On our recent visit to Salumi in Seattle this past October, we talked about what we wanted to order for Christmas Eve. The top item on our list was the mole. This is perhaps the best cured meat we have ever tried with its very distinctive and addicting sweet/spicy chocolate, cinnamon and ancho pepper flavor. Turns out we should have put our order in then because when I called in mid November, Gina was pretty much sold out of everything, which is how we ended up at Chef’s Choice Meats in Berea.
I remembered that Chef Ben Bebenroth named this place in his Q & A as a hidden gem yet to be discovered by Clevelanders. And that Elaine Cicora has called it Cleveland’s answer to Armandino Batali’s Salumi. So we decided to trek out to Berea to see for ourselves.
They are right – this place truly is a hidden gem off the beaten path. It’s an old house turned butcher haven. While it doesn’t have the same feel as Seattle’s Salumi, it sure has the quality and quantity (although sadly, nothing seemed to resemble the mole, but we did encourage Kris, the owner, to try some and create his own version).
Kris Kreiger, the self-taught master of all things meat, has a huge selection of everything from cured meats, to pork, turkey, lunch meat, Ohio beef, some seafood, veal, over 50 varieties of sausage, cheese, beer/wine and made-to-order sandwiches. Plus everything in between. And most of the meat is from local farmers. His passion for his craft is evident everywhere you turn and in chatting with him, he’s borderline giddy about his hobby, as he calls it.
Kris and his staff have plenty of samples on hand. And if something isn’t available to taste, they quickly slice up whatever you request. After nibbling on quite a few options, we settled on some pancetta, mortadella (which is soaked in white wine with pistachios), soppressata, Portuguese linguisa and German salami. Add some olives and a nice cheese selection, and this should make our holiday guests very happy.
I plan to use the pancetta for the braised short ribs, which will be part of our holiday dinner. But I used a few slices yesterday to make some bucatini all’amatriciana for dinner. This pancetta alone is almost worth the drive to Berea (which really only took us 30 mins from the east side). What a difference it made to this dish, which is something I make on a pretty regular basis. Jamie even commented that it was my best version yet. Which technically I guess I would have to give credit to Kris, since his pancetta was the only difference.
The hard part now will be to try and make it to next week without sneaking any bites.