Most of Houston’s top charcuterie destinations complement their in-house offerings with cured meats imported from Europe and shipped from top domestic curing houses from across the country, but not chef Danny Jacob, who produces all of his charcuterie and sausage himself. It’s a point of pride for the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management alum. “Everything you see on the plate,” he explains to guests, “was made in-house.” From French classics like duck rillettes, foie gras torchon, and Toulouse sausage, to his more creative interpretations of cured rabbit, lamb, elk, venison, and boar, Jacob’s charcuterie is a perfect complement to the restaurant’s superb wine list.
“If I had the space,” says chef/owner Kristofer Jakob of his in-house charcuterie program at Kris Bistro, located in the Culinary Institute LeNotre, “I’d cure the serrano ham myself.” Cured pig thighs aside, all the charcuterie is made on the premises. With his training in classical European cuisine, Jakob offers what’s probably the largest selection of prepared meats in Houston, including country-style pâtés (French, German, and Danish), headcheese, smoked and cured duck breast, German summer sausage, cured beef tongue, lamb merguez (one of the most popular offerings, he says), and even a few Italian entries like coppa and bresaola.
The newly opened Osteria Mazzantini is veteran chef John Sheely’s entry into the Houston Italian fine-dining scene. Sheely began serving his guests in-house charcuterie back in 2002 at the popular Mockingbird Bistro, where he continues to deliver some of the city’s best in-house foie gras, pâtés, and terrines. Inspired by his own Italian heritage — his grandmother immigrated to the US from Italy via Galveston — Sheely has now shifted toward Italian salumi, offering his guests a wide range of classics like coppa, finocchiona, and calabrese, the famous narrow salami of southern Italy that gets its spicy kick from the region’s renowned chile peppers, a perfect match with Houstonians’ love of heat.
Between the handlebar-mustachioed kitchen staff and the colorful faux-woodcut typeset of the menus, an unwitting guest might think she’d landed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While the prepared meats program at this Houston outpost of hipsterdom focuses heavily on sausages, pâtés, and terrines, with the cured hams sourced from domestic and European farms, the corned beef, made on premises, is a pièce de résistance rivaled only by Kenny & Ziggy’s. According to the menu, it’s inspired by “205 East Houston St.,” an address any New Yorker will immediately recognize as belonging to the legendary Katz Delicatessen. All of the house-made prepared meats are offered on the more casual Provisions menu.
Located in a hundred-year-old log cabin on the banks of White Oak Bayou, the Rainbow Lodge is a Houston institution, beloved for its frontier ambiance. The in-house cured-meats program harks back to an era before Americans were familiar with words like “charcuterie” or “salumeria.” For a more-than-reasonable $12, Chef Mario Valdez offers his guests an assortment of house-cured ham and sausages, accompanied by seasonal sides, an homage more to Texas hunting traditions than to Molto Mario. The gumbo, made with house-smoked duck, is not to be missed.
Co-owners Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber literally cornered the market on in-house cured meats when they opened Revival Market in the Heights in 2011. This 21st-century interpretation of a corner store/neighborhood butcher—equipped with a finely oiled, expertly tuned Berkel slicer, the Steinway grand piano of deli machinery—offers the largest and most comprehensive selection of charcuterie and salumi in Houston. The “house prosciutto” is perhaps the most ambitious of Revival’s offerings—customers regularly report that it can stand head-to-head (or leg-to-leg) with the best prosciutto imported from Italy.
Since it opened in 2012, Underbelly and its in-house cured-meats program have captivated the palates of local Houstonians and visitors alike, garnering national attention from top food publications. While the star attraction is an Akaushi heirloom beef leg that chef Chris Shepherd cured for 18 months, more recently, he’s begun to delve into salumi, even mastering the holy grail of Italian cured meats, the zampone, a pig’s trotter stuffed with headcheese. He’s also begun wrapping some of his entrée cuts in forcemeat before poaching and roasting them, adding another layer of flavor.
Chef Marco Wiles set the bar high for Italian salumeria in 2009 when he opened his Vinoteca Poscol, inspired by his native Friuli, the northeastern region of Italy, where the famed Prosciutto di San Daniele is cured. Wiles serves imported Prosciutto di San Daniele along with other salumi that he selects and brings in from Italy, but he also offers his guests a wide range of Italian-inspired meats cured on-site. Highlights include bresaola, air-dried beef; and his musetto con brovada, a classic boiled headcheese sausage served with turnips that have been soaked and fermented in red wine. The salumi produced at Vinoteca Poscol is also featured at his casual pizzeria, Dolce Vita, and his upscale fine-dining destination, Da Marco.