Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fra' Mani

I say salame you say salumi. You can’t read much food related news without stumbling across mention of salumi. If I’ve got this correct, salame is singular and salami is plural. Salumi, on the other hand, is an Italian reference to cured meats, similar to the French charcuterie. You can call it what you will, deli, cold cuts, antipasto (yes dear, antipasto includes other things), just call me when you've got some around.
The west coast seems to be fertile ground for the salumi craze. In Seattle Chef Mario Batali’s dad, Armandino, has been producing product for a while under the Salumi Artisan Cured Meats label. In Berkeley Chef Paul Bertoli, is creating salumi with his own label, Fra’ Mani.

I thought it was about time I checked out the local guy’s goods. I went to the Fra’Mani website and found that the Pasta Shop in Berkeley sold the products at retail. I was on the way to the East Bay anyhow so it was an easy stop. I have a love/hate thing about the Pasta Shop. I love the products and I hate how much I spend when I checkout. I’m a sucker for good beautifully presented food. Low and behold! On our arrival there was Chef Bertoli himself in his immaculate white chef’s coat. They happened to be doing a tasting of their products this day. At first I thought it was my lucky day, but having left my riot gear at home, I avoided the teaming mass of people munching away like a pack of lions after a fresh kill. Good luck, however, was had at the cheese counter where the Pasta Shop had packaged the goods in small sampler bags. I picked out several varieties, along with olives, cheese and Acme Bread, and exited, ‘stage right’.

At my daughter’s house I laid the salumi on a stone tile ($2.50 from Urban Ore in Emeryville) and the tasting began. I have to be honest here. I did not want to like this product. Are they selling the sizzle here? I thought it was another “artisan” product at a high price (15 to 22 dollars a pound). You’re killing me man - what’s wrong with good old “cryovac” salami down at the Safeway? Well, to borrow a hip hop phrase, this stuff is off the hook! The texture and flavor is incredible. Let’s just say comparing this salami to the supermarket stuff is like comparing Velveeta to Parmigiano Reggiano. A little goes a long way; a quarter pound will provide four people a nice starter for dinner. I used mine to accompany a little wine tasting. Wine, that’s my next blog.

Fra’ Mani you’ve done the Bay Area proud.
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clockwise from the left
prosciutto salami (that's what the label said)
nostrano
soppressata (my favorite)
gentile

7 comments:

Sam said...

I just picked up one of their salumis today and I can't wait to try it. I wanted to cut into it straight away but since we are heading to Manresa for dinner tonight and are consequently starving ourselves in anticipation Fred said we have to wait.

I spotted them in Cowgirl in the Ferry Beuilding and as I was holding it and pndering it one of the staff came over and excitedly exclaimed "You HAVE to try it, it's wonderful".

And your blog doesn't do anything to convince me otherwise. We have the salametto. I'll report once we've given it a try, though I confess your multiple tasting looks like a much better idea.

Ivonne said...

I. Want. Some.

cookiecrumb said...

We've tried the salametto and -- (brain fart; forgets) -- something else, and. Oh. My.
See, Paul Bertolli not only knows how to do the science of sausage making, he also deeply respects the meat. And these products taste like Preserved Animal! (But not creepy.) It was like tasting a great red wine: notes of roses, chocolate, pepper...
Gah.
But don't worry about your budget, Greg. A little goes a long way.

Sam said...

ok - reporting back i have to say we found the salmetto to be overpoweringly garlicky. I liked it, but i was wishing less garlic.

the prosciutto one sounds interesting - that one is not on my brochure list. hmmm.

drbiggles said...

Hey, I think I'm the only one that hasn't dug in yet. I think I'm too lazy to take the drive down to 4th street. I'm getting there ...

Anonymous said...

I had just found the Salmetto in New York and bought it, more out of curiosity than anything else. Although, I have to admit I didn't see the price before I checked out. Even for a kid from the boroughs, this was an excellent salami, although it was a bit hard to cut into 1/8" slices on a bias. Hopefully, more will be available here soon.

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