Usually I wouldn’t advise you to seek out specialty meats from a software engineer.
With Adam Costa, it’s a little different. He’s one of the two brothers behind Crested Duck Charcuterie at the Pittsburgh Public Market.
The other brother, Kevin, is a trained chef. Worked in Cincinnati before moving back to Pittsburgh.
“We talked about opening a restaurant at first,” Adam said. “But I know he didn’t want to work every night for the rest of his life.”
The opening of the Pittsburgh Public Market gave them another option: to focus on food Kevin wanted to make in the quantities he thought most appropriate so he wouldn’t have to compromise quality. Much better deal, they thought, than cranking out 200 dinners on demand every single day.
They rent kitchen space and hope to have a space of their own soon enough.
“I got an electrician coming Monday,” Adam said.
Now, I said “specialty meats.” That can mean a lot of things. In this case, it’s guanciale — exquisite cured pork cheeks — for $16 a pound. Elk rillettes for $7. Rendered pork lard, $8 a pint, or basically a pound, Mexican-style chorizo at $10 a pound.
Some of that elk rillette on a toasted baguette with some seriously good beer — a delightful light December lunch if ever I heard of one.
They also make elk stock and sell elk soup bones as well as what they call “gin and juice” salami — it’s got juniper berries and a little orange zest in it. The juniper berries I could taste. The orange zest is there mostly so they can say it has orange zest in it. The “juice” part, if you will.
How does their stuff taste? Sort of like this:
They also have salt. Many different kinds of salt.
This is important.
Some salt is for cooking. Some for finishing — whether a garnish or color or a sharper, bolder flavor. The distinctions can be subtle, but significant.
I picked up some of the Hawaiian red Alaea salt on one of my earlier trips in there. One of my favorite uses for it so far is on meat I sear and then braise. Last week I tried it on a well-marbled chuck roast I braised with fennel, onion and carrots in Troeg’s Doublebock beer. Seems to add a little smokiness, a little deeper flavor than the coarse Kosher salt I use most of the time.
At some point when I’m in the mood I want to try out some of the smoked salt as a finisher on seared scallops. But that’s for later. Like when it’s not freezing outside.
Maybe Adam won’t have to be a software engineer forever. He’s got a pretty good idea what he’s gotten himself into.