Carnivores, rejoice: Edmonton’s sausage scene is getting a whole lot meatier.
Just a few years ago, it wasn’t the norm for restaurants to serve house-made or locally produced sausages, says Steve Furgiuele of Fuge Fine Meats. When he started professionally making his own sausage and charcuterie while working as chef and general manager of Culina Mill Creek, he had to educate the health inspectors on his unusual kitchen setup, which included pH and water-activity meters. He persisted, and sausage-making blossomed into a full-time career that tapped into his experience growing up in an Italian family in northern Ontario/
“It was a passion on two fronts,” Furgiuele says. “I was able to get my creativity out – I’m a very creative person; I need that outlet – and also I was able to kind of honour my family and the traditions that I grew up doing.”
Furgiuele is also the man behind all of the delicious meats served at Otto Food and Drink. Otto’s opening in December 2016 marked a local sausage tipping point, as it is devoted solely to the charms of cylindrical meat. Further proof of sausage’s staying power came soon after, with the launch of the Secret Meat Club in January 2017, a monthly meat subscription box with delivery and pick-up options. The service has been so popular that there is a wait list of over 80 meat lovers wanting to purchase a subscription.
The Secret Meat Club is an offshoot of Meuwly’s Meats, a venture by Will Kotowicz, Peter Keith and Glendon Tan. Fresh sausages, charcuterie and other meaty items from Meuwly’s Meats have been featured on local menus, including Three Boars and Meat, for about a year. Starting the club netted the makers some public exposure and helped build to their ultimate goal of a full meat processing facility and retail outlet.
After returning from an internship with renowned charcuterie chef Craig Deihl at Cypress and Artisan Meat Share restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, Kotowicz thought about where he wanted to share his newfound meaty knowledge and realized he could actually be everywhere. “There are a lot of chefs that can make sausages and charcuterie and stuff like that, but it’s either you don’t have a person that can do it, you don’t have the time to do it or you don’t have the space to do it,” he says. “Some places have two of those things, but rarely does a place have all three of those things lined up. I realized I could basically be in all of them if I’m the person that knows how and I have the space and the time.”
Levi Biddlecombe, head chef at Packrat Louie, agrees. While he doesn’t make sausages regularly or on a large scale – due to the constraints of time and resources that Kotowicz mentioned – it’s still something he tries to do for the restaurant whenever he can. “Everybody I know is doing sausage when they have the opportunity to do so,” Biddlecombe says.
He’d also like to see the sausage scene get weirder, and his fellow sausage makers agree. Biddlecombe is experimenting with crocodile sausage as well as boudin, a pig’s blood and rice sausage popular in New Orleans. Kotowicz recalls the “bearwurst” he made for a wild game dinner at RGE RD last year. Furgiuele has made a Peruvian sausage using peppers he found at a Latin market.
Indeed, the world of sausage is wide and Edmonton is just getting started.
“I think there’s that yearning from the public to understand this age-old tradition of sausage making,” Furgiuele says. “That is fuelling a lot of these artisans in town to keep going and pushing the envelope.”