I had a special request for the organizers of Pig Island, which is holding its third annual event this Saturday on Governors Island: “Can I do a vegetarian-only tent at the festival?” It was absurd, unlikely, and frankly, bewildering given that this is an event to celebrate whole pigs from local farms, which twenty-five of the best city’s chefs carve up and portion into unique tasting bites to serve to the crowds. But they said, “Sure!” And I’m very proud to announce the amazing cooks who will be showing off their veggie-cooking chops at this table on Saturday.
First off, big ups to Ali Seitz, who couldn’t have come up with a more pristine hand-drawn flyer for “Vegetopolis” to suit my request of “something riffing off the Fritz Lang Metropolis poster with a vegetable instead of the robot girl.” It’s pictured above, in circa-1920s sepia glory, with the German Expressionist typeface beautifully reinstated to articulate the title of this city-based vegetable fest. Thanks, Ali.
Just what is going on at this vegetable corner at Pig Island? Perhaps an explanation of just what is Pig Island should be answered first. As a call-to-arms for the community of good food-focused chefs, this event is a showcase for the practice of using every inch of whole swine. Thanks to the size of whole pigs, it is best to enjoy it in plentiful, good company. This was the simple inspiration for Pig Island, which is hosted by Food Karma Projects by my friend Jimmy Carbone. In past years, it has featured whole pig butchery demos on Governors Island, where the festival is based. There is also a spectacle-worthy day of Saturday pick-ups from the Union Square Greenmarket, in which Violet Hill Farms’ farmer Paul Dench hands off whole pigs to the participating chefs. A great post from our friends at Civil Eats describes the inaugural year of the festival here, and it continues to grow.
So as it does so, I thought it would be only natural to extend the celebration to a wider range of food groups, particularly vegetables, which are at the height of harvest season right now. I’m convinced that nobody has anything against eating vegetables at Pig Island, and I don’t have anything against Paul Dench’s humanely raised pork for that matter as well. So, a sideshow, to celebrate these important ingredients at the porky festival as well, and help round out your eating and learning experience at the fest.
I like to rally together good cooks for good causes just as much as Jimmy does (but not nearly as often), so I gathered ’round some experts in the field of vegetarian cooking. Chitra Agrawal, author of the wonderful blog The ABCD’s of Cooking (that stands for American-born confused Desi, if you were wondering), will be making a South Indian stir-fry with vegetables from her CSA share to demonstrate. Lukas Volger, author of Veggie Burgers Every Whichway and Vegetarian Entrees That Won’t Leave You Hungry, will be demonstrating some excellently bound veggie burgers, for all you tried-and-faileds. There will be a little game of “Name That Plant,” where everyone can place their guesses for three plants at the station in a raffle bucket and win prizes if your (correct) answer is announced at the end of the day. I will be also demonstrating something vegetarian, a real departure from my first year’s participation in Pig Island, in which myself and friends Noah, Melissa and Shunya roasted pork to stuff inside homemade, yeast-risen steamed buns with sauerkraut. That will be a hard act to follow, I admit.
So you don’t have to squint to read it here, this is the schedule for demos at Vegetopolis:
1-2pm: Lukas Volger, author of Veggie Burgers Every Whichway
2-3 pm: Chitra Agrawal, blogger of The ABCD’s of Cooking
3-4pm: Cathy Erway, author of The Art of Eating In
4pm: “Name That Plant” Raffle Giveaway
I’m hoping you’ll come on by our tent to embrace the equal-opportunity nature of Pig Island this Saturday, and get your share of a well-balanced meal while you’re out there. Weather looks like it should be fantastic. Trust me, you don’t have to go away for Labor Day just yet: tickets for unlimited food and Sixpoint beer are on sale now for $85. See you on the ferry or the island soon!