Chew On This: A Salumi Revival In San Francisco There's a renaissance taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it's all focused on cured meats, or salumi, as they say in Italian. Local chefs and restaurateurs are turning to centuries-old methods for making salami, pancetta and more.
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Chew On This: A Salumi Revival In San Francisco

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Chew On This: A Salumi Revival In San Francisco

Chew On This: A Salumi Revival In San Francisco

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GUY RAZ, Host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

I: stall after stall of local wines, cheeses, chocolates, vegetables and olive oil. And right in the center of this cavernous building is a shop at the heart of a new food renaissance, locally cured and salted meats.

MARK PASTORE: Here, we've got some orange and wild fennel, which is a medium grind salami that's seasoned with some - a little bit of orange zest and some wild fennel pollen. We have something we call soprasetta de calabria.

RAZ: That's Mark Pastore. He's one of the owners of Boccalone. It's a store that depends on locally sourced heritage pigs. Pastore dropped out of corporate life a few years back, trading his suit for a white butcher's apron. Behind him, in a cold, clear glass locker, hang dozens of dried salamis, sausages and pork bellies.

PASTORE: You know, the sign on our shop used to read salumeria, which is the Italian word, like a gelateria, it's a store that sells salumi. And we changed it about 10 months ago to tasty, salted pig parts because nobody knew what a salumeria was.

RAZ: Pastore slices a few wafer-thin pieces of his brown sugar and fennel salami. A few years ago, he decided he wanted to control every single thing he makes: the kind of pork he used, the salt, the casings, and most importantly, the curing temperature. So Pastore stopped importing meat from Italy and started his own little factory right here in the Bay Area.

PASTORE: And if you think about wine or cheese or bread or pizza or beer, these are all foods that have followed the same pathway. And we believe that we can make cured meats that are as good or better than the best cured meats that you find in Europe.

RAZ: Are you finding a lot of other folks like you doing the same thing?

PASTORE: Yeah, there's been a renaissance here in the United States, and it's probably been centered in the San Francisco Bay Area, in cured meat. There are, you know, maybe a dozen fairly serious salumi programs at a variety of restaurants. And there are now a few small companies that are doing serious, high-end cured meats.

CHRIS COSENTINO: So what we do is we take a whole pig. We break it down.

RAZ: That's the other owner of Boccalone, Chef Chris Cosentino. When he's not competing on "Iron Chef" or traveling the world for the food channel, he's overseeing the small batch sausage factory he runs with Pastore across the bay in Oakland.

COSENTINO: So we have this history here. And I think what's happened is you're seeing a younger generation of chefs who are not only teaching themselves patience, but also celebrating that history not only from the fact of being in the Bay Area, but celebrating Italian history, celebrating French history, celebrating German history. It's everywhere. It doesn't just fit one culture.

RAZ: About a 30-minute drive south of San Francisco, in Redwood City, Chef Michael Dotson opens the walk-in fridge at his British gastropub, Martins West. Inside, legs of pork and lamb hang from the shelves, slowly curing.

MICHAEL DOTSON: They were 27, almost 28 pounds to start, each one.

RAZ: Dotson's one of a handful of chefs in the area who now cure all their own meat. And the reason he started doing it wasn't just to prove his culinary chops, but because it made economic sense.

DOTSON: The fact that more high quality whole animals are available here, and readily available, they were from small farmers. So you had to buy a half or a whole animal. So it's like, what do I do? Well, you do what traditionally was done. You make head cheese, you make terrines, you make pates, you make sausage, you make blood sausage. You not only make use of everything so you make sure you utilize the whole animal, but you make sure they bring you everything so you can use the whole animal. So it becomes a little bit more cost-effective.

RAZ: It all takes a little longer and no one's making much money off of it. But what these artisans are doing is paying tribute to the past, slowly and methodically. And the results? Well, it's delicious. And if you're wondering what a pork trotter terrine looks like, go to npr.org.

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