Maybe we Americans have the wrong idea about barbecues, and September, not July, is the ideal time for outdoor grilling. At least that’s what it felt like during the Taste Talks All-Star Cookout on Sunday, in Williamsburg’s East River State Park. With little humidity and temperatures barely passing 70, the fires burning at 12 different food stations didn’t make chefs wilt before our eyes. Plus, the smells wafting out at guests were 100 percent appetizing (not necessarily a guarantee for New York cookouts in the blazing heat of summer).
Top chefs from favorite local spots such as the Meat Hook, Mile End, and Okonomi, rising relative newcomers Sunday in Brooklyn and Camperdown Elm, as well as literal Top Chefs Dale Talde and Sheldon Simeon, were on hand to serve up small plates from 12 to 5. Many of the chefs were teamed up to combine their talents in one dish; one instance being Win Son and Smoke Show BBQ’s nutritious burger with Smoke Show sauce.
“For me, these events are more of a way to see your friends, your homies,” Simeon told me as he and Talde traded off at the table where they were tag-teaming to assemble their BBQ 7-Up shrimp with adobo toast (which Talde said actually contained Red Bull, though I’m not sure I believe him). “It’s crazy to be out here in Williamsburg. I’m just a kid from Maui!”
After hearing Sunday in Brooklyn’s Jaime Young talk about his black lime seasoning (made from the discarded limes from his bar) at Saturday’s Taste Talks conference, I couldn’t exactly imagine the purpose of such a bitter flavor. One answer is to slather it on sweet corn, as he did in the corn two ways collaboration with Camperdown Elm’s Brad Willits.
Attendees were expecting complex delicacies, which they appeared to take a little more time to create than, say, regular burgers and dogs. The line for the Mile Em Poutine, the work of Mile End and Emmy Squared, extended almost all the way back to the entrance, but no one looked exasperated or walked away. Because many guests were used to frequenting other New York food festivals, such as Smorgasburg, they knew the best strategy: First, get something from a booth with a short line, like the double-smoked bacon bao from Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Schaller & Weber. Next, get a drink and balance both while waiting in the longest queue, chatting with friends and listening to the DJ spinning ’80s and ’90s tracks.