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A sandwich showdown with Columbus Salame

All three sandwichers

Last month, Columbus Salame reached out to me with a proposition: They were rolling out a new product line, Farm to Fork Naturals, and wanted me to emcee a fun little event with bloggers competing, Top Chef-style, to turn out their most creative sandwiches with the new deli meats. I, of course, said yes. I mean, how fun is that?

I've been chummy with Columbus for a little while now. Under the auspices of my other site, Punk Domestics, I hosted a Twitter chat for them a while back, and then went to visit the production facility in South San Francisco to see how their cured meats are made. I've become a fan of their Artisan line, which uses sustainable, antibiotic-free meat, and cures the meat in natural casings using very much the traditional methods that I got to experience in Italy in January. For Farm to Fork Naturals, they are applying this sustainable sensibility to their pre-cut deli meats, which is really their bread and butter. Er, lard. 

The competition was thus: Bloggers would have a pantry of ingredients, including of course various forms of salame. Then, we would dispatch them across the street to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where they would have 10 minutes and $10 to acquire one or more secret ingredients to set their sandwich apart from the pack. Upon their return, they would have 20 minutes to assemble their sandwiches, which would be judged by a panel of food media experts based on creativity, use of the ingredient, presentation and, most importantly, flavor. The stakes were high: The winner would get bragging rights, a big basket of Columbus product … and $500. 

To kick the event off, though, Columbus wanted me to develop four appetizer recipes so that we would have some nibbles for the bloggers and judges; these were expertly executed at the event by Rebecca Jean Catering. (They even interviewed me on their blog. Neat, no?) Because I wanted to inspire creativity in the sandwich makers, I tried to showcase the salame in as many different ways as possible: Cold and hot, soft and crispy, savory and sweet, traditional and not so much. 

Our suckers, er, blogger competitors were Lynda Balslev of TasteFood, Chef John of Foodwishes and Michael Procopio of Food for the Thoughtless.

Lynda, Chef John, Michael

Handsome bunch, aren't they? Turns out they're a creative lot, too, each taking radically different directions in their sandwichery. Lynda drew inspiration from the fennel salame, nabbing some fennel pollen to lay down on her salame, fig and fennel pollen sandwich, which also used shavings of fresh fennel for even more fenneliciousness. She's posted her recipe here

Michael's eye was drawn immediately to a packet of marrow butter, which he used in combination with the fat he rendered when making some crispy salame slices to make a umami-tastic grilled salame and turkey sandwich. Here's his recipe

Chef John came back with two secret ingredients, pine nuts and pluots, which he combined with diced soppressata to make a sweet-savory relish to punch up turkey and teleme. Read his recipe here

Twenty minutes later, they served their sandwiches to our panel of esteemed judges: Susannah Chen of YumSugar, Jonathan Kauffman of Tasting Table SF, John Birdsall of CHOW, Anna Roth of SF Weekly and Valeria, the senior marketing manager at Columbus. 

Panel of judges

Who won? Well, I'm going to make you read their posts to find out. But suffice to say that a good time was had by all, and the winner graciously gave their monetary proceeds directly to the San Francisco Food Bank. And boy, could they use it.  

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Duck prosciutto: Charcutepalooza month one

Duck prosciutto

After last year's relatively easily-gotten success making guanciale, I've been fairly obsessed with the idea of dabbling deeper into charcuterie. I mean, if it's as easy as salting, hanging and waiting, what's not to love? And so, as the winter cool descended upon us, I began to fantasize about setting up a more serious curing chamber in our basement, looking at different options, developing madcap ideas about how to hack something together that would serve the purpose. 

And then, Cathy Barrow from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy hatched a genius plan: Charcutepalooza! A charcuterie project for each month during the year 2011, all inspired by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's book "Charcuterie." It was like a sign from the heavens, a booming voice in my ear encouraging me to embrace the art of curing meat. And it was good. 

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