Meet Justin Severino, Pittsburgh’s Sultan of Spiked Salami

CURE-JustinSherry-spiked saucisson, Fernet Branca–spiked salami, Cynar-spiked swordfish: with so much booze in the food, it’s hard to imagine that Cure, chef Justin Severino’s quasi-quaint charcuterie spot in Pittsburgh, started out just two years ago as a bone-dry BYOB. “We had almost no money,” Severino says of his fashionably rustic-looking restaurant’s humble roots. No, Cure’s chef-owner didn’t grow up in a barn. He merely reconstructed one inside an urban retail setting, with interior walls of reclaimed wood and meat hooks for coat hangers. “We opened minimally,” he says. Surviving for so long on food sales alone is a big source of pride for Severino: “We had a year and a half to gain success without selling liquor, and restaurants don’t typically do that that easily.” Nowadays, however, the hooch is in high supply, both at the bar and in the kitchen. And the chef himself couldn’t be happier about having a properly stocked shop from which to sip and to experiment. “I like to drink adult beverages and I tend to be a bit of a snob about what those things are,” he says. Continue reading

This Mezcal Made With Jamón Ibérico Could Make You Squeal

IbericoLabelLeave it to the hams at José Andrés‘ Think Food Group to find a way to add some fancy Spanish pork to just about anything. Consider “Iberico,” the newest label from Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal. The potent 98-proof varietal gets its name and distinctive flavor, of course, from the highly prized black-hooved hogs of the Iberian Peninsula whose meat is among the world’s priciest. Del Maguey founder Ron Cooper credits this modern Spanish twist on the ancient Mexican spirit to Andres’ deputy Ruben Garcia, the former elBulli chef who now heads research and development efforts for Think Food…. Continue reading

Here’s How Mezcal Finds You

Adam LernerMezcal mogul Ron Cooper sources his small-batch, high-end hooch from remote villages in Mexico. The job takes him over some pretty interesting terrain. On one adventure, the founder of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal is steering his jeep along some back roads in Oaxaca when he and his crew rumbles into a lush canyon – “with the most beautiful wild agaves, growing straight out of vertical walls,” he recalls.

All of sudden, there are eight Indians with rifles, right in front of us. And these two guys [in the Jeep] scream. I go, ‘Namaste. Take it easy, take it easy…’

The first thing I do, I roll down the window and I say in Spanish, ‘Hey, what’s the name of that agave growing up there?’ And this Indian walks up to me and goes, ‘You like agaves?’ I go, ‘Yeah, I like  mezcal.’ I always have a clay cup on the center console of my Jeep, so I hold it up and I ask him, ‘Have you ever heard of Rio Minas?’ And he goes, “I’m the maker of mezcal in Rio Minas.” And he mumbles to his buddies in their Mixtecan tongue and one guy shakes a water bottle, brings it up, opens the bottle and pours me a sip of his incredible elixir.

“That’s the perfect embodiment of You don’t find mezcal, mezcal finds you.’”*

*Excerpted from an earlier interview no longer available online @stationtostation

Here’s the full Q&A: Continue reading

Provincialism Dooms Cosmopolitan Inventor

Passerby1On the eve of shutting down his self-described “intellectual dive bar,” Passerby, bartender and author Toby Cecchini reflected on the location’s unique character:  “I got a call from a bartender on a Tuesday night, which is a relatively quiet night, and he’s like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to come down here.’ There was water just pouring out of the hallway. Someone had categorically smashed to pieces both toilets in both bathrooms with a ball-peen hammer or something. … I think about this when I see that Audrey Sanders has, like, carved wooden sinks at Pegu Club and whatnot. In my bar, someone would take a chain saw to them in, like, 13 seconds.” Read my full interview with Toby Cecchini, wherein the former Odeon suds-slinger clarifies his claim to the title of “Cosmopolitan” creator. [NYO] Continue reading