HALF THE HOG HE USED TO BE: Morgan Brownlow of Tails & Trotters happily pokes a pig. IMAGE: Aaron Silverman
A wave of sandwich shops has taken the city (not to mention Gourmet magazine and the Food Network) by storm in the past year. Now, with impeccable timing, two new meat-centric businesses, plus one more due next fall, are forking over kickass new sandwich fillings and much, much more. It's all about handcrafted butchered, cured and emulsified meats—including a few the likes of which Portland diners have yet to see.
Since Ben Dyer moved to Portland in 2003, he purchased, operated and sold Viande Meats and Sausage in City Market; started Simpatica Dining Hall and Catering, which he still runs and co-owns; and, recently, opened an ambitious meat-centric venture with fellow Simpatica partners: Laurelhurst Market (3155 E Burnside St., laurelhurstmarket.com. Butcher shop: 206-3099. Restaurant: 206-3097). Housed in the shell of a convenience store across the street from Music Millennium, the Market is one part butcher shop, one part steakhouse and all meat mania.
According to Dyer, the biggest difference between the butcher shop at Laurelhurst Market and Viande, which was rechristened Chop earlier this year after Dyer sold the business to former Viande employees Paula Markus and Eric Finley, is the beef. The Market has a lot more of the red stuff—specifically, air-cured, grass-fed Piedmontese beef from Montana. Dyer prefers this lean and tender beef's less common, more affordable cuts, such as the flat iron, hanger and bavette (also known as culotte), which are sold in the butcher shop by day ($8-$19 per pound) and served in the dining room by night ($17-$33 per steak).
"For me, tenderloin is one of the most boring steaks in the case, and it's also by far the most expensive," Dyer says. "Twice already this week I've down-sold less expensive cuts to people asking for tenderloin." This may not seem like a stellar business move, but in terms of customer loyalty, this kind of full disclosure is priceless.
The 4-foot deli case at Laurelhurst Market is smaller than Viande's, but Dyer packs a lot into it: housemade pâtés, rillettes, bacon, sausages, pancetta, foie gras torchon, from-scratch deli meats and more. In coming months, LM plans to add housemade fresh and aged cheeses and more cured meats. Dyer's favorite piece of butchery equipment: his new band saw.
Clyde Common owner Nate Tilden and partners are scheduled to open the 30-seat Olympic Provisions restaurant and USDA-certified meat-curing operation this fall in the big, mustard-colored industrial-Southeast Olympic Mills Commerce Center, formerly known as the BO Building. Castagna's current executive chef, Elias Cairo, will head up the charcuterie side of the business for Olympic's restaurant, wholesale and retail, with an ownership stake in the venture.
Tilden is most excited about Cairo's emulsified cured meats, such as mortadellas, bologna hot dogs and lyoners. The German lyoner blends garlic, mustard seed and salted pork in an 18-inch tube the width of a child's wrist. Tilden says Cairo recently served him "a thick slice of lyoner—egg-washed, breaded and sauteed with a small frisée-and-herb salad." A very special bologna sandwich? "Exactly," Tilden says. "Usually you serve mustard with a dish like that, but you don't have to because the mustard's on the inside."
Olympic Provisions will have tapas-style counter service by day, with plenty of to-go options and table service by night, serving Spanish, Portuguese and North African-inspired small plates by Clyde chef and Olympic Provisions co-owner Jason Barwikowski. When asked if there will be any windows into the meat room, Tilden smiles but shakes his head. "You'd literally look in and see a guy in shorts and a white jacket cutting apart a cow," he says.
"Some people don't like fatty pork, but in my opinion, pork is fat," says Morgan Brownlow, former chef of Clarklewis and, briefly, chef/co-owner of the recently shuttered Cafe 401. As of this spring, pig is his full-time gig. He and Aaron Silverman, former owner of Greener Pastures Poultry and Creative Growers Farm, have been working for the past few years on a line of hazelnut-finished pork that launched this June as Tails & Trotters (tailsandtrotters.com, 680-7697).
TT pork is ribboned and capped with meltingly rich, nutty fat—all the better to sear, grill and roast with. The pigs are raised at Food Alliance-certified Pure Country Pork in Ephrata, Wash., and fed hazelnuts for the last six to eight weeks before slaughter.
In the future Brownlow and Silverman plan to produce a full line of cured meats crafted from their nutty hogs, but for now they're busy enough butchering, packaging and distributing an average of five animals a week (with or without the head—your choice) to restaurants and markets mainly in Portland, Eugene and Seattle. In town, TT pork is available at the Thursday Eastbank Farmers Market, Laurelhurst Market (in the butcher shop and in the restaurant), Chop, PastaWorks, Nicky USA and regularly at restaurants such as Toro Bravo, Nostrana and Paley's Place. Various cuts are priced from $5 a pound and up retail.
Brownlow's recent favorite at-home Tails & Trotters preparation: tender pork shoulder carnitas roasted with onions, garlic and sage. "It was so good," he says, "I ate it right out of the pot."