After a few years hawking their hazelnut-finished pork at farmers markets, local restaurants, and KitchenCru, Tails & Trotters' Aaron Silverman and Mark Cockcroft are nearly ready to open their new brick-and-mortar butcher shop on Northeast 24th, just off of Glisan.
As part of the microrestaurant destination The Ocean, the small square-footage space will offer a simple, rustic environment for pork-powered shopping and advice. The new shop will give the team time to expand their line of pork products, as well as the space to begin hanging legs to cure for the sale of their Northwest-style of Prosciutto (the original catalyst for the Tails & Trotters concept over three years ago).
From holiday hams and housemade sausages to marinated ready-to-cook steaks and a "nose-to-tail" butcher counter, the Good Food Award-winning Tails & Trotters is setting up to be the go-to shop for the city's hazelnut-finished pork needs. According to Silverman and Cockcroft, a local hazelnut diet gives the pork, and more specifically the fat in the pork, a distinct flavor and mouthfeel that is not found in standard grain-fed pork.
I sat down with Silverman and Cockcroft to get their take on enviable cuts for all kinds of cooks, Portland's porkiest restaurants, and the rumored national bacon shortage.
1. Which cuts would give novice home cooks the best bang for their buck?
We would recommend they try some fresh or marinated Coppa- a cut from the top of the shoulder that you usually don't see in supermarket meat cases. While not the all-around-cheapest cut it is a great value due to its versatility, ease of preparation, and great taste: it really expresses the essence of our hazelnut-finished pork. Grilled, roasted or braised, the Coppa has a great ratio of rich, dark meat and luscious fat... and a little goes a long way.
2. On the other hand, which cuts could be fun for experienced cooks who want to try something new?
Go for the Secreto, a "secret" Spanish butcher's cut from the top of the brisket. This cut doesn't express itself fully until the pig is much larger than your average commodity porker. The Secreto has an unbelievably rich, almost beefy flavor, while still retaining its inherent porcine heritage. Grilled or pan-roasted is best—cooked to a crusty brown exterior and rosy interior. One of our regular customers has had great success with a 6 hour sous-vide followed by a quick sear on the grill.
3. In your opinion, which Portland restaurants feature pork the best?
Urban Farmer! They get a whole pig a week from us, head included, so they know nose-to-tail cooking for sure. Irving St. Kitchen and Lardo also do a great job with our product, and Imperial too (they do great things with our Secreto). The list goes on and on...Portland is such a great pork eating town!
4. Have you ever had any truly strange butchering requests from a client?
After over 3 years in business nothing really surprises us any more! What is amazing to see is that with each passing year, Portlanders have been truly embracing the concept of eating the whole hog. The odd bits that used to languish now are snapped up by both restaurants and retail customers; snouts, tails, tongues, trotters—you name it, folks here in town are eating it.
5. What's your take on the "Bacon Shortage"?
It seems that a British trade association crafted a press release designed to prepare consumers for higher bacon prices due to lower feed availability thanks to the drought in the US. And in typical fashion, the Internet and media took the story and it went viral. Tails & Trotters is looking to increase our own bacon production as the shop takes off and restaurant sales continue to grow. Our local pork sources were obviously not affected by Mid West drought, and our pigs are fed a diet that is produced locally—never corn or soy. The only bacon shortage that we are experiencing is that the demand for our cured belly products is crazy because it is so damn good.