Three D.C. chefs—Jamie Stachowski, Robert Wiedmaier, and Nathan Anda—are offering their sought-after charcuterie, once available only at restaurants, at select retail locations and farmers markets.
By Zora Margolis • Photographs by Katharine Hauschka
If you are an American over the age of 35, the closest you probably ever got to charcuterie growing up was Oscar Mayer lunch meat. In those days, Americans may have heard of pâté de foie gras, but they had never tasted it.
In France, charcuterie has been considered a culinary art since the 15th century; the word charcuterie is derived from chair cuite, “the cooking of meats.” It refers to a variety of prepared, cured, and preserved meats and meat products: fresh and smoked sausage and salami, terrine, pâté, rillettes, confit, galantine. As Americans traveled to Europe in greater numbers during the 1970s and ’80s, they fell in love with the charcuterie they ate in bistros and took on picnics, and demand for these products increased at home.
During the same years, the training of many young American chefs began to include stints in restaurant kitchens in France, and these chefs returned to the states with the skills to make pâté and terrine. So-called house-made charcuterie can be found on menus of restaurants whose chefs obtain whole animals from local farmers and follow the nose-to-tail philosophy—an approach that is popular among locavores.
Until recently, however, most charcuterie has been imported from Europe or manufactured by large-scale producers in far-away states. Now, residents of the Capital foodshed don’t have to go to a restaurant to find locally made charcuterie of the highest quality.
These D.C.-area chefs are making a wide variety of world-class charcuterie available for retail sale, using sustainably raised, local meat.
Stachowski Brand Charcuterie
Jamie Stachowski grew up in Buffalo, New York, in a large, extended Polish family headed by his grandfather. As a young teen, Stachowski helped his grandfather make kielbasa in batches of up to 150 pounds at a time. Much of the garlicky pork sausage would go to family and friends, to be cooked and eaten fresh. Some was hung up to cure and dry in the cool, humid basement, to be sliced and eaten as a snack when the family gathered.
At 15, Stachowski got a part-time job in the kitchen of an Italian-American restaurant and liked it so much that at 16 he quit school to work there full-time. He gained more experience working in fine-dining restaurants in Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. On a lark, he and some chef buddies headed to Los Angeles, where he spent four years working for chefs Joachim Splichal and Patrick Healy, among others, before moving on to New York and Le Perigord.
While still in his early twenties, Stachowski was summoned to D.C. by the legendary chef Jean-Louis Palladin, who mentored a whole generation of chefs, many whom are now celebrities (Eric Ripert and Michel Richard among them). For Stachowski, the most valuable of the many benefits garnered at Palladin’s Watergate restaurant was meeting his wife Carolyn, who was working in the front of the house. They’ve been married for 25 years and have a grown son.
The Stachowski’s opened Restaurant Kolumbia on K Street in D.C. in 2003. To provide a more varied bar menu and to manage his kitchen’s food costs, Stachowski began making charcuterie. Eventually, Restaurant Kolumbia became well known for its “butcher board,” a generous array of house-made pâté, terrine, and cooked and cured sausages. When a new landlord bought out the restaurant’s lease in 2007, the restaurant closed.
Eventually, Stachowski found a way to do what he loves best: make charcuterie. These days, with his son at his side, he makes pâtés, terrines, and sausages (including kielbasa, of course) two or three days a week in a USDA-inspected butcher shop in Fairfax, Virginia.
Stachowski gets his meat from a variety of sources, including Kunstler Pork in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and whole pigs from Papa Weaver’s Pork in Madison County, Virginia. He gets duck from La Bella Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley but is seeking a local producer.
He’s about to embark on a major new adventure: traveling around the country with a History Channel film crew and interacting with farmers, ranchers, butchers, and chefs to create a two-hour documentary, Meat America.
The Butcher’s Block
Robert Wiedmaier calls himself “a full-circle chef.” He comes by his old-school philosophy honestly. Raised in Germany by his Belgian father and American mother, he credits his mother for his passion for food. On road trips, they often stopped to dine at a Michelin two-star restaurant, Thermidor, in Hulst, Holland.
Wiedmaier’s mother told the restaurant’s chef of her son’s desire to become a chef, and Wiedmaier was soon enrolled in Holland’s Culinary School of Horca. He apprenticed at Thermidor and then worked under famed Brussels chef Eddie Van Maele before coming to the Washington, D.C., area in 1986 to cook in several of the area’s finest French restaurants.
European cooking academies and classical restaurant kitchens emphasize chefs’ butchering skills and the breaking down and use of whole animals, Wiedmaier explains, skills that were sorely lacking in American-trained chefs until very recently. Working with whole animals requires time, kitchen space, and trained staff, but the benefits include bones for making stocks, the foundation of soups and sauces; cuts for grilling, roasting, and braising; and plenty of flavorful but less-tender meat to grind with fat and to flavor with aromatics and spices for use in charcuterie.
In 1999, Wiedmaier opened his first restaurant, Marcel’s, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest D.C., and it has been consistently rated as one of the finest in the region. In 2007, he opened Brasserie Beck near McPherson Square; and soon after came Brabo and Brabo Tasting Room in Old Town Alexandria. At the Butcher’s Block, a retail venue next door to Brabo, Wiedmaier sells fresh sausages like bratwurst, Louisiana-style boudin, pâté de campagne, duck liver parfait and rillettes—along with cheeses, wine, and gourmet groceries. He also sells veal stock made in-house and sausage casings for cooks who want to make their own sausages at home. Charcuterie sold at the Butcher’s Block is made in the Brabo kitchen by three chefs who have been trained by Wiedmaier.
Wiedmaier buys 25 Randall Lineback veal calves a year from Chapel Hill Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, to serve in his restaurants and to use in his charcuterie. He buys Martin’s Angus Beef in The Plains, Virginia, pork from Eco-Friendly Foods in Moneta, Virginia, and all of the rabbits that Polyface Farms alum Matt Rales can raise at his of Grassential Farm in Potomac, Maryland.
Red Apron Butchery
Nathan Anda is emblematic of the new generation of American chefs who value craftsmanship. Born in New Hampshire, Anda’s family relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1996. Anda took a job at the Ivy Inn, cooking under chef Angelo Vangelopoulos who then arranged several internships for Anda with chef Todd Gray at Equinox in D.C. The experience of making and tasting charcuterie under the guidance of these two veteran chefs convinced Anda that he wanted more formal culinary education—and that he wanted to learn more about the charcutier’s craft.
Anda enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, in 1999. It turned out there were only two to three weeks of charcuterie training during the two-year program, but he learned how to break down animals correctly. The butchery education was particularly useful when—after three years at Equinox—Anda began working with whole animals as head chef at Tallula and EatBar in Arlington in 2004. He furthered his knowledge by participating in a workshop on fermented and cured meat at Iowa State University and by interning at the Fatted Calf in San Francisco.
In 2008, Anda’s employers renovated Tallula’s large kitchen area, created a separate workspace, and added a walk-in refrigerator just for Anda’s use—enabling him to transition into full-time charcuterie making under the Red Apron label. All of the meats used in Red Apron products are sustainably and humanely raised at local farms: pork from Eco-Friendly Foods; beef from Roseda Farm in Monkton, Maryland; beef and bison from New Frontier in Madison, Virginia; and veal and goat from Pipe Dreams Farm in Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
During the winter holiday season, pâtés and terrines are his most popular products, perfect for entertaining. During the summer? Hot dogs, of course. Bacon is a year-round hit. He also makes sausages and a variety of Italian-style salumi.
Creating the Perfect Charcuterie Board
For entertaining on a buffet table or for a casual afternoon snack with friends, a well-selected charcuterie board expresses the generosity of the host and makes an immensely satisfying group nosh, accompanied by beer, cocktails, or wine. According to chef and charcutier Jamie Stachowski, these five basic elements make up a complete arrangement of charcuterie.
Include something spreadable, such as pâté, terrine, or rillettes. Go rustic with a campagne made of pork, or elegant with venison or quail, or luxuriant with some foie gras, duck, or chicken liver. Rillettes can be made with duck, pork, chicken, or rabbit.
Select one or two cured whole-muscle meats, sliced paper thin: prosciutto, speck, bresaola, country ham, or coppa.
Offer cured sausage in thin slices or bite-sized chunks: salami like Milanese, Toscana, finocchiona, or Genoa.
Also incorporate cooked sausage. Choose a small variety of grilled, sautéed, or roasted sausage—served warm for temperature contrast—cut into bite-size pieces: andouille, bratwurst, fresh chorizo, merguez, weisswurst, knackwurst; semi-cured Portuguese linguiça, smoked kielbasa. Or serve mortadella or salame cotto cold.
Provide a few condiments—whole-grain and Dijon mustards, cornichons or vinegar pickles, pickled vegetables, chutney, mostarda (a sweet-sour fruit-based Italian chutney), confited fruit, Cumberland sauce, saffron mayo, and lemon-garlic aioli. And don’t forget plenty of crusty bread, rustic sourdough or baguette, and pumpernickel.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Find a complete charcuterie primer here.
Stachowski Brand Charcuterie
The Butcher’s Block
Red Apron Butchery
Zora Margolis has lived in Washington, D.C., since 1996. She is a frequent contributor to Flavor and co-hosts the farmers market forum on www.donrockwell.com, D.C.’s popular food lovers’ discussion site.