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Cold Cut Comfort

June 15, 2017

One of the great joys of being a parent is watching the journey of culinary discovery.

In some ways my kids are quite fortunate. In other ways, they are horribly deprived. If I recall correctly, Young Master Fussy was about four years old before he got his first taste of a hot dog. They never developed a taste for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese since I kept it out of the house once I realized the American version contained an ingredient banned around the world. I don’t think they’ve ever had a Ding-Dong, Ho-Ho, or Hostess fruit pie.

Man, I loved those Hostess fruit pies when I was a kid. Just thinking about them brings me back to a very special time and place. But that’s a story for another day.

Because today’s story starts with bologna and a failed trip Chester’s Smokehouse. It even has a happy ending where the Fussies return to Chester’s and discover something amazing.

Make a note. Chester’s closes at 2pm on Sunday. Little Miss Fussy and I rolled up around 2:30pm to find a darkened store. We had planned an outing to pick up some of their sliced meats. She was going on a field trip, and wanted to pack a special lunch, so I thought we might get some of their housemade bologna.

Bologna is one of those things we don’t keep around the fussy household. Big industrially produced vats of meat products really aren’t our jam. But smaller-batched stuff made by local people who care changes that calculus.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what Little Miss Fussy would think of the stuff anyway. She was once given a slice of “American cheese” at Roma’s in Latham, and her face lit up when she experienced its sodium citrate enhanced creaminess. Plus she’s a hot dog fan, and a kid, so I figured bologna was likely in her wheelhouse.

Not being one to give up, I decided to pop into the Honest Weight Food Co-op down the road. There, right next to the Applegate organic American cheese slices, was the equally bougie bologna from The Piggery. How does $16 a pound bologna sound to you?

Well, it was totally excellent. Except for that misleading statement about “No Nitrates or Nitrites Added” which always makes me question all the other claims made about the product. But these well seasoned, tender slices of emulsified pork and beef, were delicious. And paired with American cheese, my daughter was finally getting a taste of the American childhood she’s been denied.

Fast forward to just a couple days ago.

It’s hot. I don’t want to cook. And Little Miss Fussy needs to bring a picnic lunch to school. Well, it was time to revisit our original plan and take a field trip to Chester’s for some sliced cold cuts.

Man, that place is like a meat candy store. It took every ounce of self control to leave without buying a nub of the liverwurst pate. But I already had a big bag of meat, and even though much of it is smoked and cured, it’s still perishable.

So yes, we had to get some of the bologna. But there was also a roast pork tenderloin being sliced up which looked delicious. And I couldn’t resist a little bit of the eye round roast beef too. Those small slices are perfect for kid snacks.

Then I saw it. Smoked veal loaf.

Ooh. This is one of those Chester’s Smokehouse specialities. I remember when the shop opened they had a ton of meaty loaves on display that they would slice for deli meats. These days they try to keep the culinary creativity in check so that the sliced loaf section of the meat case isn’t quite so overwhelming. But smoked veal loaf? For kids?

My logic was that if they enjoyed the lightly smoked flavor of bologna and were fans of softer sliced deli meats that this might be a winner.

Well, not only did the kids enjoy it, this was the unanimous favorite from our latest haul. Unless you ask Mrs. Fussy, who can’t really stand emulsified meats. I’m sure she would rather run nine miles than take a nibble of a veal loaf and American cheese sandwich.

But that’s okay. More for us.

Mrs. Fussy loved those smoked breakfast sausages with bourbon and maple that Chester’s developed for the Yelp event at Yankee Distillery. I bought the very last ones, so now they’ll hopefully make another batch. You’ll just have to keep your eyes peeled to their Facebook page to learn when they have more.

Or, you know, just pop in there periodically and pick up some pierogies.

I just said that for the alliteration. What you really want to stop in for are some of the cold cuts, smoked sausages, and smoked cheeses. Because if you put these together, perhaps with some of that excellent rye bread from Berkshire Mountain Bakery, you’ve got the bones of an awesome summer supper.

And Chester’s is just one of the places you can do this. The Cheese Traveler has an amazing selection of charcuterie and cheeses, and Rolf’s Pork Store in Albany can hook you up with the hams and wursts they make in house too. It really depends on what you are in the mood for.

Part of me is thinking about putting together an upstate version of the Cuban sandwich. Roast pork from Chester’s, ham from Rolf’s, and cheese from The Cheese Traveler. I’m not sure yet about the mustard, but the pickles can come from Puckers. The bread is the hardest part. Cuban bread isn’t really made around here. But I’m kind of wondering if something from Prinzo’s or Schuyler might not do the trick.

Maybe that can be a treat if I can ever make it to the gym I just joined. Gotta find a way to sweat some of this meat off. But more on that later.

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