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The Food Connection: There’s a new bacon in town!

Remember that amazing, warm, sunny Sunday several weeks ago? That first truly beautiful day of the year when we Northwesterners finally caught spring fever? It was such a special afternoon, it seemed not a single person in all of Happy Valley was mowing their field or trimming their lawn. Perhaps we all had the same idea that day: Picnic!

Our picnic plan was spontaneous and we were thrilled to find the new Pacific Pantry deli open on Sunday afternoon. The case was filled with so many delectable treats we had trouble choosing and took home a bit of almost everything.

We spent the next couple of hours on a picnic blanket in our backyard, sipping wine and tasting meats paired with cheese and fruit. The pastrami was smoky, rare and tender, the pepperoni stick was perfectly spiced with the texture of a summer sausage and the confit chicken was out-of-this-world. The bacon? Superior and sliced to-order, and for dessert – cheesecake. Rich yet light, it warrants a column unto itself.

Welcome to Sequim, Chef John Pabst!

After growing up in a family that cooked and graduating from culinary school in upstate New York, John worked for and collaborated with some of the best chefs in the country including six years with Craig Deihl whose Charlestown, S.C., restaurant Cypress has garnered international attention.

When John moved to the Northwest, he quickly worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine at Poppy, Seattle restaurant of James Beard award winner and The Herbfarm alum, Jerry Traunfeld.

When we asked this talented chef: “Why Sequim?” His answer was simple: “Because this is where the farms are.”

John says he has access to some of the very best producers of meat, dairy and produce in the country in and around Sequim. That’s a powerful statement.

John is not only a chef, but also a butcher and a charcutier who cures meat – both salumi (generally, whole muscle cuts like prosciutto and pancetta) and salami (generally, cured sausage.)

Keeping tradition

Curing meat is an old-world tradition that thankfully has not been entirely lost. The process is deceptively simple – either smoke or salt, then sit, rinse and hang. John explained that salt helps create an environment which discourages bad bacterial growth. Salamis require a preservative and some products are dusted with a beneficial fungus that further inhibits bacterial spoilage.

John believes the most important factor when producing cured meats is the meat itself. How the animal was raised – what it ate, how it was cared for and how its life ended – is a factor that greatly influences flavor. Personally visiting Clark Farms, Nash’s, Spring Rain Farm and others is an important part of the process for John.

Butchering his own meat engenders an even more intimate relationship and provides him with the ability to match specific cuts, and specific animals, to just the right wood smoke, the most complimentary spice or the proper cure. Pork from Clark Farms tastes different from pork raised at Nash’s and the better you know the meat, the better you can treat it as a chef.

And we must remember, John is first and foremost a chef. The menu at Pacific Pantry includes three soups, three salads and three sandwiches.

Quality is key

In addition, there is a daily special sandwich such as smoked chicken breast with pesto and Mt. Townsend Creamery’s Fromage Blanc on Pane d’Amore focaccia or bratwurst with house-made whole grain mustard and grilled onion or sauerkraut. We tried the pulled pork sandwich with a side of coleslaw and declared it delicious!

John is truly passionate about making quality local ingredients accessible to everyone and he wants to help connect people to their food. His dream for Pacific Pantry is that it be a place where people can gain knowledge to better understand the vital connection between farmer and finished product, in a comfortable environment, at an approachable price.

Personally, we cannot wait to taste the jamóns, cottas, lardos, mortadellas and more that will grace his deli cooler as time goes on.

Sequim, we encourage you to visit our newest gem. When you do we are certain you will “eat well and be well.”

Pacific Pantry is at 229 S. Sequim Ave. and open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

 

Mark Ozias and Lisa Boulware are owners of The Red Rooster Grocery. Reach them at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

 

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