Friday, August 27, 2010

Salami in Seattle

"Do you know where Grand Central Bakery is?" was the question posed to us as we walked through Pioneer Square in Seattle.

The questioner barely paused to hear our answer, "No, I'm sorry, we don't."

Pioneer Square, the original Seattle downtown, was nearly empty late in the morning one recent weekday. The young woman looking for the Bakery quickly rushed away, giving us the impression that getting the location of the Bakery was important.

We couldn't hear the answer she may have received from another visitor to the Square, so we were left without an answer as to the significance of the Bakery's address.

If only we had known.

Since we had just arrived at the Square following a short bus ride, we were just getting our bearings in search of the route to our destination.

Our two-day visit to Seattle had one objective--food. Or, to be more specific, the purchase of gourmet food provisions.

Yesterday we told you about our foray to the Pike Place Market. Our last trip to Seattle had been a three-day stopover on our way home from Alaska, and since we were flying, I wasn’t able to shop as I wanted. So, yesterday I was able to assuage five years of pent-up foodie frustration. Today we again boarded the ferry with our destination Pioneer Square. Or to be more specific, Salumi.

So, with map in hand, we headed to this special eatery.

Nearing Salumi, we passed through a somewhat "artistic" neighborhood, before sighting this sign on the corner.

Salumi is Armandino Batali’s well-known Seattle sandwich shop and cured meat store. If the name Batali is familiar, Armandino is the father of Food Network Iron Chef and restaurant owner Mario Batali. At the age of fifty-eight, Armandino retired from Boeing to pursue a dream--to make cured pork products. Today, his daughter Gina Batali and her husband are in charge of the business, although Armandino maintains a strong presence.

Salumi is one part restaurant and one part retail outlet and is only open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 am. to 4:00 p.m. The restaurant only seats sixteen (twelve at a long communal table and two each at two small round tables) and we knew that arriving early and waiting in line was a must if you wanted a seat.

So we arrived at about 10:20 and hung out on the sidewalk watching gnocchi being made in the front window.

We suspect--but aren’t sure--that the woman seen here (through the glare in the window) is Mrs. Batali (wife of Armandino and Mario’s mother), and the relationship of the two young girls to the family is anyone’s guess.

Soon we were joined by three other groups of tourists and Salumi first-timers – all of us wondering if Salumi would live up to its billing.

At 11:00 the doors open and the mayhem began. To your right as you enter the doors is a ten foot long counter behind which stood six women ready to take your sandwich order. (The menu’s emphasis is on sandwiches, but there are meat and cheese plates and, on that day, gnocchi.) There couldn’t have been more than three feet between the counter and the opposing wall and should two people try to pass in that space at the same time – well, inhaling deeply is advised.

If you are there to purchase cured meat products there is a sign advising you that, during the lunch rush, the meat slicer is reserved for sandwich preparation. As an alternative, on the top of the counter are containers of sliced salamis and pre-cut and wrapped sticks of salami.

So there I am, trying to place my lunch order, while frantically searching through the salami stick basket for my take home purchases. Let me tell you--it’s not easy being a foodie. My sandwich choice was the Salumi Muffo on a Guiseppe roll (similar to ciabatta), while Chuck chose the Margherita with prosciutto--also on the Guiseppe roll.

We were among the lucky and managed to grab one of the tables for two. My chair was up against the utility and hand washing sink, so I was constantly being jostled by staff. What is that about cleanliness and Godliness? Chuck's chair placed his head mere inches from the corner of a shelf in the hall to the kitchen. And this is not a place for lingering. Those wanting to eat in and not take out tend to look daggers at you the minute you are half-finished with your lunch.

My Muffo contained provolone cheese, cooked salami, and spicy sopressata with a tapenade-like spread with vegetables, olives, and pimento. The first test of a great sandwich is the bread or roll and the Guiseppe roll was crunchy crisp on the outside and light and airy—but not fluffy—on the inside. And the thinly-sliced meats on my Muffo were intensely—almost aggressively—flavored so that a small amount went a long way. So, too, with the vegetable/olive spread.

One taste of Chuck’s Margherita and I found myself wishing that this had been my choice. Of course it had all of my favorite ingredients--tomatoes (roasted), basil (pesto), mozzarella (fresh), and prosciutto (salty). I was hoping that he would volunteer to make the mid-meal switch, but that offer was not forthcoming.

If you are looking for great cured meats, a stop at Salumi is a must. But I still give Andreolli in Scottsdale, AZ a slight edge in the sandwich department. So Salumi will earn a 4.5 Addie rating.

But I did purchase some salumi to take home: the Rosemarino made with rosemary and pepper; the finocchiona flavored with cracked fennel, black pepper, and a hint of curry; the salami with a touch of ginger; and the mole made with chocolate, cinnamon, and ancho and chipotle peppers.
That night I constructed my version of a salami Margherita with finocchiona and rosemarino, fresh mozzarella, and basil on the ciabatta bread bought at Three Girls Bakery in the Pike Place Market on which I had sprinkled the Olio Pomodoro bought at Sotto Voce in the Sanitary Market.

As we retraced our route to the Bainbridge ferry, we rounded the corner and found this line of fans of Salumi waiting patiently.

With a lifetime in the kitchen, but only two years of formal study of meat curing and cooking, Armandino has produced artisan products to a customer base of restaurant chefs, delis, and individual salami lovers.

About two blocks from Salumi, many bits of information fell into place. We knew President Obama was going to be in Seattle, but we had no idea where he would be stopping. But as the 50+ motorcycle officers parked here, we realized the President was in this area.

In fact, the Grand Central Bakery. The President stopped at the bakery for a round-table discussion with small business owners.

He selected a turkey-chutney sandwich on Como bread, plus a side salad of spinach with goat feta and Skagit Valley strawberries.

We think the first SUV in the photo was the Presidential vehicle (because of the flag and seal).

Back in the 1850s, this area (Occidental Park) was part of the heart of a young and rowdy Seattle. It was also the birthplace of the Salvation Army in 1887.

The walk to the ferry and the ride back to Bainbridge Island brought an end to a very interesting day.

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