Cured meats, as we all know, are making a comeback. And while I have enjoyed many of the new porky products appearing in deli counters and on charcuterie boards around town, I do find it can get a little confusing. The terminology alone is tough to tackle: is charcuterie the same as salumi? Is salumi the same as salame? What’s the difference between copa and capicola? Smoked, cured, cooked, dried, aged, nitrates, and nitrites — there is so much to know.
Luckily we have an expert, educator, and true Salumist among us! Ottawa-raised Michael McKenzie of Seed to Sausage has emerged from his military career as the region’s Pied Piper of Pork (and lamb and beef). It seems whatever he makes at his salumeria in Sharbot Lake, 130 km west of Ottawa, a trail of chefs and foodies follow behind holding baskets of crostini and jars of artisanal mustard.
Before launching his own artisan sausage company, McKenzie fell under the spell of salumi during regular pilgrimages to the Seattle shop owned by Armandino Batali — father of the celebrity chef and King of Orange Clogs himself, Mario Batali. “I tried a lot and I knew what I liked,” he says. When he arrived in Kingston and was unable to find hand-made sopressata, lonzino, or bresaola, McKenzie began producing cured meats in his garage. It wasn’t long before some savvy chefs sniffed him out.
“It was an underground meat train,” he tells me over a plate of his saucisson sec and chorizo accompanied by a glass of cool sparkling rosé at Play Food & Wine.
Two years ago, he wrote a business plan, hired a butcher and two chefs, and launched Seed to Sausage. McKenzie says Steve Beckta was one of the first restaurateurs to contact him about serving the local products at both Play and Beckta. With such endorsement from one of the biggest names in the business, word rapidly spread and Seed to Sausage products are now available in 35 restaurants and specialty shops in Ottawa, Kingston, Perth, and Toronto.
Now McKenzie is inviting the public to Sharbot Lake to have all of their salumi questions answered. To further entice foodies to come and celebrate the opening of his retail shop, he’s got a lineup of great food, beer, wine, and live music. He’s also tying the event to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day since it is in line with the mandate to “inspire, educate, and empower people everywhere to stand up for real food.”
Will Seed to Sausage attract the kind of dedicated cult following that has made The Whalesbone Oysterfest and Beau’s Oktoberfest such amazing success stories? Who knows — maybe next year he’ll market the anniversary as Salumifest?
What: Seed to Sausage retail store Grand Opening party
Where: 12821 Highway 38 in Sharbot Lake
When: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Food Highlights: Cost $5 – $10 per plate ($2/oyster); The Whalesbone oysters; Strata Pizza wood-fired pizzas; Steve George of Olivea will prepare whole roasted lamb; chef Kyle Christopherson of Brookstreet Hotel’s Perspectives Restaurant will man the chip truck; Montreal’s St. Amboise microbrewery and PEC’s Sandbanks Winery will also be there.
Do You Want Some Cheese With That?
If you can’t make it out to Sharbot Lake this weekend, you can still catch McKenzie in person a couple of weeks later at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario (Prince Edward County). It’s the largest exhibition of Canadian artisan cheese ever — more than 125 different cheeses will be on display. Now in its second year, the young festival now boasts a Food Court. Apparently last year people complained they wanted something to eat after all that nibbling and sampling. So visitors will be able to fill up on grilled cheese sandwiches (what else?) from Toronto’s Cheesewerks. The County’s beloved Buddha Dog will also be there with their gourmet wieners and the 4-H Club will be making milkshakes made with milk from the local cows.
When: June 1-3, 2012
Where: The Crystal Palace in Picton Ontario, Prince Edward County
Tickets: Advance tickets are $35 available online at www.CheeseFestival.ca. (Tickets sold at the door are $40, if available.). Youth and child tickets for the Cheese Fair are available, without the glass and cooler bag. All other festival events are age of majority only.