As a foodie through and through, I gravitate toward food people.
I love finding that wonderful butcher, fishmonger or baker and immersing myself in their inspiring world. I am almost magically attracted to places where the staff are totally jazzed about the products; where their "work" feels more like play. I practically want to fix these people up with my cousin's best friend or my best friend's cousin, just so that we can talk about food at family gatherings. One of my favorite foodie field trips is to the Fatted Calf, next to the Oxbow Market in downtown Napa, California.
The Fatted Calf is a small specialty butcher joyfully offering off the hook charcuterie created in small batches with seasonal ingredients. This lovely little shop's young and very attractive butchers are exuberant and fun as they describe their unique products. As an accomplished and energetic cook, I am definitely one to make my pork shoulder, but a glance around Fatted Calf made me reconsider. Their breathtaking pork shoulder al' Diavolo, stuffed with a tantalizing spice citrus marinade, didn't just call my name-it serenaded me. It was love at first sight.
The Fatted Calf is known for their mortadella, salumi, and chorizo. The smoked meats and bacon can best be described as divine. Their French-inspired, old world techniques are crossed with high-voltage, modern, vital artisans. This "kick-ass place," as director of operations, Heather Bailie describes it, is owned by Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller who started the company in 2004 in the DogPatch neighborhood of San Francisco. What began as a stand at a farmers' market grew to two locations with 40 full time employees. My personal favorites are the very large delicious craft beer links which I purchase often-they are like an elevated, high quality gastropub hot dog and are crazy good, with a wonderful pop-it's like a celebration!-and especially savory paired with their homemade sauerkraut and a tangy mustard.
Talking to that hot butcher lady is always a treat. Alex the manager is one of my favorite foodie-proprietors, but today Heather Bailie helped me, and she's about as enthusiastic as you can get about their selection. Every detail is in order at this very cool shop, even down to their classic butcher uniform with a twist: black short sleeve shirt and long black apron with red stitching that says Fatted Calf-utilitarian chic to be sure. Bailie is so proud of all they do and even gave me a tour of the curing room where they are curing hundreds of all kinds of salumi.
As for that pork shouler al 'Diavolo: we bought a 5-pound piece from the one shown in the photo and put it to the test. We followed the directions and stuck it right in the oven. (Insider tip: you have to let it rest for 30 minutes after baking to relax the meat and allow the juices to be reabsorbed. Be patient. It's worth it.) The outcome: delicious and succulent. Perfection paired with a platter of roasted vegetables and a simple potato, and our group of testers happily devoured it. Fortunately I had preemptively hidden a nice piece, because I did not expect leftovers. We enjoyed it for lunch by crisping it on the grill the next day. It was great as a leftover served with a crust of bread.