Full Belly Files | Sausage wins my world food crown

This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on June 24, 2022. To get Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.

Sausage is the best food on the planet.

I’ve been claiming this for a while with a slight smirk on my face just to acknowledge my lifelong penchant for coated meats as hot links, Italian sausage, kielbasa and linguica have been a fixture on my plate for so long that I can remember. But I’ve gotten more serious about the claim in recent years and now believe it’s a very defensible position. Here’s why I’m right.

Sausage is global, made by many cultures around the world, maybe even most. It’s sustainable by design, utilizing the least desirable parts of an animal – or vegetable – that might otherwise be thrown away. It comes in a range of flavors, from savory to sweet, as well as ingredients, including many meatless versions these days. It is really easy to cook, whether grilled, boiled, fried, baked or microwaved. It is versatile, perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night. It can be enjoyed on its own, or with a dip, or wrapped in bread, or as part of a more elaborate dish, such as cassoulet or garnished sauerkraut. And almost always, it’s absolutely delicious.

So when Doug Margerum e-mailed me asking if I’d like to try a new sausage he’s serving in his tasting room near the beach on Mason Street, we found ourselves sitting together for lunch four days later. Before I even ate, however, I quickly realized how much food was now part of the Margerum Winery experience: Everyone who sipped wine there that day also ate, enjoying the pizzas, paninis, salads and small bites prepared by Chef Carolyn Kope. She’s mastered the small kitchen of the place so well that their monthly “Supper Club” dinners for wine club members are instantly sold out, with long waiting lists.

Alfredo Sanchez makes El Sol sausages for the Margerum tasting room. | Credit: Courtesy

When Kope brought out lunch — on the menu as El Sol Sausage Plate, with a link, salad, mustard, and toast for $18 — our attention turned to the pork chorizo. . It was full of meaty flavors and spices, but texture was key: rather than the overly ground paste found in so many processed sausages, it was visibly chunky and offered a very satisfying chew, so it was obviously a handmade affair.

El Sol is the work of Alfredo Sanchez, an Argentinian who cooks in a Goleta commercial kitchen. He showed up at the tasting room one day with his sausage and introduced himself to Doug. “I liked the guy right away,” Doug said. Kope did the same and started buying El Sol sausage.

She is also interested in a few other items from El Sol and shared a few with us: a Glamorgan sausage stuffed with Welsh style cheese as well as a cooked trout fillet topped with red pepper and bacon. Both were tasty, and the trout was particularly unique, as it’s not common to see prepared fish sold to restaurants in this form. But it works quite well as a complex wine pairing.

I plan to call Sanchez very soon to find out more about his story and see what else he creates. And I’m also intrigued by Kope, who was most recently in room service before stepping into his current role as chef. (Although she has plenty of otherwise relevant experience working at Wine Cask and Whole Foods.)

Just looking at recent Supper Club menus reveals she’s a masterful cook, even in such a cramped kitchen with Turbofan ovens as her main tool. Fig-glazed duck breast, sun-dried tomato ravioli, handmade pesto gnocchi and braised short rib with polenta are just a few of Supper Clubs’ past three months.

Sign me up when she adds the sausage!

Josh Jensen, founder of Calera

Richard and Thekla Sanford shared their bottle of 1979 Calera from Reed Vineyard to toast its recently deceased winemaker, Josh Jensen. | Credit: Matt Kettman

Josh Jensen of Calera Winery, who was a California pinot noir legend, died on June 11 in San Francisco. I wrote an article about his life and its impact on Passionate about wine last week, and I spoke to the legends of Santa Barbara County pinot noir Richard Sanford and Greg Brewer for their insights. It turns out that a bottle of 1987 Calera is what steered Brewer to his own style of winemaking, while Sanford and Jensen returned decades ago as friends and competitors.

Sanford, who learned of Jensen’s death from my Monday morning text, pulled a few bottles of Calera 1979 out of his cellar that day. “We should share one together, Matt,” he implored in his regal tone. I happened to be driving through the Santa Ynez Valley a few days later after a visit to Rancho Sisquoc winery, so we made an appointment for Thursday night at Nella.

Richard’s wife, Thekla Sanford, joined us on the patio that afternoon, and we looked at the two 1979 bottles they had saved. When the sommelier made a joke about the year of birth – he was clearly a bit older than a 1979 vintage – Thekla pointed out that their daughter, Blakeney, was born in that year.

“Maybe you saved them for her?” I wondered, whose eyes were a little bulging. We decided to drink just one, and I suggested the one with the slightly off label, so Blakeney could enjoy the original.

After a careful cork extraction and decanter, we toasted Josh and remembered our own stories about him, theirs being far more detailed and hilarious than my brief experiences. There were light tears and heartfelt words, and the wine was fantastic, 43 years later.

From our table

Shadu the robot delivers Chinese food to diners at Meet Up Chinese Cuisine on Las Positas Road. | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

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Freeda S. Scott