My final visit of the day was to meet Chef Robert Belcham at his restaurant Campagnolo on Main. I’d read about Robert’s curing venture The Cure on various blogs, as well as the cured products he serves at his other restaurants ReFuel and Campagnolo Roma. I was drawn to his curing, largely because of his whole hog approach. Some ten years ago while working at another restaurant he started his search for the best quality local pork that he could find – his search brought him to Sloping Hill Farm on Vancouver Island. At that time he could only purchase whole carcasses, which necessitated the whole hog approach. He’s still an evangelist for their Berkshire pork and processes eight carcasses per month.
It’s refreshing to see a restaurant that breaks carcasses in-house, four carcasses per month are sold as cuts in the restaurant, and he takes a complete nose to tail eating approach to the dishes on the menu. The other four carcasses are made into charcuterie. The English speaking charcuterie world is pretty small, so it’s not often that you get to speak with other like minded people from the industry let alone ones who are happy for you to see their production space. I had the full tour of the curing facility above the restaurant and it was re-assuring to hear that we pretty much have the same production issues whether it be environmental health, issues with drying, raw ingredient consistency etc.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to sample a range of his fermented salamis and chorizo. He has a couple of signature cured products – a fennel pollen salami, which was very subtle – there wasn’t that usual zing of fennel that you get with seeds, it was a slow building, warming flavour. And if you ever see fennel pollen for sale, take a good sniff of it, it’s an intense experience. My favourite salami however was a spicy salami – the sausage was dotted with small flecks of chili and chili seed and had the most wonderful fresh flavour.
One of the key reasons that I’d chosen to come to North America to look at charcuterie production was because they aren’t burdened with tradition. Robert is a self taught charcutier, and his products had a fresh taste to them. You can tell he’s a chef; he uses a culture with a higher acidification than I do, but I couldn’t have said as he’d balanced the flavours so well. Another one for the list when I return to Vancouver, hoping to visit the restaurant proper and order the charcuterie platter.