Cover image: Il Porcellino Coppa cured ham © WhereNYC
As someone who recently started eating meat after being vegan for the past six and a half years, it’s easy to say that the craft of charcuterie was relatively foreign to me. Meat has always, for a lack of a better word, scared me. I still can’t bring myself to touch raw meat and more often than not, I will let my partner take over the cooking in that case. Aside from aesthetics, the meat industriously has often left me questioning: what am I consuming and where is it coming from?
My knowledge of charcuterie and palate has expanded immensely. I tried liverwurst and even blood pudding for the first time, as well as witnessed first hand (from a live demonstration with Chef Rodrigo Duarte) the importance and care that goes into butchering the animal.
˝Despite having consumed more artisanal meat in the span of four hours than I have in my entire life (and enjoyed every smoky and seasoned minute of it) this retired vegan has a new appreciation for not only the consumption of meat, but also more importantly, the handling.
Some of the countries best in charcuterie were seen last Saturday [February 24, 2018]
at the historic Flushing Town Hall in Queens. Home to some of Jazz’s greatest legends, like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong [just to name a few], the event had an immediately welcoming atmosphere that felt oddly nostalgic despite the fact that this was a place and a world I didn’t know much about.
“The hallmark of [Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts] (FCCA)’s current programming is a cross-cultural focus: works that fuse or bridge different cultures, as well as larger programs that bring together presentations of art forms from different parts of the world…”
˝With a fitting space to compliment the event, like the cheese and wine to the evening’s main course, 60 different charcuterie products were selected out of 98 applicants from all over the US and Canada. From Peter McChesney’s espresso salumi, to Will Horowitz’s fermented and seasoned radishes dipped in a mushroom sauce, there wasn’t a corner of the room that wasn’t filled with creativity and care.
“We want to recognize everybody who entered…we realize that there was a lot of work, money and time that went into all of these products. And it’s obvious that all of the contestants care about the subject matter. That means we care about you too,” said judge Chef Brian Polcyn, co-author of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.
Guests sampled the contestant’s charcuterie and participated in a People Choice Award, with the overwhelming task, of selecting their favorite table. Doug Kelles aka “The Bacon Guru” was the crowd pleaser and the Grand Champion of Charcuterie Masters was Bill Miner, Chef and owner of ll Porcellino salumi. His wagyu beef bresaola alongside the thinly sliced coppa, proved the attentive skill required to “wear the crown.”
“I’m completely blown away. This is a dream. We’ve only been in business for two-and-a-half years, so we’re really brand new at doing this. It’s humbling to be among the best of the best in the country,” Miner said.
With plans to open a wholesale facility next month and sell nationwide by the summer, Chef Miner bases their success off of hard work and “using the best quality animal for the best quality finished product.”
Regardless of my dietary preferences in both the past and the present, the statement resonated with an underlying principle: transparency; a word that felt universal between the participants and judges.
“Charcuterie is a very important part of modern American cooking; it’s not a modern craft…Our costumers want to know where their food comes from… it’s a craft that needs to be cracked, it’s a craft that needs to be developed, it’s a craft that is learned. And it’s a pleasure to see how thing have changed,” said Chef Polcyn before awarding the winners in front of an enthusiastic and wildly supportive crowd.
“It’s a nice community,” Miner said,” It’s not a bunch of egos. Everyone’s [here] to help each other.”
Whether you were there for the Black Label Donuts made from banana, pecans, miso and bacon (lots and lots of bacon); the Brooklyn Cider House’s simplistically perfect “apple only” cider, or just the appreciation of well cured meats, it was hard to leave without feeling apart of the camaraderie. I certainly don’t plan on showcasing my “talents” any time soon, but will say I do feel a little more at ease with the idea of approaching meat in my kitchen. I might even season it myself next time.
For more information on upcoming foodie events, visit: https://www.nyepicureanevents.com.