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Superb Salumi

When chef-cookbook author-cooking host Michael Chiarello opened his flagship NapaStyle store in Yountville last year,  he finally had enough space for a curing room.

Like his other five NapaStyle stores in California, the Yountville one also boasts a tempting array of specialty cookware and gourmet ingredients. But this one also features a wine bar, as well as a cafe that serves sandwiches and salads.

When I visited recently, I was after what came out of the curing room — artisan cured meats.

Hand-crafted salumi seems to be the rage these days among Bay Area chefs. You have Paul Bertolli, former executive chef of Oakland’s Oliveto, turning out his wonderful Fra’Mani salumi. You have Chris Cosentino, chef of San Francisco’s Incanto, selling his brand of Boccalone cured meats.

Now comes Chiarello with his salumi that’s sold on his NapaStyle Web site, and in his stores. I couldn’t resist buying the “Roasted Garlic & Rosemary” and “Parmesan” salumi, each $12.

What I enjoy about artisan salumi is that the taste isn’t overwhelmingly of salt like mass-produced varieties. Instead, there’s a rich, meaty, porky-ness to them. Chiarello’s is no exception. The rosemary was a nice touch, as rosemary and pork are such natural partners.

The parmesan was just inspired; the salty, aged cheese gives a deeper, more complex savory flavor.  There’s also an unexpected kick of spicy pepper in this one. If you love salami and cheese sandwiches, this is like the best of both worlds in one bite.

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