America and Its Meats: An Independence Day Tribute

Posted on July 4th, 2012

Now here it is, the 4th of July. Independence Day. And naturally, my thoughts turn to meat. It gratifies me to no end to look over the our mighty roster, and see the global complexion of our chef roster. From the Indian subcontinent, tandoor master Hemant Mathur; from South America by way of Uruguay, asado savant Santiago Garat. The Korean-Japanese yakiniku prodigy Takashi Inoue. I haven’t told anybody yet, but we are in discussion to bring in a chef from the People’s Republic of China. The BZ Grill guys do remarkable Cypriot sausages. Julia Jaksic is doing her Balkan burger.


And yet, nobody could doubt that this is an utterly American festival. Such is the rich hetereogenity, the complex and fertile diversity of our foodways, especially here in New York. The “City of Meat” conceit by which this year’s event is organized can stand for something already existing in an infinitely larger, more meaningful way in the city hosting Meatopia; in some real sense, New York already is the City of Meat.


I take an inordinate pride in American foodways; I just penned a tribute to them in Time today. But the deepest, indeed, the only personal feeling I harbor as an American citizen is to my own hometown. That that city remains the ultimate microcosm of the American experience, a kind of cultural Kandor, gives our flagship event a signal reasonance. I don’t claim any special dignity for this Meatopia that is denied to the Meatopia Oakland (September 21-23), Meatopia Texas(February) Meatopias Miami and LA (spring 2012, dates TBD).


But on this Independence Day, thinking about the great Melting Pot, I think back to the original lines from Israel Zangwill’s play: “There she lies, the great Melting Pot—listen! Can’t you hear the roaring and the bubbling? There gapes her mouth —the harbour where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of theorld to pour in their human freight. Ah, what a stirring and a seething!”


Feeders indeed they were; and feeders they brought. But not the feeders of Zangwill’s metallurgical metaphor. On this Independence Day, let’s pay tribute to the turbulent cauldron that is America’s foodways: it’s truest and most enduring engine of assimilation. Like the fibers that make up a muscle, or the thousand tiles that Meatopia artist-in-residence Laurel True will make mosaics of, the many meats of Meatopia are at once America’s, New York’s, and the world’s.

Happy Memories of My Time on the Stun Line

Posted on June 25th, 2012

It was with a sense of deep unease that I approached the Creekstone beef processing plant last month. And not just because I was figuring on seeing a bunch of big, healthy animals get slaughtered in front of me and turned into meat. That wouldn’t necessarily faze me. But having already signed on, and not for the first year, with Creekstone Farms as my beef sponsor, I would have been severely discomfited to see anything ghastly. I knew all about Creekstone, I had had Creekstone vouched for, their plant was the most cutting-edge in the country, personally designed by Temple Grandin. But I still had never been there.


Well, I’ve now been there, and even written a two-part essay about the experience. It can be found here, if you are interested. The takeway is that I can’t imagine any being getting dispatched with the kind of painless surprise those steers enjoyed. The whole process is diabolically clever. Because the animals don’t know what hits them, they don’t make any noise, so the guy after them doesn’t get spooked and make noise. Everybody just walks along, figuring something good is around the corner, maybe and trough of hay or a piece of salt to lick. Instead it’s doom, but the kind of doom any of us would be happy to get.


The Creekstone steers have been on my mind a lot lately. The pundits at Slate and elsewhere have been having a bit of sport on the subject of a new cut, the “Vegas Strip,” a kind of shoulder blade cut which until now has been generally dumped into beef grinders. Creekstone is bringing in a super talented young chef, Jon Adams, from Philadelphia, to cook it at Meatopia. Adams has a place called Pub and Kitchen which, were it in New York, would be as overexposed as Kei$ha. Happily, I have the privilge of introducing this good fellow to the New York food world. And of course, I will be deep in Creekstone lore and culture this Wednesday, when I host an ultra-luxe subterranean beef orgy at The Breslin, with April Bloomfield and Pat LaFrieda collaborating. The Breslin Butcher’s Ball, as it’s called, celebrates LaFrieda’s Reserve line, which represents the crown jewels of the celebrity butcher’s aging box. In this case, that’s all Creekstone.


Whether shoulder steak or super-Prime rib, it is an ongoing comfort for me to consider that these animals died painlessly, and not in vain. Come to Meatopia to eat all the different parts of them.

Meatopia 2012: Building The City of Meat

Posted on June 21st, 2012

Looking over the Meatopia menu gives its founder an almost immodest pleasure; it must be how Wayne Gretzsky feels when he looks over his eight Hart trophies, or a Davos magnate when he looks at his trophy wife. Such skill, such virtuousity, drawn from across the whole range of gastronomy. Unlike your average meat-fest, which invariably features a dozen or more barbecue cookers all serving identical pulled pork, our menu ranges from the tandoori mastery of Hemant Mathur to the Escoffierian majesty of Harold Moore’s squab. But when I look at it as a whole, it is the “city of meat” concept that pleases me the most.


New York, Meatopia’s home, is the most cosmopolitan of cities. Any one motif, whether it be barbecue or beefsteak, would be too limiting. This was a problem for us last year. It will be remembered that previous Meatopias had particular themes, such as “Lamb Bam Thank You Ma’am!”, “Baconnalia,” and of course the immortal, infanticidal “Slaughter of the Innocent.” But that was back in the halcyon days when Meatopia was an invite-only, VIP event, the culinary equivalent of Truman Capote’s black-and-white party. Last year we had almost fifty chefs. What concept could accommodate such diversity?


Enter the City of Meat. I was inspired by the idea of David Dinkin’s already-forgotten concept of New York as a “gorgeous mosaic,” and even have gone so far as to draft the nation’s greatest mosaic artist, Laurel True, to create an actual meat mosaic. (Unfortunately, Laurel can’t create it with actual meat, as it is wasteful, and also will start to rot.) The neighborhoods of the City of Meat are such as one might find in the hollows and back alleys of my own mind. In Offalwood, the “inner organs of beasts and fowl,” as Joyce called them, are handled; “The Quarter” is an all-beef district, so called both for its illicit connotation, as well as because that’s how beef arrives at the butcher shop. There are a number of other neighborhoods, such as Beaktown (poulty), Carcass Hill (whole animals), and Meatopia Heights (haute cuisine). But they all have in common the love of meat and the skill of chefs.


My question to you is, what neighborhoods did I forget? Because this concept is so good I may have to replicate it out-of-town, like a touring company of The Lion King (but edible.)

Adam Perry Lang and the Spirit of Meatopia

Posted on May 19th, 2012

Welcome back to Meatopia. Our new site has just launched, as you can see, and the details of this year’s Meatopia with it. As they did last year, Whole Foods Market is back as our presenting sponsor, and their stirring Best Butcher Contest is the event’s competitive centerpiece.  Our chef roster is, in a word, insane. But then much has changed.  Nine years have passed since the first Meatopia, and although the event is bigger, and so am I, the spirit of the thing is the same. (I’ve even made a point of working up what I think of as the principles of Meatopia, which can be found here.) This year’s iteration returns to the pastoral setting that suits it best, and features what I honestly think is the best lineup I’ve put together to date. But these Meatopia Diary entries aren’t the occasion for grandiloquent ad copy, arguing why you ought to buy a ticket. They’re a way for me to communicate the passion I feel for the chefs who make Meatopia what it is, and the partners who help me put it on. There will be some essays, and some cooking videos, and some farm videos, and all of these entries will be simultatenously posted on Esquire’s Eat Like a Man blog — because they are a partner too.


But I want to start this blog by re-posting one of my favorite Ozersky TV videos ever, of one of our Meatopia chefs this year: the great Adam Perry Lang. I recently write a tribute to Adam over at Rachael, the gist of which was that his new grilling book is radical and profound.  I have wanted Adam to cook since Meatopia started, and the fact that he has agreed to do so fill me with something approaching glee. You can infer my feelings from this video:



Adam Perry Lang and the Perfect Prime Rib from Ozersky.TV on Vimeo.


Adam is cooking fleur de sel short ribs, and an incredible “rib roast cooked like a steak” for the Thrillist VIPs. That is a very unpoetic name for a truly visionary dish, one not far in taste or appearance from the meat he cooks in the video above.  How can there be so much great meat in one event? Honestly, there just can’t. Can there?

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