Earlier in the year I attended the 33rd Annual Sausage and Processed Meats Short Course at Iowa State University. There, I met Darian Ahler a Design Engineer from the American Food Equipment Company. As I knew I’d be in the Bay Area I dropped him a message to see whether we could meet up. He went one better than that, not only did he give me a tour of their facility but he also arranged a couple of visits to some local salami producers too. I had to sign a confidentiality agreement to enter the plants so I can’t comment on those here, suffice to say I had an excellent morning.However, I can post a couple of pictures of the AMFEC plant. I found the tour extremely interesting – Darian showed me the CAD drawings of a new food production line that they were designing and manufacturing before taking me around the plant where the equipment was being fabricated. After a morning of white coats, hair nets and beard snoods it was quite a contrast walking through an industrial space that actually makes the food grade equipment for those highly clean spaces.I found the tour utterly fascinating – I’d never really thought about the process involved of making something as simple as a stainless steel table before. Here, I could see drawings being transformed into actual structures. Processing lines that have been meticulously designed for a specific operation were in various stages of fabrication, finished items were in a holding area waiting for all the other sections to be finished ready for final testing.This world is so different to mine – our equipment comprises of remnants from a closed butchery and some savvy bargains bought on e-bay. I’m looking forward to the day I get to design a shiny new plant from scratch!For supper that evening, Darian accompanied me to Dong Bei Mama – a Chinese Restaurant I’d read a review about online that specialised in charcuterie. My language skills are pretty poor, and the waiter had very little English so trying to explain charcuterie was a difficult task. In the end I opted for some of the more interesting named items on the menu – Spicy Shredded Pigs Ears, Pig Skin Jello and Eight Delicacies of Pork.I was impressed with Darian, he just jumped in and stuck four slices of pig skin jello on to his plate. It had a very delicate flavour and the fat melted in your mouth. The sauce that came with it was delicious and fresh. The sauce with the shredded pig ears was good too, there was a hint of spice towards the end, but I’m not one for cartilage so it was a little too crunchy for my liking. The last item was the Eight Delicacies of Pork, I’ve really no idea which pork cut it was or how it was made but it tasted a lot like my grandmothers boiled ham!
No pic of Darian, I can do better than that. Here’s a vid of him singing.