If you’re in a large, ravenous group, you can supplement these bite-size dishes with fried beef and potato croquettes the size of cricket balls, and a bountiful selection of rice bowls smothered with toppings like fried pork and eggs (katsu don), ground chicken (oyako don), or slivers of sashimi mixed with avocado, okra, and fermented soy beans (the enticingly gooey hanabi don).”

Pete Wells gives two stars to Blanca in Bushwick, where it’s really difficult to snag a seat: “Because Blanca is a very good and deeply enjoyable restaurant, one where the abundance of courses is Roman, the structure of the meal is Italian, the rigorous minimalism of the cooking is Japanese and the easy and improbable grace with which it all hangs together is unmistakably American.”

Jay Cheshes is at Dassara, a Japanese ramen joint in Brooklyn: “The ramen, meanwhile, is unlike any you’ll find at the city’s hot Tokyo imports. The most classic version begins with a robust shio (“salt”) broth–a beautifully viscous chicken-based soup thickened with potatoes and sushi rice.”

The New Yorker is at Swine this week and notes that bacon is the new black: “Carnivores who eat with their hands might go for the bone-marrow-and-brisket burger with melted Gruyère. But you can’t forego utensils when it comes to dessert–that bacon sundae requires a spoon.”

Steve Cuozzo checks out Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, an Italian eatery on Madison Avenue: “The menu breaks no new ground but works the known earth/territory well. Acqua pazza came alive with John Dory and light broth humming a ginger-and-thyme tune.”

Stan Stagner is at Miss Lily’s, a West Village Jamaican hotspot: “For the most part, the main dishes were even more institutional. The Jerk Chicken ($19) was well-cooked but disappointingly listless, thanks to its timid seasoning. Where on earth was the jerk?”

 

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What To Do When the Bacon Shortage Hits: 9 Tasty Suggestions

Be prepared to say goodbye!

A rather hysterical report issued early last week on the part of a European agricultural agency suggested that pig populations were declining in Europe and the U.S. due to shortages of corn and soybeans — important feed for porkers — as a result of prolonged drought. As you might expect, some people went crazy, fantasizing that there would be bacon shortages, resulting in hasty cancellations of bacon events for the coming year, etc.

Well, the whole thing turned out to be something of a hoax, or at least a case of mass hysteria driven by rampant bacon lust. As NBC reasoned, according to the blog Hot Air, the result was much more likely to be a rise in bacon prices, which would cause more of the hog supply to be diverted into the smoky meat strips with which many are obsessed. Besides, the conclusion was extrapolated from European data and not backed up by further research.

But it got us to thinking at Fork in the Road and galvanized us into adopting a fail-safe strategy if ever bacon does become unavailable. Following are nine products that might be substituted, in reverse order of satisfactoriness.

9. Bacon-Flavored Rawhide Rolls — Like your bacon crisp? And well-browned with a nice greasy sheen? Well, these natural-leather treats might be just what you’re looking for, with the chewing time measured in hours rather than seconds. And you and your favorite canine can lie down together on the living room rug in front of the TV, turn on Dog the Bounty Hunter, and enjoy a good chew.

8. Smart Bacon — Is this the best they could do in making this combination of TVP and gluten look like bacon? It’s a wan attempt, to be sure, but at least you don’t have to worry that the pig was well cared for and slaughtered humanely. What Lightlife has slaughtered instead, I’m afraid, is the idea of bacon.

7. Turkey Bacon — Many Muslim-owned bodegas use this in BLTs with perfect success, and even though it doesn’t look appetizing in the package, it will do in a pinch. And hey, maybe someone will start making artisanal turkey bacon!

6. Bacon Beans — Lots of folks like their bacon to have some sweet notes, either in the cure, in a glaze, or simply by eating jam on their breakfast toast and taking alternate bites. Well, these bacon-flavored jelly beans are for you.

5. Pancetta — This cured but un-smoked form of bacon demanded by countless pasta-sauce recipes will doubtlessly remain available, because only foodies know what it is. In fact, if you get a chance to fry up some slices, you might find it more satisfying than regular morning bacon. Or maybe not.

4. Bac’N Pieces — Note the spelling of “bacon,” looking like a contraction, but really betokening a product that tastes like bacon, but contains no bacon. When the bacon supply runs out, you might have to make do with some of this stuff on your salad or whipped into an omelet, French-style.

3. Lardo — When Mario Batali threw a strip of cured pork fat on a pizza at Otto a decade ago, it was to universal approbation. Really, the best part of bacon is the fat, and eating lardo is like eating bacon fat, only more delicious — cooked or raw.

2. Lamb Bacon — Hey, you can make bacon from almost any animal with a belly, so why not lamb? Sure, the taste is a bit skankier and the bacon a little more lean, but who can tell the diff if you use it in a BLT?

1. Spam With Bacon — You’re going to have to get your bacon fix somehow, even when the bacon shelves in the supermarket are entirely empty sometime next year. Turn to your good old friend Spam, which comes in a can and thus can survive the vicissitudes of perishable foods. And because Hormel makes both Spam and bacon, we’ll guarantee that the company will keep a little stash for themselves just to flavor their potted meat.

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Swine: Pork Obsessed Restaurant In The West Village

If you thought Northeast Kingdom was a bit pork obsessed with their home grown pig feast, you were completely wrong. Meet Swine, the new pork-centric bar and restaurant in the West Village.

The menu is porked up with pig parts — from the pig’s head to its belly.

According to DNAinfo, the menu by chef Phil Conlon, of Cafe Cluny, includes house-made charcuterie and dishes like swine chop with onions agrodolce and crispy pig’s head terrine with sauce gribiche.

The restaurant, located next to Red Farm on Hudson Street, has a pinball machine and also offers two to three tiered towers of cured meats.

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No Swine on My Mind

This pizza parlor on Malcolm X in Harlem offers an expanded menu of diner food, with the assurance that there is no pork on the premises. On Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, an earlier establishment has a similar name: Mookie’s No Pork on My Fork.