Once Upon A Sausage: Lunch with Elise & The Serious Eats Team at Biricchino

Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes has been reading this blog from the very beginning. She championed me on her site, way back when, and the hits came pouring in. Ever since, I’ve considered her this blog’s favorite aunt. And yet she’s been an estranged aunt: until last week, I’d never met her. But then she came to New York and invited me to join her and the Serious Eats team for lunch. We met at the Serious Eats offices and after leaping into each other’s arms, we entered a serious discussion about where we were going to eat. Ed Levine mentioned Biricchino, the restaurant half of Salumi Biellese, one of the most prominent purveyors of sausage in the United States.

“Sold!” I said and Elise said “Sold!” too which was a little awkward because I said it first and then we were out the door with Ed, Adam, Alaina and Elise ready to scarf down sausages like that woman in the Howard Stern Movie.

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Biricchino is just one of those New York places you have to love. It’s charming in a dirty hotel bar kind of way. The people there look like permanent fixtures; the room has a boozy, woozy feel. We sat near a window with sunlight streaming through the slats.

Ed, of course, knew everyone there—well the bartender and then the owner, Mark Buzzio, who experts (including Michael Ruhlman who mentions him in Charcuterie) call one of the best sausage makers in America. You can tell he’s one of the best because he’s so full of passion for his work. He started talking to us about new regulations and how off-base the government is, how they see mold growing on meat as it cures and think that means it’s rotten (it’s actually a natural part of the process.) He talked about all the hoops you have to jump through to make sausage the old fashioned way and then he got really excited talking to us about pork that he gets from this farm that’s so rich and red it looks like steak.

“Here,” he said, “I’ll bring it out.”

He brought it out and we all marveled over it.

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“Maybe we should order it,” I suggested. “I mean–since we’re here.”

So we did order it–done with garlic and mushrooms–and it was a revelation. Look at this:

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It’s truly a masterwork of meat and a STEAL at what I think was $18. We all shared from it and that was plenty.

We also shared what Mark is most famous for–platters of his cured meats:

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And, most importantly, sausage:

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Now through some weird twist of fate the other day, after eating at Mark’s place, I was home and Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie came on and guess what? There was a whole segment about Mark and his sausage and I got to see how it was done. It’s a fascinating process: it’s all done by hand. The meat is mixed by hand–with wine and spices. And then, even more impressively, it’s packed in its casing by hand. As they showed in the video, it’s a very tender process–the natural casings could explode at any moment and all the meat spills out (as happened in the segment I watched.) All the different meats are treated differently, but most of them hang for several months and it’s amazing how much liquid they lose. This is an art, a craft as difficult as any specialized area of study. Mark’s at the top of his game and isn’t it wonderful you can just pop into his place at lunch and eat his food?

Just in case you think this was an absolute meat-fest, we also ate some of these tomatoes and mozzarella:

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And I really enjoyed this Rigatoni alla Paesana, with sausage and sun-dried tomato:

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Damn, we really ate a lot of food. But it was a pleasure to get to eat so much of Mark’s food and even more of a pleasure to get to eat it with Elise. She’s a great lunch companion, so great in fact that we’re getting married:

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Just kidding. She sent me this picture taken with her camera and likened it to a New York Times wedding announcement. We do make a handsome couple, don’t we?

I can hear the words now… “With this sausage, I thee wed.”

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