Inside Publican Quality Meats
The interior looks like a butcher shop halfway between the south of France and 1950s America. I encountered a passionate staff, and what is instantly among the best selections of meat and charcuterie in the city.
I was very surprised to find this unusual cured sausage, which is dried for a short while, and then aged in fat. Duja is traditionally from Northern Italy, where humidity prevents aging sausage due to spoilage. The texture is softer than sausages cured in air because there is less moisture loss, which, along with the fact that it's cured in fat, gives it a richer mouthfeel. The spicing in PQM's version is very restrained; I tasted just a hint of chile and not much else but the quality of the pork.
Prosciutto Catto Muffaletta ($11.00)
No, you don't get the whole thing for $11, but you do get a healthy slice. Along with the Prosciutto, the Muffaletta includes roasted tomato, shaved Brussels sprouts, olive relish, and soft-boiled egg.
The Meat Case
Maybe it goes without saying, but Publican Quality Meats is also making its own sausages—not just fresh varieties, but handcrafted charcuterie like aged salamis. This is a huge deal for Chicago, because the variety of house-cured meats is very slim.
More from the Meat Case
I immediately honed in on a link of lamb and pork belly sausage, because, well, there was no choice but to order it with those ingredients. My butcher then recommended the blood sausage, of which he's particularly proud.
The Downstairs Aging Facilities
Friendly and competent seems to be de rigueur at PQM; everyone I talked to was extremely helpful and forthcoming about the shop, which led to a tour of the basement aging facilities, where I actually spotted Chef Kahan mopping the floor.
From a well-curated wall of pantry staples (like mustards, pickles, salts, jams, etc.) to hard-to-find products (like bottarga, wild boar, rabbit, capon, goose, etc.) to kitchen ingredients (like rich chicken stock from The Publican's own kitchen), the selection at PQM is the kind that makes a home cook sigh with relief.