Best Weekend Food Events: Mad. Sq. Eats, Taste Talks, Pig Island

Taste Talks Brooklyn
Friday through Sunday
Multiple locations

The fourth annual Taste Talks conference returns this weekend with an all-star line up of chefs participating in panel discussions and unique dinners. Events include Sean Brock and Danny Bowien’s Low Country boil on Friday at Esh and a Sunday afternoon barbecue featuring Emily and Hometown BBQ in East River State Park. Tickets start at $49. Reserve yours here.

Mad. Sq. Eats
Worth Square at Madison Square Park
Saturday through October 7th, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mad. Sq. Eats makes its return with familiar bites from Ice & Vice and Roberta’s. New spots this year include gyro makers Amali Mou and Beijing-inspired street crepe slingers Mr. Bing.

Pig Island
Erie Basin Park (1 Beard Street, Brooklyn)
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Over twenty chefs from restaurants — including Fletchers Brooklyn Barbecue and Cookshop — will serve a variety of nose-to-tail-inspired dishes with craft beer, cider, and mezcal at this outdoor tasting. Tickets are $85 and include all food and drink. Reserve your spot here.

2nd Annual Freak Week Launch Party

Coney Island Brewery (1904 Surf Ave, Brooklyn)
Sunday, 12 p.m to 10 p.m

Coney Island Brewery’s Freak Week — which gives folks the chance to sample the brewery’s limited-release beers — is kicking things off with an all-day Sunday bash. Guests can enjoy the likes of kettle corn cream ale, blood red berliner weisse, and a pumpkin spice-flavored brew.


Here’s What You Missed at Taste Talks

The weekend’s Taste Talks events went off without a hitch, bringing together top New York food mavens and eager eaters to share in conversation and plenty of good dishes. From Friday evening to Sunday night, Taste Talks hosted a round of events — dinners, presentations, a Future of Food expo, and Sunday’s All Star BBQ — where top chefs like Mario Batali, Danny Bowien, and Andy Ricker shared their thoughts and culinary skills with crowds.

Celebrations kicked off Friday evening during a wine and oyster dinner. Saturday morning, groggy food nerds gathered for a chicken and waffle brunch, catered by Kurent Events, in the backyard of Colossal Media, which was decorated with vibrant murals, stacked cans of paint, and buckets of beer. Throughout the day, a Future of Food expo showcased what’s next in food, from booze delivery services to at-home hydroponic farms. Some of the standouts included Ohneka Farms, an urban farming service that will build you a custom at-home organic food garden, and The Future Market, an optimistic rendering of markets in the future that will open a pop-up grocery store in the summer of 2015.

Presentations ran throughout the day, and featured the academic vibe of college lectures. Hosted in the Kinfolk bar and cafe and at the Wythe Hotel, conversations covered everything from the future of food publishing to the importance of restaurant reviews to the challenges of opening a restaurant in Manhattan to how to take the best food photos possible. Sam Sifton sat down with Gabrielle Hamilton to plug the pending launch of NYTimes Cooking. Rob Newton of Wilma Jean and Nightingale 9 urged eaters to stop purchasing tuna and look more closely at food sources. Danny Bowien and Christina Tosi created a gourmet version of canned soup.

Dale Talde, Alex Guarnaschelli, Sarah Moulton, and Justin Warner spoke about the evolving role of celebrity chef at “Big Chefs on the Small Screen: How Food Television Lifted Chefs to Cult Status.” Each chef discussed the rising expectations for celebrity chefs — both in their restaurants and personally. “When I first started at The Food Network,” Sarah Moulton told the crowd, “and I would discuss panko bread crumbs or chipotles in adobo, people would be impressed. Now, they’re like, ‘Tell me something new.'” The chefs also talked about why food television has become a hit. Moulton’s theory relates to global chaos, that food TV is non-threatening. “There’s nothing scary about cooking,” she said. Guarnaschelli agreed, saying, “Watching Ina Garten cook is like watching Bob Ross paint” — something soothing to ease your day.

Andy Ricker, Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo, and Gabe Stulman discussed the evolution of Brooklyn during a talk entitled “Is Brooklyn Becoming the Next Manhattan?” Ricker explained why Pok Pok Ny ended up in Brooklyn, saying that in Brooklyn, “we would have a fighting chance to figure it out and find our feet.” For restaurants launching in Manhattan, higher rents mean restaurateurs have hit the ground running to stay afloat. When making predictions of what neighborhoods represent the next frontier for openings, the panel named Bushwick, Sunset Park, Astoria, Long Island City, and Bay Ridge as places that have recently become or will soon be part of the food movement.

Saturday evening featured an elaborate meal hosted by Dinner Lab, where chef Eric Bolyard served a decadent surprise meal.

Charred lamb tongue and deep-friend anchovy by Nate Smith and Lee Tiernan of Black Axe Mangal at Taste Talks
Charred lamb tongue and deep-friend anchovy by Nate Smith and Lee Tiernan of Black Axe Mangal at Taste Talks

Sunday afternoon, the food mayhem geared up again as tents were raised and grills were lit along the shores of Williamsburg. Fifteen stations handed out tapas-sized bites; chef Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen grilled skewers of tender duck hearts, Andy Ricker plated slices of boar cradled in a fresh lettuce leaf with shiso and chili, and Nate Smith and Lee Tiernan garnered one of the longest lines of the day for the charred lamb tongue with fried anchovies.



Chefs Light Up Grills for an All-Star BBQ

A lineup of New York’s best chefs will be on display September 14 at East River State Park, where they’ll be grilling up their favorite dishes for you to devour. This is the finale to the upcoming Taste Talks event in Brooklyn, and 25 chefs will hit the waterfront for the All-Star BBQ, building up some smoke and char to serve stellar and wide-ranging plates.

During a two-session day (1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.), diners can pay $40 to sample dishes to their hearts’ content.

Look for dishes like seared boar rubbed with garlic, coriander, and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar from Andy Ricker of Pok Pok. Rapper Action Bronson and Michael White of Osteria Morini will be collaborating on porchetta “kra prow” tigelle, a Thai spiced porchetta. Dream team Rob Newton of Nightingale 9 plus Oliver Strand of the New York Times will be grilling barbecue duck. Other dishes to look forward to include pig head salad, grilled duck hearts, and grilled blue whale oysters, and the line-up also includes Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, Jamie Bissonnette of Toro, Eli Sussman of Mile End, and many more.

“The thing that I love about this event is all the mashups,” Daniel Stedman, founder and director of Taste Talks told us, “and this collaborative theme of Taste Talks overall. It’s all about the food and all about eating.”

“People love barbecue,” Stedman added, “and all these chefs will be out there with a grill, cooking right in front of you.” Last year, the event pulled in 1,000 diners. This year, the number is expected to reach 1,500.

Beyond hanging in “a gorgeous amazing location,” per the founder, Taste Talks is meant to explore food culture and the future of taste, and celebrate the fantastic passion for food in Brooklyn. “Brooklyn is this epicenter for food culture,” said Stedman. “You see it all over the world.”

Blue Point beers and Sud de France wines will be available at a cash bar, and there will be plenty of seating. Tickets are $40 for the All-Star BBQ; tickets for other Taste Talk events are sold separately.


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Move Fast: Nab Your Tickets for This Year’s Taste Talks

“Mario [Batali] asked me to this, and my general rule is, if Mario asks me to do something, I say yes,” chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese and Mission Cantina explained of his turn as master of ceremonies and curation for the upcoming Taste Talks event in Brooklyn, September 12-14. “April wasn’t available,” he remarked, referring to last year’s curator, chef April Bloomfield. “I guess I’m runner-up.”

Of course, Bowien is far from runner-up. The inventive young chef is an ideal choice for overseeing the innovative event. His history of breaking staid culinary assumptions (hello, kung pao pastrami), engaging his fans and admirers (free beer!), and rewriting the story of how to become a restaurateur (food trucks are here to stay) are sure to show up on the Taste Talks agenda.

In its second year, the food-focused symposium will bring together food lovers, restaurateurs and chefs for workshops, discussions, and plenty of eating. Powered by Mario Batali & The Northside Media Group — responsible for things like Northside Festival — the event will take place in various locations in Williamsburg.

Panel discussions include topics like “Do Restaurant Reviews Matter?” with the New York Times‘ Sam Sifton, “Big Chefs on the Small Screen: How Food Television Lifted Chefs to Cult Status” with Dale Talde, and “Expert Food Photography for Everyday Cooks” with Daniel Krieger.

More interested in eating than discussing? The food events will without a doubt have you drooling: The weekend kicks off with oysters and Champagne at Villain on Friday night, starts Saturday with chicken and waffles, and concludes Sunday with an all-day, all-star barbecue in East River Park.

This event is conceptualized “through the lens of an organizer that does major concert events,” Bowien explained with excitement. “It’ll be like going to a music festival.” Currently set to contribute to the three-day event are Christina Tosi, Peter Meehan, Adam Rapoport, Sara Moulton, Alex Guarnaschelli, Justin Warner, Andy Ricker, and many, many more.

Running concurrently with the panels on Saturday is the Future Food Expo, a showcase and celebration of what’s next in food, at Sky High Murals.

“I just think it’s going to be really interesting,” Bowien says of Taste Talks. “Things have shifted a lot in the past years. In New York, people are so informed on food. People think about food a lot, it’s the best city in the world to eat. New York revolves around food. People should come to see their favorite chefs and learn about topics they may not know much about. It won’t be the same conference of grumpy chefs complaining about years spent on the line,” he promises.

Score single-event tickets here (prices range from $10 to $90) or go all out with an all-access pass, which you can purchase here for $100 to $385. Attend the Future Food Expo for free — yes, free — but reserve your spot here.

Stay tuned for more news from the conference itself! Also, have friends in Chicago? Taste Talks will be heading there as well. Share the love and send them to this link.