Right now, things in the Catskills are heating up — and I don’t mean the August weather.
I’m talking about earthen pits in which chefs from places like Casa Mono and Dickson’s Farmstand Meats are going whole hog cooking for Pig Mountain, a worth-the-trip upstate pork-and-more fest that you should hit this Saturday night. Tickets are just $35.
Seventeen chefs will cook 16 pigs in preparations ranging from Ethoiopian to Kenyan to Japanese to Yucatan. Chef Sasso is going all red-sauce Italian, transforming his hog into everything from braciola to meatballs. A few are using smokers; others go underground – cooking in slate-lined Indian-style pits where the pigs, each wrapped in banana leaves and a wet burlap sack, cook for a full 24 hours. (Note to herbivores: the sides are killer too.)
But Pig Mountain isn’t just about stuffing yourself. The project is the brainchild of Heather Carlucci, an award winning pastry chef who has rocked the ovens from Union Square Café to Print and is an activist for farmers’ rights and environmental causes. So much so that, with Hillary Baum, she co-founded Chefs for the Marcellus, which unites food industry pros (including many of our favorite chefs) against hydrofracking in our foodshed. Heather has a home in nearby North Branch and created this project to bring a yearly economic boost to the area. And boy does it work — the annual fest is expected to draw over 2,000 guests this Saturday, many of whom will make a weekend out of it. Proceeds go to the nearby Center for Discovery.
It’s all made possible by the participating chefs who donate their time, cook around the clock and, when not tending the overnight fires, shack up together in 40 bunks at a nearby Boy Scout camp.
And while those pits are heating up, the weather will too, in a good way. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and be gorgeous Saturday.
When I reached Heather by phone today, she was in high gear and had to interrupt the call for a minute. Returning she said “ Sorry about that – someone just picked up their pig!”
Photographs courtesy of Pig Mountain.