Charcuterie, salumi, or cured meat: No matter what you call it, finding a local source for handcrafted salami, soppressata, and the like has been no easy matter -- at least until last week, when we came across Kris Kreiger's Berea butcher shop, Chef's Choice Meats (127 West Street, 440-234-3880).
Tucked into a quiet residential 'hood, the circa-1906 building is well off the beaten path. But after spending the past few days nibbling on such Kreiger creations as smoked German salami, dry-cured Spanish chorizo, and Cajun-style andouille, we swear it's worth the detour.
In fact, the self-taught Kreiger could well be Cleveland's answer to Armandino Batali (Mario's dad), Seattle's top-ranked maker of artisanal salumi. Of course, Kreiger doesn't limit himself to Italian-style meats -- although he does those extremely well. (We're thinking of his rich Genoa salami, made with pork, red wine, and ginger, and his pungent, dry-cured Italian sausage, a small riot of buttery, tart, and peppery overtones, and -- when sliced into sheer buttons -- nearly as lovely as stained glass.) On any given day, shoppers will find as many as 50 different types of sausages on hand -- everything from chubby veal brats, all-beef franks, and smoked kielbasa to mellow, country-style links, fragrant with maple, sage, and thyme.
Then there's the succulent smoked salmon, the floral-scented corned beef, and the choice mortadella, with white wine, peppercorns, and pistachios. And don't overlook Kreiger's Gouda and cheddar cheeses. For those who favor earthy antipasti platters, rustic charcuterie spreads, or just a damn fine deli-style sandwich, the possibilities could bring you to your knees.
Beyond the smoked and cured meats, Kreiger also offers Ohio-raised pork, Amish poultry, and Ohio beef, including USDA Prime steaks. Ready-to-eat options include made-to-order sandwiches and homemade chicken and potato salads; and for heat 'n' eaters, possibilities include homemade goulash, paprikash, and pork schnitzel.
Finally, there's a small collection of well-chosen wines, a cooler filled with imported beers, and dairy products from Wooster's Hartzler Dairy.
Kreiger's summer hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Fire up the grill, and start shopping.