I visited Fatted Calf on Fell Street this past weekend, primarily because I wanted, nay, needed to procure some of that wonderfully addictive bacon, they’re so known for - the bacon that Ad Hoc serves, the bacon that reportedly has turned some vegetarians into omnivores.
We’d been Fatted Calf fans for some time - although not quite from the beginning, when they were working out of the Dogpatch and selling small batches at the Berkeley farmers’ markets. Then came the move to Napa, and the stand at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and I began placing advance orders for pickup there to avoid being sold out. We love their boudin noir - wonderfully fall-spiced with just the right amount of fat and bits of apple; our favourite treatment is to sautee these up with some cabbage and more apples. In addition, DD is crazy for their spicy pork Ciccioli that’s marvelous paired with some sweet baguette spread with a mild Cowgirl Creamery Paneer. Fatted Calf is our favourite meat purveyor and charcuterie, and if given a choice between their products and other providers, FC usually wins hand over fist every time. (A second favourite, by the way - is Ryan Farr's 4505 offerings, but that's for another story...).
We were super-excited when, wonder of wonders - their brick and mortar opened recently on Fell Street, on a small stretch of the busy city artery that had generally been home to mechanics and auto-body shops.
A glimpse inside reveals a meat wonderland and an assiduously curated set of local, artisinal products: Rancho Gordo grains and beans, Apple Farm Cider and Vinegars, Cowgirl Creamery and Adante cheeses. Their meats, eggs and other produce come from local farms dedicated to the humane and organic - Marin Sun, Star Route, Soul Food, Full Belly, Mariquita Farms, among others. Lard lurks in the open cooling shelves, next to raw milk and eggs gathered earlier in the week.
While unadorned cuts are on offer in the meat case, FC is truly known for their marinades and ready-to-cook preparations of pork, duck and chicken. And the terrines, and house-cured sausisson sec, and the duck confit, and the bacon. Taylor Boetticher and his wife and business partner, Toponia Miller are chefs after all.
It was hard not to over-order. In addition to the bacon, which I bought in slab form, I also asked for a chunk of pancetta, and 2 garlicky Toulouse Sausages. I tried to restrain myself as I saw a couple order a beautiful slab of Boston Butt, with a glorious inch-thick cap of white fat. I stared at the 2 kinds of prepared Porchetta rolls, and vowed to buy some for dinner for another week.
But perhaps because I was feeling some inspiration from Ben at Single Guy Chef’s blogpost the other day (Porchetta sandwich taste-off!), I had to order some items to take home for lunch.
I always enjoy the Picnic Plate, which contains a nice selection of FC meats, including, this week - some nice slices of mortadella; a Spanish-style chorizo: great garlicky dry sausage that tasted of wine and paprika; some fantastic house pickles, nicely tangy; and a pickled egg to boot; and finally - some pretty kick-ass slices of Della Fratoria herbed bread in which rich lines of olive oil and herbs coursed through the crumb.
I also could not pass up the porchetta sandwich, nestled between two more slices of that great bread, and layered with paper-thin slices of tender and flavourful pork, arugula, sweet roasted tomato and baby arugula. The entire sandwich was great-tasting, but everything had a similar texture, and was so soft it began falling apart the moment I took a bite... Generally DD and I didn't care, and wolfed the lot down quickly.
Next on the list of to-do's: attend one of FC's Happy Hours every Wednesday, when the house butchers break down whole beasts, clientele get first dibs at the meaty goods, and tasty snacks and drinks. Oh, and nab some 4-5 pounds of that Porchetta to roast at home.
Fatted Calf320 Fell St
San Francisco, CA 94102
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley (415) 400-5614 Note: Another store location is at the Oxbow Market in Napa, but you can also get on the Fatted Calf email list (and read Ms. Miller's beautiful musings on food and life) and place pre-orders, to be picked up in Berkeley, at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market, or in Napa.