In late February, I ventured back to the tri-state area for Charcuterie Masters 2017 and a chance to rub elbows with the finest purveyors of cured meat in America. As I rambled through the city I once called home for a couple of months, my mind was caught in a stampede of good memories - apprenticing with Fleishers Craft butchery, Yankee games on crisp autumn nights, and all the good food...
Yeah, I kinda missed it.
Since I was back in the Big City, I decided to check out what the trendsetters were laying down in terms of charcuterie. Bar Boulud was heavily recommended – so it was Bar Boulud for lunch.
It didn’t take long for me to order.
In a few minutes, I had a glass of one of their red wines, a massive board of pâtés, and a colorful assortment of condiments. The Pâté Grand-Père was simply fantastic – it probably had something to do with the foie gras and truffles inside. The rest of the pates and terrines were interesting, but didn’t compare to the Pâté Grand-Père. Surprisingly, only one other form of charcuterie made the board, a French Saucisse seche.
It was a nice change in cuisine.
Agern is a season-driven restaurant developed by Chef Claus Meyer, who, for the last thirty years has been reinstating quality and unlocking the potential of the Danish food culture. It was an incredible meal that transplanted me back to my Nordic adventures in Copenhagen.
The next morning I dedicated to the NYC Fermentation Festival held at the Brooklyn Expo Center. I made my way down the rows, tasting craft brews, kombucha, and kimchi. Brooklyn Brine, one of my favorite pickle companies was in attendance along with Six Point Brewery - one of the best damn craft beers out there. I also ran into the Ends Meat booth, owned by friend John Ratliff. John wasn’t there that day, but a lot of his cured meat was and as always, it was top notch.
That night, in the shadows of the Met’s baseball stadium, the great charcuterie gathering began. After a rather cramped subway ride, I stumbled into Flushing Town Hall and was immediately greeted with good food and libations. The hall was packed with people – all with one common interest – cured meat.
I’ve said it many times – the meat world is really small. Social media has allowed me to connect with many other butchers across the nation. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one having awkward first time encounters that evening.
Heeeeyyyyyy, (know the face but blanking on the name) there…… buddy! Nice to meet ya.
Highlights of my night include:
- Prosciutto, cured six years without the use of artificial nitrates, by Rodrigo Duarte. His booth was layered with hams estimating almost $80,000 in total. His guys sliced on two legs of prosciutto for more than three hours that night. He ended up taking home a few prizes because of his outstanding products.
- Hure de Porc, a pork tongue and pistachio head cheese, from Smoking Goose Meatery. Another award winner.
- Salami – there was plenty of it and various flavor combinations. I definitely left with some inspiration and I cannot wait to test out some flavor combos I picked up.
- Francois Vecchio - Midway through the evening, I ran into Francois Vecchio Francois Vecchio, often dubbed the “Godfather of American Charcuterie.” Before immigrating from Switzerland, Francois studied and mastered German, Italian, French, Spanish meat craftsmanship (He is also fluent in all those languages in addition to English.) He is often credited for starting the cured meat movement in America back in the early 1980’s. We chatted for awhile about Europe and my travels and then the conversation naturally drifted to the state of charcuterie in the USA. Francois explained that Americans have now figured out how to produce cured meats, but the quality was still lacking. Francois urged me to get back to Europe as soon as possible and to keep learning. It was such an honor to meet such an important figure in the industry.
The last hour of the event was reserved for the presentation of awards. Submissions had been sent in from across the nation and judged the previous day. I’m sure the judges had their hands full! We watched and applauded as each categorical winner was announced.
By this time, the hall had begun to empty. I shook a few more hands, took a last few selfies with new friends, and hit the pavement and made my way back to the subway. Charcuterie Masters was an unforgettable experience – For the first time, I really got to connect with the “movers and shakers” in the American meat game. In conversation with them, I learned about obstacles and challenges some of them are dealing with in today’s culinary climate. I also picked up a lot of valuable tips and tricks that will further enhance my own products. I am happy to see this movement growing in America and I want to see it continue.
Congratulations to all the winners of Charcuterie Masters 2017.