Punk pigs, cool chefs; A foodie fest in Narrowsburg
You could smell it before you could see it. The tantalizing aroma of fresh-cooked food, filled with flavor and promises of a soon-to-be feast, permeated the air. It was Pig Mountain, and it had arrived on Main Street in Narrowsburg, NY to 2,500 hungry people.
This was the third annual Pig Mountain, held on August 24. The event brings together 14 chefs cooking 14 pigs in 14 different ways. Different, indeed. The food ranged from Viennese spice-rubbed pork; to pig ears with olives, parsley and basil aioli; to bacon tomato salad; and more. And that’s just the pig part; each booth also boasted at least three other sides of veggies. There was the smoked potato salad from The Lodge at Woodloch, miso coleslaw, beet salad and marinated carrots and tatsoi. Many of the offerings were Asian-inspired and many had words I had never heard of before. (Giardiniera anyone?)
Pig Mountain works like this: you buy a ticket for $30 and that gets you 10 ticket stubs. One stub gets you one meal from a chef, which usually included the main dish of pig and one or two sides. The hearty dishes fill you up quickly and two people could easily split ten tickets between them. At the beginning of Main Street were a few booths from local food producers, called Community Tables, like Hilly Acres Farm, Gus Soda, Early Bird Cookery, the Catskill Distillery and more. These options were cash only and offered ice cream, fresh produce and pastries. After that was the beer truck set up by The Heron (there was always a line there), a favorite beer being (aptly) Porkslap. And there was a wine tent from Narrowsburg Fine Wine and Spirits, and a cute homemade lemonade stand scrupulously run by the kids of the shop owners of Main Street.
After you got a beverage you could stop and listen to the bands that were playing throughout the day. From bluegrass banjos to Grateful Dead covers, the talented musicians provided a cheerful backdrop, including Groggy, Pills, Hash and Lung featuring Sean and Cheyenne from Root N’ Roost Farm of White Sulphur Springs.
And then: the food. Lines formed instantly to get a taste from the famous chefs’ creations. Local chef Paul Nanni from The Heron was a crowd pleaser with his giant tub of baked mac and cheese and pork empanadas. I also heard excited talk from the crowd about the chopped pork from a 190-pound pig from PorcSalt Charcuterie Chef Michael Ridgway. And there was dessert, in the form of pig fat Oreos (yes, you read that right). Oh yeah, and a lot of pig heads.
Even though the food was the main attraction, the creative team behind Pig Mountain, Mother New York, really amped up the atmosphere that day in Narrowsburg. There were colorful flyers that said things like “keep eating;”and Pig Mountain “swag”—T-shirts and tote bags featuring Georgie, the pig that inspired it all; and chefs’ cards with drawings of each chef on one side and a Q&A on the back—like asking chef Anthony Sasso of Casa Mono, “What’s your inspiration/hero?” (Be sure to check out the old-school zine [pronounced zeen] at www.pigmt.com/The-Story.htm). All of these were printed on neon paper, a decidedly punk tableau. The street fair feast has roots in the punk music scene, being born out of a punk rock show in a basement. It was started by NYC chef Heather Carlucci and local artist Matthew Solomon. Narrowsburg set the perfect backdrop for the not-quite-punk but still cool crowd, with Narrowsburg’s hipster-cred and under-the-radar locale.
But what’s more punk than pigs? Local farms, of course. The pigs and vegetables were sourced from New York State farms and a part of the proceeds will be donated to the National Young Farmers Coalition, an organization that “represents, mobilizes, and engages young farmers to ensure their success.” Members of the coalition were on hand to answer people’s questions and spread the word about the importance of young farmers.
While the yummy food was good for our stomachs, the pig roast and veggie fest is also good for our town. Pig Mountain has grown from 475 attendees and four chefs in 2011, to over 2,500 attendees and 14 chefs this year. All those people mean good business, and local stores saw a 45 to 50% increase in business during the weekend. Most of the crowd were people from New York City or New Jersey and many are second-home owners.
It’s clear that Pig Mountain, the little punk show that could, is soaring in popularity. Just remember get in line early next year. Visit www.pigmt.com.