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MEAT AND GREET A small selection of the 30-plus cured meats made at Old Town Social
Meat Marketby Lisa Shames | Men's Book Chicago magazine | August 20, 2014
In the not-so-distant past, charcuterie-making was limited to fancy-pants French restaurants and old-school butcher shops. These days, pâtés, terrines, rillettes, sausages, salumi and a number of other meaty specialties are popping up on restaurant menus all over town—and we couldn’t be happier. Vegetarians, consider yourselves warned.
It may have been a culinary trip to Rome back when he was working at Vie that first sparked chef Nathan Sears’ interest in cured meats, but these days it’s the traditional wursts of Germany that are keeping him plenty busy at his new Logan Square restaurant. Sears does his homework researching recipes before creating the smoked pork knockwurst, boarwurst, jagdwurst (beef, pork belly and cardamom) and other tubular treats for which the beer-hall-esque spot has quickly become known. And while we never thought of sausage as a salad ingredient, we’re sure glad Sears did. His summer sausage salad with pea puree, fermented red onion and clam vinaigrette will make a believer out of you too. $4-$16, 2375 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773.276.0270
Growing up in Palermo, Italy, chef Giuseppe Scurato ate some type of salumi almost every day. “It’s part of who we are,” he says of his childhood cured-meat habit. At the recently relocated Ceres’ Table, Scurato is happy to see that diners are just as excited about the Lakeview restaurant’s housemade lonza cotta (cured pork loin), nduja (spicy spreadable sausage), porchetta di testa (cured pig face) and pork liver sausage as he is. “Charcuterie making is about passion,” says Scurato. “You get a bit more in touch with your chef skills and with the old techniques. That’s what interests me.” $14, 3124 N. Broadway St., 773.922.4020
Old Town Social
“It doesn’t make good business sense to open a restaurant that makes charcuterie,” says chef Jared Van Camp of the labor- and time-intensive process. But, thankfully, that didn’t stop him and his partners at Old Town Social from doing just that in 2009. As the first Chicago chef certified to dry-cure salumi, Van Camp has helped pave the way for the many chefs that have since followed. Five years later, he shows no signs of slowing down, with the restaurant offering a rotating daily selection of 14 or so cured meats, ranging from mortadella and potted pork rillete to chorizo and soppressata, a spicy Italian salumi that’s earned a devoted following. $5-$21, 455 W. North Ave., 312.266.2277
There are good reasons the daily changing selection of housemade pâté, sausage, mortadella, smoked meat, bologna, rillettes and more has been on the menu at Sepia for more than five years and can rack up close to 200 orders a week. “I like doing it, and it tastes good,” says chef Andrew Zimmerman, adding that it’s also a great way to use leftover meat parts that don’t make it onto the plates at the chic West Loop restaurant. “There’s nothing more exciting than that.” We totally agree, especially when we find one of his charcuterie-filled wood boards in front of us. $17, 123 N. Jefferson St., 312.441.1920
As if the name of this new West Loop restaurant didn’t tip you off that it takes its charcuterie program very seriously, a peek into the open kitchen’s sausage-filled glass cases and temperature- and humidity-controlled curing chamber packed with aging meaty goodness should do the trick. Or, better yet, try some of chefs Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski’s refined, handcrafted products, such as chicken liver pâté; veal boudin blanc; and its namesake, fromage de tete (head cheese). Best option: Order one of their charcuterie boards, available in small and large, which include samplings of that day’s offerings. In the works are butchering demos and sausage-making classes. Meat heads, indeed. $10-$46, 1114 W. Randolph St., 312.733.1178