A Catcher of the Rye: Why Jimmy Carbone Wants to Eat Pastrami With You
If Martin Scorsese ever made a movie that focused on the real people that make up New York’s food empire, we’d like to think our friend Jimmy Carbone would inspire a character. If you’re a longtime supporter of meat and beer, or just new to the game, Jimmy’s name should immediately register a smile on your face. As the owner of Jimmy’s No. 43, a dearly departed East Village cavern that shaped New York City’s beer scene for decades to come, Jimmy’s passion for bringing people together was on full display. From cassoulet contests to comedy shows, I’m not even able to explain in words how absolutely cool and unique this place was. However, like a true New Yorker, Jimmy has side hustles, including serving as the founder of Food Karma NYC and host of Beer Sessions Radio on the Heritage Radio Network
Jimmy, You’re known for some of New York’s best food events. Where did the idea for Rye Week come from?
I've been a supporter of the regional heritage grains revival for many years. I’ve partnered up with the Grow NYC Grains project in the past and have focused several events - and radio episodes - on the rise of local malts in beer. In 2017, Tom Potter of New York Distilling Company reached out. Several New York State distilleries had created the Empire Rye Whiskey project and were launching. It made sense to me - supported the use of a grain, rye, that grows well in the Northeast, by making a product that sells, rye whiskey! That year (2017) I hosted a radio show, and a rye tasting at Roberta’s pizza during the first annual NY Rye Week, which was a precursor to this event.
This is the 3rd year of NY Rye Week and I wanted to host a complementary event to what distillers, brewers, and bars were planning in NYC. Of course, my event would include food. I've hosted innovative brisket and bbq events in the past, so pastrami came to mind. A few years ago I co-hosted a pastrami tasting night at WNYC’s Greene Space too.
Can you give us a sneak peak at some of the food and drink creations that might guests experience during Rye Week?
The Pastrami Tasting: East Village Meat Market, Morgan’s Brooklyn Barbecue, Randall’s Barbecue, Nestor Laracuente da bklyn_pit_rat, and Chocolate Covered Pastrami by Roni-Sue's Chocolates and Clay Gordon of The Chocolate Life.
Other Food: Rye Pancake from Amy Halloran, grain salads from River Valley Community Grains, rye bread from Moonrise bakehouse and other food like Consider Bardwell Cheese and Grilled Veggies by Just Add Beer Sauce. Plus we’ll have six distilleries and a welcome cocktail!
How do you come up with all of these creative events? Is there a process?
It takes hard work and good teams. Every time we host an event, the seed is planted for another. Rye has been on my brain for four years. I had asked writer Lew Bryson. Author of "Tasting Whiskey" what he thought next cool event should focus on.he said "rye whiskey." Later that year, Tom Potter at NY Distilling Company called me about Rye Week. I hosted a radio show and a whiskey tasting with pairings at Roberta’s Pizza. Roberta’s chef served whiskey mash fed roast pig, rye bread rolls, several side dishes with rye grains... working closely with grow NYC grains project. Seeds were planted.
I also hosted a Slow Grains event this past summer, NYC brewers choice, featuring beers made from local malt, so I've been connecting with grains people all year. Cynthia Lamb is opening a bakery in sunset park, she only use a regional grains, mills them herself, for her bread. She wolf bakery makes a killer sprouted rye bread. Amy Halloran will be cooking rye cornmeal pancakes.
What’s the hardest part of pulling off an epic food event?
Building a good team and having strong communications between chefs and producers. Ultimately we are CONNECTING food and beverage producers, most are craft or farm based, with consumers, the media, and the wider industry. The team is important. This year, there has been a solid stable of producers who have committed to full season of events this past year - Morgan's Brooklyn Barbecue, Romilly Cider, Alewife, Spirits, NY Distilling Company, Just Add Beer and Rocket Fuel
If you could only eat pastrami sandwiches on rye or drink rye for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
I love the NYC food scene, especially traditions. Pastrami to me is the quintessential NYC meat. Not bacon, not burgers: pastrami. Reuben, a combo corned beef and pastrami, Katz's Deli.
Rye Drink…20 years ago, I’d have said sazerac. Chelsea green publishing says Stone fence, rye whiskey and hard cider cocktail. Five years I made a point if exploring northeast craft rye whiskeys. I take mine neat. McKenzie Whiskeys from Finger Lakes Distilling, Rock & Rye from NY Distilling Company, and Raw Rye from Coppersea.