If you didn’t make it down to Primal Atlanta last weekend at the Sweetwater Brewery, you definitely missed out. It was THE meat event of the year. While the event suffered from a few logistical missteps, it was still a lot of fun.
If you don’t already know from the brief synopsis in my earlier post, Primal Atlanta is basically a foodie festival that focuses on all things meat. More specifically, the event promotes the craft of butchering, wood-fire cooking, and whole animal utilization. Roughly fifteen Atlanta restaurants and chefs joined up with The Taste Network to serve the few hundred guests (total guess on my part, btw) a wide array of meats, and not just the run-of-the-mill cuts that the general public usually consumes. The guests were also treated to a wine tasting room featuring nine of Oregon’s best vineyards. It was a Pinot lover’s dream.
Part of the main event was a great butchering demo in which we got to watch a master butcher (AKA Manny) break down a ¼ side of grass-fed beef, which he effortlessly ripped through in about 3 minutes. I’d love to see how quickly he could do it when he didn’t have to stop and pose for the crowd with each cut.
In addition to the beef, they also butchered the sad little lamb you see above. And he was tasty. I believe that the 3rd dangling beast on the stage was a deer (It was a goat…thanks BuHi!), but I had wandered off from the demo by the time they got around to him. If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like thinking about your food as having a face, this demo might not have been for you. Fortunately, that ain’t me.
Now, on to the food. Each restaurant/chef had their own station where they were toiling away over hot wood fired grills and serving up some unconventional meaty goodness. Each station rolled out numerous dishes over the course of the night, so there was no way I could try all of them. Here are some of the highlights:
Grindhouse Killer Burgers – Lamb Burger w/ Roasted Garlic and Black Pepper Aioli.
These were juicy as hell and tasted great. The burgers had a fantastic char/backyard grillin’ taste to them from the wood fire grill.
Rolling Bones – BBQ Goat sliders and Whole Roasted Goat head.
I don’t know why, but I love goat meat. Maybe it’s the novelty of it. Fun Fact – Goat meat is the most widely consumed meat in the world. Those little bastards can survive almost anywhere, making them very popular in harsh climates like Africa and the Middle East. And when cooked properly, the meat can be very tender and full of flavor. Case in point – The BBQ sliders you see above. They were drenched in a sweet BBQ sauce and the meat was perfectly cooked.
Later in the night, I ventured back over to Rolling Bones’ table to find a platter with 4 whole roasted goat heads laid out on it and one of the chefs was literally slicing pieces of meat off of the head and handing it out to people. I knew I had to get in on that action. While I was there, I sampled pieces of goat cheek, tongue, and brain. All three pieces had the same smokey/woodfire taste to them, although they all had extremely different textures. Not surprisingly, the cheek was by far the best. I went back for seconds and thirds on the cheek meat. The tongue had a good flavor on it, but the texture was a bit too tough for my liking. There is something very carnal about watching someone pry open the jaw of a cooked animal head, pull out the tongue, slice a chunk off, and place it directly on your plate. The brain, also tasty, had the consistency of….well…brains. I wanted to try the eyeball, but pussed out.
Muss & Turners – Lamb Loin and Pork Belly, served with homemade hot sauce.
I should have been paying better attention when grabbing plates from M&T’s station, but it looked too damn good and this was one of the first plates I had that evening, so I had tunnel vision for fatty animal meat that distracted me. I thought someone said this was lamb loin but that didn’t seem right to me. It didn’t taste or look like lamb. The excess fat and color of the meat leads me to believe that this was pork of some sort. Either way, it was DAMN good…it also had pieces of charred, crispy skin on the slow-cooked meat that added a lot of texture and flavor. The hot sauce was pretty mild, but definitely added to the overall impact of the dish. I honestly don’t care what kind of meat this was…it was awesome. (Editor’s note: BuHi confirmed it was actually Pork Belly. Apparently, I’m not “detail oriented” when there is a spread of pork fat in front of me.)
I should also mention the folks from Parish…they had a very impressive layout, with multiple meats and spreads, but I didn’t get the chance to really sample any of it with the exception of the brain/liver/kidney spread on toast, which was great. The consistency took some getting used to, but I loved it. The reason I missed out on their fare was that Parish had a massive line on their station, and I didn’t have the patience to wait when there was so much other readily available meat waiting to get into my mouth. What is ironic about this is I had friends in the Parish crew that could have hooked me up, but my meat-driven ADD had me running all over the place instead.
In addition to the entire array of Sweetwater beers, there was also a great wine tasting room filled will some fantastic Oregon wines. Obviously, the bulk of these were Pinot Noir, which I had no problem with. I’m going to defer to fellow attendees DecaturWineandFoodDude, AtlantaWineGuy and SuburbanWino to get their thoughts on the wine spread. I love a good wine, but it isn’t my area of expertise.
Because I’m a baller, and that’s how I roll, I sprung for the VIP ticket. The biggest advantage this gave you is access to the VIP area which included a Benton’s Bacon Bar, grilled oyster bar, and a great spread of meats and cheeses. They had me at Bacon Bar.
Thank god I got there early and was snuck in 30 minutes before the crowd by a friend working the show, because it allowed me to actually eat some bacon. By the time the gates opened, we quickly figured out that more people bought VIP tickets than I think they had planned for, because they ran out of bacon early. I can’t blame the crowd though. Of course, it went fast – it’s Benton’s bacon. What I loved even more about the bacon bar was the selection of accoutrements for your cured pork, which included a scallion oil, ponzu mignonette, and GARLIC INFUSED BACON FAT! (Can you guess which one I had?)
That’s right…you are looking at a piece of wonderful bacon with more rendered bacon fat poured on top of it. Holy crap, it was a bacon-splosion in my mouth. Later, I grabbed a few of the oysters, which lasted much longer than the bacon bar, and hit them with more of that bacon fat. I actually think the bacon fat complemented the oysters better than the bacon, which makes sense. But that shit would have been great no matter what you put it on.
The only negatives to the night were entirely logistical. There was not much organization or crowd control, which lead people to abandon the original plan of 10-15 individual stations that you line up in front of in favor of “let’s all get in one giant column and treat this like a lunch line”. People are idiots. So, instead of waiting 2 minutes at each station, the crowd lined themselves up at Grindhouse’s tent on the end, waited 30 minutes for their first taste of meat, and then slowly trudged along the rest of the stations. It looked like it took some people at least an hour to get most of the food. I, being somewhat of an asshole and also wanting to prove a point to the lemmings still waiting, would simply walk up and grab food from the station I was interested in. When I got looks of “what does this guy think he is doing?” I would explain to them that the whole “single-file line” concept wasn’t how the event was originally laid out and they can just go grab what they want. Most thanked me and broke from the crowd to venture off to find their meat of choice. It feels good to help others, doesn’t it?
The issue here was really that all of the confusion could have been corrected if even one person from the Taste Network said “Hey! You don’t have to all wait in one line!” But no one did that, and I’m sure many people left frustrated with how long it took to get food. Live and learn…hopefully next year they will correct that.
All in all, this was a wonderful celebration of meat and the skilled folks that make it possible for us carnivores to feast on it. I can’t wait to go back next year!
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