This past Sunday, on a pier on Manhattan's West Side Highway, the so called "Woodstock of Edible Animals" celebrated its tenth year. Founded by food writer Josh Ozersky and presented by Creekstone Farms, Meatopia (which is perfectly named) is a celebration of all things carnivorous.
More than 30 restaurants and chefs from all over the US came to cook, assemble, and handout unique and delicious dishes, all heavily featuring a wide variety of animal meat and flesh. Mmmmmm.
With tickets starting at $200, the event was truly for the die-hard meat eater. But boy, were they in for a treat. Everyone had a great time, getting their money's worth of meat and beer, and dancing surprisingly enthusiastically to the DJ spinning wedding jams.
I was lucky enough to score a press pass and figured this was an event I couldn't pass up. It lived up to the hype and then some, and while I am absolutely no food critic or expert, here are some of the tastiest and strangest meat dishes I've had in a long time.
Garam Masala Quail, Orange Marmalade, Cultured Butter, Pickled Squash and Quinoa Salad, from Chef Francis Derby, The Cannibal, NYC
The verdict: I didn't think I'd be eating quail today, let alone twice (see below). Basically, it tasted like a smaller, pinker chicken with more tiny bones. The quinoa salad was delicious, though.
Morcilla y Callos: Tripe and Yellow-eyed Pea Stew with Blood Sausage, from Chef Jamie Bissonnette, Toro, NYC
The verdict: This is the kind of meal I would want to eat if I was coming down with some mild black plague, stuck inside my cabin on a snowy day on some tundra, while my eight red-faced children played with wooden toys and sang folk songs by the fire. It was hardy, smokey, and really good.
Wood-Grilled Spitted Quail “Spiedini,” Fall Bean Ragout, from Chef Michael White, Altamarea Group, NYC
The verdict: More quail. I now consider myself a quail connoisseur. This meat was a bit more tender and juicy, and was definitely easier to eat than my previous experience. The vegetables were good, too. I think it was a bit dainty for some of the carnivores around me, but I liked it. Plus, I got a free pointed wooden stick to fight through the lines that were forming.
Pomegranate-Marinated Beef Heart, Anson Mills Grits, from Chef Richard Brown, New York Hilton Midtown, NYC
The verdict: Before eating this, I was already feeling a bit full and was worried that I might have to bow out of my odyssey of meat. Then I ate some beef heart. Now that I had the power and stamina of a full grown steer, I felt like I could tackle the rest of the offerings with even more zeal. This dish was actually quite light and tender and the beef heart had an interesting texture, soft but not gross.
Root beer and Tabasco-Glazed Lamb Ribs, from Chef Tim Rattray, The Granary, San Antonio, Texas
The verdict: Ah, here's what I came for — some good old fashioned ribs, glazed with things you can buy at a gas station and served to me with a pickle spear. Though I can't say I really tasted the root beer and Tabasco, the meat was tender and delicious and I enjoyed getting my hands messy, a rite of passage I was expecting from Meatopia.
Chirashi: Japanese-Style Marinated Creekstone Ribeye Tartare, Japanese Rice & Pickles, from Chef Harold Moore, Commerce NYC
The verdict: You may not believe it from my previous review, but this refined, elegant bite was my favorite of the day. Call me an aesthete, but this gorgeous bite had refreshing Asian flavors and light textures that were a pretty welcome respite from all of the grease-soaked cow parts piling up in my stomach.
Dr. Brown’s Cream-Soda Brined Smoked Short Rib Pastrami with Homemade Rye, Vegetable Pickles, and Mustard Horseradish Sauce, Kale Slaw, from Chef Alex Lee, Glen Oaks Country Club , Old Westbury, NY
The verdict: OK, this sandwich ruled. The pastrami was some of the best I've ever had and the mustard horseradish sauce was perfect. If this sandwich is available at the Glen Oaks Country Club all the time, I might just have to take up golf.
Smoked Pork Cheeks with Coriander Chutney and Apple Achar, from Chef Hugh Mangum, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque NYC
The verdict: Coming off my previous pastrami high, I crashed and burned into this thing. Apologies to Chef Hugh and Mighty Quinn, but this was my least favorite dish of the day. Beef cheeks, which I've never had and doubt if I ever will again, are sort of slimy and mushy and the green sauce tasted like thick, bitter beer. The apples were pickled, which I'm not sure apples ever should be, and the little cracker thing tasted like someone has left a church communion wafer in the toaster too long. I dropped most of this in the garbage can.
New England Charcuterie Wood-Smoked, Wood-Grilled “Butcher Bacon,” New England Charcuterie Sampler, from Chef Josh Smith, Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions Waltham, MA
The verdict: Oh, pork belly, you frustrating prince. You taste so delicious, yet as I eat even just one bite of you, I can feel my face growing pudgy, my stomach doubling, and my butt yearning for the couch. This spread, a very carnivoresque version of a charcuterie, was delicious and also included some sausage and sliced meats, as well.
Prosciutto and Cherry Ice Cream, from Sam Mason, Mohan Kumar, and Holiday Kumar of OddFellows Ice Cream Co., NYC
The verdict: To round out my afternoon of pure indulgence, I headed to the Odd Fellow's table, where they were serving up Prosciutto and Cherry Ice Cream, salt optional. Imagine vanilla ice cream with a few pieces of prosciutto laid on top, and you pretty much know what this tastes like. It was not bad at all, as both elements were tasty, but the flavors didn't create much fireworks when mixed together.
Overall, I had a fantastic time at Meatopia. As I waddled home, full of various and intriguing bits of meat, I remembered how much I like my job. I'll be back next year, Meatopia, if you'll have me.
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