Working in the artisinal food industry is not easy. You don’t generally make much money, the hours are long, you’re usually on your feet, and the conditions are never cushy. You have to truly believe that what you’re doing is bettering the planet, or humanity, or animal lives, or whatever it is that drives you.
Or, you have to really dig the perks. Lean into them, if you will.
My friend and former Cowgirl co-worker Ruth now works for La Quercia, an amazing company that specializes in one of my favorite food groups (second to cheese, of course): salty, cured meats. They are based in Iowa, where the vast majority of US pork is raised. They know all their farmers and specialize in humanely raised, heritage breed pigs. So when Ruth contacted me to see if I wanted to join in on creating some beer and meat pairings at Magnolia Brewing. she got a resounding “Hell, yes”, and we agreed to meet at the brewery Monday morning.
So while you were having your first strategic team meeting of the week, I was getting half-pickled with Ruth and Ben Spencer, Magnolia’s Head Brewer.
When ever I do a tasting set of any kind (cheese, chocolate, wine) there is always one beer (or wine) that goes with everything. In this case, it was the Big Cypress Brown. We tasted what you might call a “vertical” of prosciuttos to go along with the beer. We had Prosciutto Piccante (rubbed with fennel & red pepper), Speck (smoked proscuitto), Tamworth, Berkshire, and Acorn Tamworth Spalaccia (a sort of prosciutto made from the front leg). Tamworth and Berkshire are heritage pork breeds. Herb Eckhouse, owner of La Quercia along with wife Kathy, calls these “varietals”, just like a fine wine. They even have Acorn editions of Berkshire and Tamworth, where the pigs spend the last few months of their life foraging for acorns. The Acorn Tamworth Prosciutto will be released in late 2013.The pairings will be revealed at an 18 Reasons event on June 30th that is part of their west coast Ham Independence tour (if you still think Italy makes the best/only prosciutto, go buy a ticket now). I mean, Herb and Kathy have made Spaniards declare that the best cured meats being made today are coming out of Iowa.
I also got to chat with Ben a bit–he says the new Magnolia location in Dogpatch is set to open in July–hooray! He’s been with Magnolia since 2004, and moved to San Francisco just for this gig and apparently is still loving it. The way he put it is “Why would I consider leaving a company that is growing so fast?” Also, your fun fact of the day: He told me they have started using more Maris Otter malt, a type of English malt known for its crispness, because a Haight St. neighbor’s father grows it.
I will give you a few hints on the pairings: Cole Porter + Speck = cozy chair by an English pub fire. Long Break Bitter + nutty Berkshire =sweet bursts of porky love.
The best kind of love.