Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
Four years ago I wrote about a couple of North Shore househusbands who ran a thriving meat market out of a suburban home kitchen. E & P Meats had a 200-plus member/customer e-mail list to which they sold their own bacon, sausage, and deli meats. The partners, who were working to go aboveground, had to remain anonymous because they were operating outside the law, and their dilemma underscored the difficulty small-scale charcutiers and butchers have starting up in a regulatory environment designed to monitor industrial manufacturers.
Things only got more difficult for them when a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, wielding a copy of the story, made a surprise inspection at Frontera Grill and trashed an otherwise unobjectionable bunch of pork bellies that didn't have USDA stamps on them. There was nothing to connect Frontera to E & P other than my passing mention of the unnamed farmer they both bought meat from, but the boys got the message, ceased operation, and the partnership dissolved.
Those were dark days for Little Meat in Chicago, but since then things have brightened considerably with the proliferation of outfits like the Butcher & Larder, Publican Quality Meats, and West Loop Salumi. Meanwhile, apart from a memorably inspirational appearance with Rob Levitt, Paul Kahan, and me on a butchery panel discussion at the FamilyFarmed Expo, little was heard from E &P's still-active half, Ehran Ostrreicher. But for years he was quietly working behind the scenes at City Provisions, manning the store's charcuterie program with butcher Andrea Logan Deibler, and also selling his stuff to some specialty stores and private clients.
"Other than doing the staples of the place I had the freedom to do anything I could create," he told me. "I knew this was more of a training camp and that my goal was a shop of my own in my community in Evanston."
When City Provisions closed last year, Ostrreicher decided the time was nigh. He signed a lease on an old laundromat at 1305 Chicago, Evanston, where he plans to open the fully licensed Homestead Meats & Deli. He'll be working with whole animals, grinding sausage, curing bacon, making pâtés, smoking fish, and much more. "Everything I used to make for City Provisions," he says. "The list is long." He's targeted an opening date for spring 2014, but in the meantime he and Deibler—who is now the in-house butcher at the Hopleaf—will be hosting monthly pop-up dinners at Homestead's future next-door neighbor, Company. The first two five-course dinners are set for next weekend, when 20-some guests will be able to sample a porky array of the pair's work, including coppa, testa, porchetta, pork skin pasta, ham-dusted brioche beignets, and more. Tickets are $70.