If you have been to the Leucadia Farmers Market, Blue Ribbon, Craftsman, Ritual Tavern, Proper Gastropub, or many other of San Diego’s quality-minded restaurants, there is a good chance you have come across The MeatMen.
Their booth at the farmers market is one of the busiest and has people lining up for their salami and sausage that are some of the best in town. It should be noted that Annel & Drew, whose booth is right across the aisle from MeatMen, uses their breakfast sausage in their highly acclaimed breakfast sandwich.
MeatMen is run by Albert Juarez, who takes his craft very seriously. Albert is realizing his dream of making a living providing the highest quality salami and sausage to consumers and restaurants that can’t get enough. It’s some of the best I’ve had anywhere and like the olive oil and balsamic vinegar at Baker & Olive; the quality ingredients really do make a huge difference. I had a chance to interview Albert recently for Lick the Plate Radio on KPRi and here are some highlights from our conversation.
Lick the Plate: You grew up in Escondido and went to culinary school at Grossmont College. Where did you go from there and who were some of the people that inspired MeatMen?
AJ: I worked at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the restaurant and catering department. Then worked an opening of Romano’s Macaroni Grill. These were great places to learn how the food service industry works before culinary school. Then in culinary school Chef James Foran’s passion for his work showed me the art in food.
The experience of cooking real food at Urban Solace while in school was amazing. Chef Matt Gordon was determined to show me the standards it takes to have your own food business. Of course my mentor Rey Knight shaped my view about food as something one is always striving for improvement on with food knowledge and working skill. Never be content.
LTP: So being a food processor is a bit different than a restaurant as far as restrictions and regulations. Can you highlight some of those differences?
AJ: The difference is a food processor is all about consistent repetition and time efficiency. With a USDA facility, I’m restricted to processing Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in a 40-degree refrigerated cold room. There are also a lot of cleanliness restrictions that are much more thorough than those in restaurants.
LTP: You make and sell both salami and sausage, some of the best I’ve had. Let’s talk about the salami first. What goes into that process?
AJ: We do an old world cold fermentation that really allows the customer to taste each flavor profile. We control the temp, humidity, and airflow throughout the process. The quality of an old world cold fermentation process provides the full flavor of heritage pork and organic fair trade spices. Artisan dry sausages are hand formed and hung for a six-week slow drying process. It’s slow food and the flavor comes from the process.
LTP: What are some of your more popular salamis and what do you pair them with?
AJ: The Naughty Constable has caraway and juniper berries that slices up nicely with Armenian cucumbers. The Juicy Scandal has a little heat and pairs well with a Sangiovese. The Juicy Scandal is an Italian Soppressata dry salami that has a medium heat with red chili flakes and cinnamon on the front of the pallet. It can be paired with Calvados and sliced apples. A Muffalatta sandwich is also great use of this salami.
LTP: How about sausages?
AJ: The bratwurst can be paired simply with stewed sauerkraut and potatoes. The Italian sliced up with blanched broccoli and raw tomatoes always puts a big smile on my face.
LTP: Your products are sold at some of my favorite restaurants in town, can you name a few of them and what they are doing with them?
AJ: Wade over at Blue Ribbon Pizza and Craftsman New American Tavern uses the spicy pepperoni. Peter over at Pizzeria Bruno uses the Italian. We also sell to Carnitas Snack Shack and are at many farmers markets around town.
The MeatMen are at the Leucadia Farmers market every Sunday and a complete list of where they can be found around town is at meatmenstore.com.