On our last visit to France my teenagers and I left familiar Paris to explore the country's interior. We quickly learned that lunch was served only at lunch time. Fortunately the café-bars offered baguettes spread with rillettes, a pâté of sorts. Traditionally, tough cuts of meat were tenderized by simmering in lard, after which they were pounded to a paste, loaded into ramekins and preserved with a topping of melted fat. Now they are typically made from various cuts of pork, although goose and fish find their way into these creamy hors d'oeuvres.
Chef Chris LaVeque brings such old world handcrafted charcuterie, made from pasture-raised animals, to Santa Cruz at el Salchichero. Charcuterie is an ancient craft creating all things pork, from butchering to finished products, including cooked and cured meats, fresh and smoked sausages, ham, and pâté.
The ever-smiling LaVeque however, sells more than pork. Last week, in addition to bacon and fresh sausages, thick New York Steaks awaited a hot grill, and whole rabbits were ready for the pressure cooker.
I spied half pound vacuum-sealed cubes of pork rillettes ($8) which included capers and candied kumquats; smooth yet toothsome and savory with bursts of citrus peel. I snapped up the last chub of pâté Campagnola ('rustic' in Italian). The pork and liver were chopped rather than puréed as is apropos for a country pâté. Its aroma was enticing with the addition of apple brandy, organic spices, fresh onions and garlic.
Also available were smoked beer sausages ($12.95/lb.) with natural casings. The all-beef Kielbasa was finely textured with a smoky flavor that rivals any hot dog on the fourth of July.
With the store in full swing, el Salchichero has returned to Live Oak, Scotts Valley and downtown farmers markets. Find weekly product availability on the company's website. | KP
El Salchichero, 402 Ingalls St. Santa Cruz, 423-6328. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Elsalchichero.com.
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