Two years ago, Jeff Blath opened Alobar (46-42 Vernon Boulevard, 718-752-6000) in Long Island City two years ago, implementing a nose-to-tail menu that’s kept the neighborhood well-fed. That type of cooking is no longer a novel idea — butcher-chefs proliferated throughout the city some time back — but that doesn’t take away from its benefits: The method is one of the most sustainable ways to cook meat because it means using the whole animal, including often-ignored cuts like kidney, liver, and other offal.
For chef Michael Berardino, the concept comes naturally. “Primarily my background has always been with Italian cuisine where there’s a much larger focus on [nose-to-tail cooking],” he says. “It’s just more of an agricultural society, where people are connected to the farms.”
But while sustainability and taste are two reasons for New York chefs to implement nose-to-tail cooking techniques, there’s an additional, less glamorous, motive: logistics. While there is no dearth of great farms nearby in New York and Pennsylvania, complicated federal and state regulatory structures keep them from doing their own processing. That means it’s easier for a chef to buy a whole hog than order specific cuts. “They send you a whole animal,” Berardino explains. “At that point, you have to be able to use it.”
You don’t have to buy the whole hog to implement nose-to-tail cooking techniques at home, by the way. Ask your local butcher for cuts that other customers might be overlooking. Chef Berardino recommends the “secreto,” a Spanish cut from the flap on the bottom of the pig’s belly. Simply season lightly, sear, and slice.
Alobar will celebrate two years in business via an anniversary dinner on November 14, and you’ll be able to experience the restaurant’s brand of nose-to-tail cooking: Berardino will cook up every part of a locally sourced hog, using it in dishes like maple bacon popcorn, smoked pork shoulder, beer and cheese sausage, and more. And just to be sure you have a good time, the restaurant will feature a tap takeover from Oceanside neighbor Barrier Brewing Company. (That Beer and Cheese Sausage will feature a Barrier brew as well.)
So are there any particular dishes that chef Berardino is excited to serve the anniversary revelers? Look a diplomatic parent, he doesn’t choose favorites. “I wrote the menu,” he says. “I like all the dishes.” And don’t worry about the restaurant running out of food: The estimated two-hundred-and-fifty pound hog will feed everyone without a problem. “If they want to keep going, we’ll keep feeding ’em,” the chef says.
The Alobar Second Anniversary Dinner is on Thursday, November 14 and runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $80.