A scene from the inaugural two day Taste Talks, held September 15 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
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Convening in Brooklyn

Meryle Evans - September 18th, 2013

Last Sunday, on a picture-perfect autumn afternoon, the beguiling aroma of barbecue wafted over Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as food lovers flocked to two delectable events: the Omnivore World Tour Super Pig Roast and the inaugural two day Taste Talks, organized by Northside Media founders Daniel and Scott Stedman, festival planners and publishers of L and Brooklyn magazines, and "curated"—to use a newly popular word borrowed from museum vocabulary—by chef April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig and The Breslin, NYC).

At the Omnivore "Carnivorous Party," held in restaurant Crown Victoria's backyard, two succulent pigs, whose crisp skin reflected the bright sunlight, were the centerpiece of the French traveling food festival's fourth visit to New York, enhanced with master classes by chefs from France, Canada, and the U.S., including Frenchie's Gregory Marchand. Marchand flew in from Paris to join Scott Bridi of Brooklyn Cured on a Gallic version of a pastrami sandwich.

Meanwhile, a few blocks north at East River State Park, the Taste Talks All-Star Cookout was in full swing with a lineup (and long lines) of chefs providing a dozen temptations. Bloomfield and Nate Smith (Allswell, Williamsburg) char-grilled beef heart with preserved lemon relish; the Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann paired with Tom Mylan and Brent Young (Meat Hook, Williamsburg) on rib eye with chimmichurri sauce; chef Hugo Uys (Wines of South Africa) made mini ostrich burgers with tomato, black cherry chutney, and watercress; for dessert Blue Hill (NYC and Pocantico Hills, NY) Dan Barber's sweet corn ice cream was dished up by Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream.

At dusk, the party reconvened at the newly opened Fitzcarraldo in Bushwick for a Taste Talks and Cook It Raw (see Wild Times, April 2012) collaborative dinner prepared outdoors using as little electricity as possible. Roberto Solis (Nectar) came up from Merida, Mexico, to make lobster tacos with smoked pumpkin seeds and epazote emulsion butter and roasted garlic. Fitzcarraldo (Williamsburg) chef Vinny Campos' bay scallops were topped with sea lettuce, sumac, and crab apples. The most elaborate presentation, stuffed whole lamb and liver sausage, smoked heart kielbasa with house-made spice mix, fresh cheese with pork farmer sausage, and grilled bannock and butter, came from Connie DeSousa and John Jackson of Charcut Roast House, Calgary, Canada.

On Saturday, the Taste Talks attendees had myriad opportunities to whet the appetite with food for thought at a series of panels and discussions with food experts at the Wythe Hotel and Aska restaurant, including a keynote address by Cook It Raw founder Alessandro Porcelli and a premiere of the film The Initiated, Cook It Raw Poland.

Answering the question "Is Chicken Back?" Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto, NYC), Carolyn Bone (Pies & Thighs, Williamsburg), Howard Kalachnikoff (Gramercy Tavern, NYC), and Catherine Greeley (Heritage Foods) explored the evolution of chicken breeds and the challenge of sourcing high quality fowl at a reasonable price.

On the subject of art and commerce, musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, artist Jennifer Rubell, and chefs Wylie Dufresne (WD-50 and Alder, NYC) and NYC chef, author, and entrepreneur Mario Batali discussed how they balanced an I-did-it-for-love aesthetic while pursuing commercial reality.

Beth Kracklauer, food editor of the Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal, a sponsor of Taste Talks, chaired a panel posing the query "Is the Restaurant Over?" where participants offered innovative non-restaurant options—underground dinners, food trucks, pop-ups, and art installations. Sara Simmons (City Grit, NYC) spoke about her series of Sunday suppers at communal tables showcasing out-of-town chefs, and Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli described Res, an artist residency for chefs from around the world, where they can present their work without being rushed or stressed. "We want to contribute to our community of chefs," they explain, "and make the world a bit smaller for those who love this profession," definitely a prevailing theme at Taste Talks.