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More Tasty Vittles from Rolf’s

December 14, 2011

Rolf’s pork store is a regional treasure. It was a delight to write the piece on them that ran on All Over Albany yesterday. And spending time with Glen Eggelhoefer, the youngest son of the eponymous Rolf, was an amazing experience for someone obsessed with food.

Today I get to offer you a bit of the b-roll.

Not everything can fit into a feature post. Not everything makes sense to include. The AOA posts require a certain tone, which I enjoy. But here I can be a bit more casual. I can also let you in a bit behind the curtain. For example, in talking to Glen I did identify a bit of an ideological discrepancy. However, I think I’ve got a great idea to try and settle the issue. And at least in theory Glen’s on board.

Two things that I cut from the post are some of the more delicious items available for immediate consumption. When you walk into the store, there is a warm case on the right. If you are lucky it is filled with a pink loaf of meat and a handful of brown meaty patties.

These are Leberkäse and Frikadellen respectively. Mr. Dave wrote about them a while back.

Even though the former translates to liver cheese, this is one of the odd examples where the Germanic descriptions don’t line up with the contents of the dish. Really, it’s like a warm smoked bologna loaf. The latter is a pan-fried meatloaf patty, that is really a bunch of leftovers ground up. There’s beef, pork and bacon ends in there. It’s insanely good, and at Rolf’s they’ll put it on a bun for you for a mere $2.50.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be able to walk out of there without a Leberkäse or Frikadellen sandwich ever again. But it pays to eat it on your way out, because at a place like Rolf’s you really do want to shop hungry and be adventurous.

Now here’s the thing.

I believe the better the meat going in, the better the end product.
Glen believes the meat is a blank canvas, and the product is his craft.

And I can understand where he’s coming from. As Glen explained, his customers are Americans who have been clamoring for leaner meats for most of his tenure behind the counter. The older customers still appreciate things like liverwurst. But Glen had to start making chicken sausage for our modern times, something his father never did.

The better breeds of pigs are better because they are fatty. Never forget that fat is flavor. It seems as if Glen hasn’t been introduced to the rising tide of American food lovers who are embracing fat and searching out delicious Berkshire and Mangalista pigs specifically for their fat and marbling. There aren’t a lot of us here in the Capital Region.

So even though his customers are willing to pay more for meat than at the supermarket, he’s totally convinced that nobody would want the fattier, more expensive pork from acorn fed pigs or heritage breeds. And I don’t doubt him. It’s just interesting.

However, while the pork that Glen sells is conventionally raised, the chicken he brings in is special. It’s Murray’s and it’s happy. It’s a lot more expensive than what you would find in a supermarket, and Glen believes in the superiority of this product.

Why better chicken makes sense, but better pork doesn’t remains a mystery. Still, I gladly eat the fruits of his labor because they are just so darn delicious. But it’s important to note that I would eat it more if the meat were happier.

So here’s what I suggested. We should have a bacon showdown. “There is no showdown, I’ll always win” Glen replied, “You know why I’m around the longest? Because I’m the best.”

And in this case that would certainly be true because it would be his bacon going up against his bacon. I’d like to get him a Berkshire pork belly, and he could cure, smoke and slice my happy belly alongside his conventional pork belly. Then we could fry up both bacons and taste them blind.

My hope is that I could identify the happier heritage breed and that Glen would prefer it too. If that happens, perhaps I can change his mind about the importance of using better pigs. But blind tasting is brutal. Still, I’m prepared to take the chance.

This now goes on my ever growing to do list. Right up there with cupcakes, fudge fancies, and the Tour de Egg Sandwich. Next year is going to be a lot of fun.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2011 11:05 am

    Ooh, I’d love to know the results of the bacon contest (and if you require a panel of judges I’d gladly volunteer my services).

    Even though my belly is currently full of egg sandwich, that Tour de Egg Sandwich sounds like so much fun.

  2. December 14, 2011 11:22 am

    I don’t have so much of a problem with Rolf’s using non-heirloom, standard American type pork. The history of sausage making is intertwined with turning meat of marginal (or dubious) quality into something beautiful. Salt, smoke, and spices turn all the nasty bits of a skinny barnyard hog into something beautiful. I almost think that high quality pork would be wasted in some of the applications that Rolf’s so excels in.

    BTW, did you manage to find out where Rolf’s sources their beef? I ordered and picked up a rib roast the other day. It was about 4.5 pounds and upon arriving home I noticed that it was clearly not enough meat for the amount of people that I have to feed. On short notice I found a supplemental rib roast of roughly the same size at Hannaford’s. I am planning a “Tale of Two Rib Roasts” kind of post. Unsurprisingly,on a visual inspection, the Rolf’s meat appears to be the clear winner (marbling, color, skill of butchery, etc…).

    On another note, I think you are putting some of your best content onto All over Albany, which is great. But I think you are going to get more people to read AoA as opposed to this blog. Is this out of a sense of Altruism?

  3. Jenny on the Block permalink
    December 14, 2011 12:02 pm

    Here is a question — if the pork is conventionally raised, is it then a given that it is also not raised locally? I’ve always wondered at both Rolf’s, as well as at Oscar’s in Warrensburg (my other favorite temple of the pig and other smoked things), but never actually asked.

    I love Rolf’s, so I appreciate your posts and I’m glad to hear that they are doing so well. Despite the fact that I can never leave without spending $75 (even if I only ran in for a couple of sausages), it takes more than one lover of German meats to keep a butcher in business.

  4. December 14, 2011 8:16 pm

    Great question and a great proposed tasting test… EXCEPT that if the main difference between the heritage/natural and factory pigs is the fat content, then the decision will be made on which has more and more satisfying fat, right? So it’s kind of skewed and predetermined by whether you are Jack or Mrs. Sprat. (I can’t remember which could eat “no lean”…)

    An interesting factoid is that factory farming of pigs is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating from the late 1980s. The watery, lean meat we get was not available prior to that time. So if he’s looking for “traditional” then Glen should regard the recent trend toward tortured pig meat as a blip in the timeline.

    • RealFoodMom permalink
      December 15, 2011 12:02 am

      Jack Sprat could eat no fat; his wife could eat no lean.

  5. Darren Shupe permalink
    December 15, 2011 1:37 am

    I’d love to see what Glen could do with some Kurobata or Mangalista pork. It would be great if he could at least stock it in raw cuts. As for the beef at Rolf’s… Mr. Dave is correct; it’s superb, if not quite prime or Kobe. A great alternative to Falvo’s when I don’t feel like making the trip all the way out there.

  6. December 15, 2011 9:46 am

    Can we partake in the bacon tasting? Because I love me some bacon… Assuming this competition ever comes to light.

  7. January 11, 2012 9:03 am

    Daniel, I bookmarked this post when you first wrote it and am not disappointed that I went back to read it. This is an exceptional piece on a local treasure. I am really excited about the tasting. I also have some sources for Berkshire and Tamworth, and some other heirloom breeds. I do not have relationships or sources raising Mangalitsa yet. If you need help, I can help coordinate some of the sourcing. Artisan raised and artisan crafted food is the kind of tasting that gets me really excited!

    I am very happy that one of the other readers clarified that in the history of pig farming factory pig farms are only in the last, most recent stage of the overall history of raising pigs for food. Pig farming is in the written record going back at least as far as Homer. Perhaps making sausage was from less desirable/usable cuts; however, the animals themselves were raised on pasture or at least in open areas where they were not confined.

    And lastly if anyone is visiting Ithaca you should check out the Piggery– They raise and butcher their own pigs and make their own chacuterie. They are delightful and their food is delicious!

  8. March 5, 2013 4:56 pm

    I remembered this post when I dropped by Rolf’s recently to pick up some Murray’s chicken (specifically wings for the Superbowl). I asked Glen if he was still using conventionally raised pork and he sort of rolled his eyes and sighed at the question. He did indicate that the pork he gets (from somewhere in PA) isn’t treated with antibiotics. It’s really a shame, his pork products are really phenomenal, I wish they were humanely raised.

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