Meatopia returned to the Docklands this weekend, and having been impressed with it last year, we returned to Meatopia, the carnivorous foodie festival where everything is cooked over wood or charcoal.
On entering a Tobacco Dock that was decidedly less smoky than last year (those issues having evidently been sorted out second time around), we were greeted by no less a person than the founder of Meatopia, Josh Ozersky. I’m impressed by the fact that with all that must be going on at a big event such as this, he found the time to mingle with the punters.
We had, of course, come for the meat and we were not disappointed. We got to try Charcoal grilled Flat Iron Steak with anchovy butter (courtesy of the ever-excellent Hawksmoor), Tasty Pig & Beef Bits Taco (The Greenhouse Tavern of Cleveland, Ohio), Korean BBQ Pork Belly (Judy Joo of New York), Meatopia Double Smoked Cheddar Dog (Shake Shack; I really need to go to their place on Covent Garden) and the Burger with comte cheese, pulled Beef Ribs, Baconnaise – a real thing, it seems – & smoked chillis (Tommi’s Burgers). All were superb, and as an added bonus we did not get caught up in any two-hour queues this time.
According to Christian Stevenson (a.k.a. DJ BBQ), the master of ceremonies at the demonstration area that is the Cutting Room, the organisers had far more chefs, restaurants etc interested in cooking than there were spaces (this despite the event being spread out over two days), so they were having to turn would-be barbecue-ers away.
Liquid refreshment came courtesy of Fuller’s, which has recently created a craft lager called Frontier. This is not something that has come up on my beer radar, despite the fact that I have been known to frequent Fuller’s pubs (although the fact that I usually go for bitter may well have played a part in my not noticing that they’ve branched out into lager); hand-crafted over 42 days, it’s a good refreshing pint.
We got to see an entire cow being spit-roasted, presumably for the benefit of those who will be attending tomorrow.
Music was provided by a seven-piece band called the New York Brass Band who played instrumental versions of 1980s hits. The tuba-player, who appeared to be the one in charge, did not sound American when he announced his band, but he got a laugh by saying that they are in fact from York.
As for demonstrations, we got to see two guys from a fun-sounding Sussex-based organisation called Hunter Gather Cook butcher a deer carcass on the stage, serving up some wild venison carpaccio in the process along with advice about how to go about hunting deer and butchering venison, the latter being possible to do in your back garden. Not that I’m getting any ideas, of course.
The highlight of the day was Dario Cecchini, the master butcher of Panzano who has cropped up on this blog before (if you’re going to go to Tuscany, I highly recommend eating at his establishment in the afore-mentioned small hilltop town located between Florence and Sienna where his family have been butchers for eight generations). With his American wife Kim providing the translation, Dario expertly butchered a hindquarter of beef (and not just any piece of beef but one that had been hung for 45 days) while discoursing on his philosophy of treating the whole animal with respect by making sure that all parts of it are used (which, of course, ties in neatly with the whole nose-to-tail philosophy behind Meatopia) and quoting from Dante’s Inferno. The sushi del Chianti that he served up was delicious, although so popular was this with the crowd that I was lucky that Allison, who was sitting closer to the front than me, was able to get a couple of pieces!
Meatopia 2014 was, I am pleased to report, a highly enjoyable foodie experience.