The last time the Cute Gardener and I were in San Francisco we visited the Ferry Building for a food-sampling spree. Our afternoon was spent tasting from all of our favorite places like Hog Island Oyster Co. and Cowgirl Creamery and exploring some new ones like Boccalone, owned by one of my favorite chefs Chris Cosentino. The meat emporium, equipped with fridges hung with hearty sausages and old-fashioned cherry red bologna slicers, featured a salumi cone for a few bucks where you could try samples of yummy versions of salami.
Having enjoyed it so much as well as having a partner who is also a meat lover, I decided to buy the CG a three-month membership in the store’s Salumi Society for Christmas. For $66 bucks a month, purchased right over the Internet, he would be shipped an ice pack Styrofoam box of four surprise packages of salted pig parts. Who knew what would be in those boxes or what neat dishes could be made from them? I thought it would be fun to be at the mercy of the store’s choices.
The store was also very flexible with shipping. They stated that the boxes would go out a certain time every month but that varied based on their busy-ness so on two occasions I had to call and make sure the boxes wouldn’t arrive on days when the CG would not be in town to receive them. Although they were super accommodating with all my wishes in a very charming small business way as opposed to a huge, non-responsive corporation way, the fact that they aren’t shipping like clockwork could be a potential irritant to some customers.
The first month’s box was stocked with cotechino, pancetta, salame pepato, and spicy Italian sausage. The traditional meats were great and of good quality and enjoyed with wine and charcuterie as well as used in cooking pasta and other dinner meals. The CG got the willies though from the cotechino, which was a flabby, gelatinous white meat with an odd beige rind. Information that came with it suggested it could be fried and seared on polenta or something of that sort as a flavor additive but he found that it just melted away into nothing when attempted.
The second month’s package was my favorite assortment as it had brown sugar and fennel salame (I am a huge fan of sweetened meat but others, like the CG, may not be). It also had a yummy pate di campagna that was wonderful eaten cold, a slab of herbed lardo, which became the CG’s favorite (although he mentioned it was not from Boccalone but a popular Italian Iberico maker, not that we were complaining!). It also had more spicy Italian sausage, which we had already eaten in the first box. This is an important consideration for those who think they will be getting different items every time.
The third and final box contained another repeat – the brown sugar and fennel sausage from the second box. It then provided breakfast sausage that was long, delicious and spicy and lonza – a cured and spiced pork loin that the CG enjoyed immensely being that it was similar to young prosciutto before it turns into ham. The fourth item was called ciccioli and actually looked like a bunch of tender cartilage spines folded together into plastic, or albino dehydrated eels. We had no idea what it was but it tasted bizarre, like eating bleached bones. I got on Twitter and asked Chris what they were and he answered: skins, tendons and meat. I’m still not sure what we were supposed to make with something composed of those three ingredients but it sure authenticated the fact that Chef Cosentino leaves no part of the pig untouched in his culinary world.
So overall, we were dosed with enough salame to make us feel good, a few premium items to make us feel like our money was worth it, some gross and funky, foreign parts that challenged our sense of adventurousness and a few repeats that gave us an idea of what the store considered its most popular parts. I think in the future I will bypass the Salumi Society and order the things that I know I like right off the website to be delivered on my choice of date.