Flushing Town Hall goes hog wild

By Suzanne Parker

NY Epicurean Events, the folks who organized the recent Cheesefest, are pandering to meatheads this time with Charcuterie Masters, to be held at historic Flushing Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 27.

Part tasting event and part smackdown, Charcuterie Masters brings together Old World and new wave charcuterie artisans, chefs, vintners and brewers.

Charcuterie Masters is the first ever competition of its kind, highlighting the talents of more than a dozen professional and amateur makers of artisanal charcuterie.

For a little preview of what was in store, I paid a visit to the Ridgewood Pork Store.

While waiting for the attention of the owner, Jonel Picioane, I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation with the customer ahead of me. An Asian man was ordering an impressive quantity of Tasso ham while chatting about all manner of cured meats. I couldn’t resist asking the man if he was a chef. He introduced himself as Fred Hua, of Nhà Minh, a Vietnamese café cum art gallery in Brooklyn. He wanted the ham for bahn mi sandwiches at his restaurant. Where but Queens would you run into a Vietnamese chef buying New Orleans-style ham in an Eastern European meat market?

The Ridgewood Pork Store has been at the same location at 516 Seneca Ave. since the 1930s.

Picioane claims bragging rights to operating the oldest non-stop smokehouse in New York City in the store’s basement. Picioane’s father bought the store in 1974. He was an ethnic Romanian who emigrated from the autonomous Serbian province of Vojvodina.

The ethnic makeup of Ridgewood has changed considerably since 1974, and Picioane strives to keep up with the times. His biggest sellers are his bacons—maple smoked, cracked pepper and double smoked.

But along with his Eastern European sausages, he offers chorizo, andouille, and nduja—Calabrese smoked spreadable sausage. He also loves to come up with new delicacies. His entries in the Charcuterie Masters contest will showcase the products of this experimentation — namely dry aged Wagyu beef, Rosemary smoked lamb, and pistachio studded salami made with fatback from Iberico pigs.

Carl Blake will be a significant presence at the event. Computer engineer turned pig farmer and barbecue tinkerer extraodinare, he created the Iowa Swabian Hall pigs, a cross of the Chinese Meishan and Russian wild boar, based on a 19th-century German breed. Blake will be providing a pig for a butchering demonstration by Larissa Popa, Detroit butcher and charcuterer. Chef Will Horowitz of Manhattan’s Ducks Eatery/Harry & Ida’s will be smoking one of Blake’s pigs.

In conjunction with Michelin-starred Chef Hugue Dufour of M. Wells Steakhouse in Long Island City, Blake will be demonstrating one of his latest creations, the American Hot Box. Blake promised that the stainless steel cooking box can cook a 100-pound pig in four hours. Blake has only shipped six boxes so far, but he said Menard’s, the Midwest hardware store chain has already contacted him about carrying it.

Guests will be able to sample exquisite charcuterie, including paté de campagne with truffle, and pata negra salami with Catskills goat cheese as well as partake in an Iowa Swabian Hall pig roast prepared caja China style by Chef Hugue Dufour and Mangalitsa pork sliders grilled by Chef Zhicay. Pairings will include top-rated wines, craft beers, and farmstead ciders.

They will also have an opportunity to learn from the makers as well participate in a people’s choice vote of the best-of-the-evening charcuterie.

The artisanal products will be available to purchase directly at the event.

If You Go

Charcuterie Masters

When: Saturday, Feb. 27, from 6 pm – 9 pm

Where: Flushing Town Hall, 37-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing

Cost: $100/general admission, $200/VIP includes early entry and access to special tasting room, Tickets available at www.nyepicureanevents.com

Contact: (718) 463-7700

Website: www.flushingtownhall.org

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