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Salumi, Seattle, WA, tasted on May 12, 2004  I really do try to focus exclusively on the food in every experience that I share. I typically don't worry about atmosphere, service, etc. And ultimately that's because I will put up with almost anything for wonderful food. The one thing I do let color my judgment is location. Not in the sense of whether the restaurant is in a good neighborhood, but simply acknowledging the fact that most people don't get to travel to Italy when they want great Italian food. And while location does have a modest bearing on my judgment, it never catapults something beyond where it should be in my estimation. And so here we are eating in a "mom and pop" Italian deli in downtown Seattle for lunch. And the truth is that there are likely many just like it dotting the east coast of the United States. But in Seattle, there is only Salumi. And in fact, even though Salumi's uniqueness stands out because of its isolation in the pacific northwest, the truth is that its yummy food would make it stand out just about anywhere.

Salumi is basically three things: 1) an Italian deli serving weekday lunches to downtown wokers, 2) a sometime private Friday night dinner establishment favoring only its most regular customers with an invitation (since I work on the outskirts of Seattle I've never been able to go there enough to rise on the Salumi leaderboard), and 3) a salumeria curing their own meats. For most people 1 and 3 are enough to make for a pretty positive experience.

On this day we hauled ass from the suburbs to get to Salumi before the lunch rush. But that really is essentially impossible as there appears to be a line out the door no matter what time you arrive. That said, even though it usually seems highly unlikely, by the time you get through the line and have your food in hand, a spot usually opens up at one of the small tables or the big communal table where friendly customers and serving staff all seem to enjoy and contribute to the friendly atmosphere. But most important is the food.

Taking advantage of the in house meat curing we of course started off with a platter of cured meats and cheeses. The neatest thing was that each of the cured items was spicy in its own unique way. It made for an interesting tour. Our other platter, filled with "hot meat" got lots of envious stares. The brisket in particular was so soft, tasty, juicy, and oily in a good way.

We also ordered a bunch of sandwiches. The lamb sausage was super savory, and especially excellent with chunks of gorgonzola that I added to it as I gorged. Even the simple salami and cheese sandwich was delicious mostly I think because of how simple it was letting the triumvirate of the bread salami and cheese do their thing.

I typically worry about two things with a meatball sub: 1) overly-herbed meatballs and/or sauce, and 2) too much sauce turning the whole sandwich into a soggy mess. Overall things were pretty balanced though. There were definitely herbs in the meatballs, but they didn't distract at all. And finally, the fennel sausage sandwich slathered in tomato, onion, and peppers was gorgeous. The bread did a good job soaking up the juice.

Much in the same way that the sharing a sample of yummy goodness was a telling moment at Katz's, the sample of lamb prosciutto that was delivered to our table was also emblematic of the positivity everyone felt as they ate their lunch. The prosciutto itself had a sheen of beautiful oil, a gorgeous color, and was chewy and a touch gamey in a good way.

Salumi is essentially a neighborhood Italian deli that just happens to cure its own meat. And lucky for those that work in downtown Seattle, Salumi is right nearby.

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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