One Bite: Montreal-style smoked meat at Fumaré Meats & Deli

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Montreal-style smoked meat, aka pastrami
I like bacon (note I do not ask who doesn't?). I like barbecue just fine, and smoked meats too. But I have to say I've never really understood the transports these meatstuffs send their worshippers into. Now I do, or at the very least I have a better grasp on the phenomenon. Because now I have tried the Montreal-style smoked meat, aka viande fumée, aka pastrami, at Fumaré Meats & Deli, a mom-and-pop stand in the Chicago French Market.

I know, I know, I've been remiss. The market, in the Ogilvie Transportation Center, is just a puddle jump from the Loop, and Fumaré has been there since it opened in 2009. Steve Dolinsky, ABC 7's Hungry Hound, paid the stand a visit last August. Fumaré's smoked meat made Time Out Chicago's list of the 100 best things staffers ate and drank in 2011. So I'm late to the party. I'll make up for it. From now on I'll be early.

That's the way to go here. The smoked meat, made on-site using owner Richard McCracken's own recipe, is often sold out by midafternoon. Even so, there are other good things to try, like a signature sandwich of Gypsy bacon (made with pork belly), Danish bacon, and boiled ham. Go in the morning—the stand opens at 7 AM—and you can get a monster breakfast sandwich: egg, cheese, and your choice of meat (bacon, turkey, ham, rib eye, peppered pork loin, or bits and pieces of the smoked meat itself), slathered with house-made red pepper aioli and served on a bagel from New York Bagel & Bialy.

I did say monster

But back to that smoked meat. Joan McCracken, Richard's wife, tells me that he had his own conversion experience in Montreal, at the storied deli Schwartz's. And so one Valentine's Day, at his urging, they found themselves waiting in line in the cold for 45 minutes before snagging the only two seats at the counter. "It was a scene," she says. "Everyone was sharing bites."

Montreal-style smoked meat is salted and cured beef brisket made with more cracked black peppercorns and seasonings—coriander and, in the case of Fumaré's, mace—than the New York-style pastrami most of us are familiar with. To my mind, it's also, without question, fresher, fattier, smokier, more succulent and flavorful than pastrami or just about anything else imaginable. True to Montreal fashion, it comes in chunks, rather than slices, on rye bread with mustard (here, Roland brand French Dijon). You can also buy shrink-wrapped packages of the bits and pieces—it would be a fabulous addition to your soup pot. But I wouldn't say no to them all by themselves. I'm a believer now.

Fumaré Meats & Deli, Chicago French Market, 131 N. Clinton, 312-930-4220, fumaremeats.com

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