Those who know Mike Phillips had become accustomed to ordering heavenly meat plates inside his area restaurants. The renowned local chef behind the dearly departed Chet's Taverna and opening chef of Craftsman left the kitchen to open his own meat company in 2010. He paired with successful local entrepreneur Kieran Folliard to start a craft cured meat business and then there came an excruciating wait.
It seems it isn't so easy as hanging a pig leg in the cellar and pulling out a proscuitto to sell. While Phillips had mastered the skill of taking happy pigs, raised by farmers who keep their animals in ideal conditions, allowing them to thrive and live happy lives and transforming their meat into fat-studded, zesty aged meat treats, that was only part of the process. There was a bit of a learning curve for the Department of Agriculture and Red Table Meats on mastering the certification for food safety. Thankfully, both sides were committed to cracking the code. Now, these long-awaited meats are hitting the market.
Last night the Red Table team threw open the doors to their facilities for a joyous tour and a table piled high with meat.
Until sampling this selection, one can only assume you've tasted great salamis. Then, there occurs that first, life altering taste. A fat slice of The Francois (named for Phillips' meat mentor) is wonderfully toothsome, possessing hundreds of tiny fat nubs tucked into the meat, enlivened by white pepper. The fat is luxuriously creamy and unlike any other that melts upon the tongue. Tyler Montgomery, Red Table's production manager explained that the reason the fat is so seductive has to do with the farmers finishing the animals, at Phillips' request, with a rich grain and nut diet before harvesting.
Another familiar chef face that's working inside their Nordeast shop is Peter Ireland, of The Lynn on Bryant who has taken a sales position. "This is a great place to land," he said as he fired up the slicer for shreds of coppa for the guests.
The roll out of the meat selection is purposely slow. So far, salamis and sausages can be purchased at Surdyk's, France 44, The St. Paul Cheese Shop, The Wedge & the Wheel, Sunfish Cellars, Seward Co-op and Wild Strawberry Market. Their products are popping up at several area restaurants including Sanctuary, Toast Wine Bar, The Curious Goat food truck, The Kenwood and The Modern (where Phillips was once a chef).
The list will likely soon grow as breakfast spots come to the realization that this team is making the best maple kissed breakfast links on the market. The skin snaps in a shower of hammy juices.
Speaking of ham, The Royal is a glory of a pork leg, ever so gently smoked and rubbed with herbs with each slice laced with creamy fat that washes over the palate, coating the tender meat in a welcome flavor bath. It's a ham revolution.
On October 21st Phillips will visit The Wedge and the Wheel for their Meet the Makers event. It's here that you can get a full tasting of products available. They also have been popping up at several farmers markets around the region. Follow Red Table Meats on Twitter and Facebook for further information.