Get ready for some big pig love, as restaurants across the country elevate the other white meat to haute cuisine status. Chef Paul Kahan serves a prairie-raised pork belly glazed with sun-dried cherries at Chicago's Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312/715-0708; dinner for two $96). In Washington, D.C., Eric Ziebold of CityZen (1330 Maryland Ave. SW; 202/787-6006; dinner for two $140) roasts rack and saddle of Amish farm-raised shoat (young hog) with Fuji apples. And at Seattle's Salumi (309 Third Ave. S.; 206/621-8772; lunch for two $20), Armandino Batali pairs fennel salami with beet greens and mozzarella. Hungry for more?In the Complete Book of Pork (HarperCollins), sausage visionary Bruce Aidells gives tips and recipes for cooking every cut; British chef Fergus Henderson explores nose-to-tail eating in The Whole Beast (Ecco). Peter Kaminsky takes a road trip through porcine history in Pig Perfect (Hyperion), while Cornbread Nation 2 (University of North Carolina Press) relays so many barbecue tales, you can practically smell the hickory smoke.
Since opening in 1999, this charcuterie/deli/eatery has become almost as much of a pilgrimage site as the Space Needle. Owners Gina Batali (Mario’s sister) and her husband, Brian D’Amato, use centuries-old techniques to produce delicious, flavorful cured meats and sausages, which are available in delectable sandwiches (try the special summer prosciutto, fig, and goat cheese combination on olive-oil bread). You can try every salami in the house with the excellent cold cured meat plate, or just ask for free samples until you find one you like (we love the mole salami made with chocolate, cinnamon, and ancho and chipotle peppers). A few tables, including a long communal one, crowd the tiny space, but don’t count on sitting down.
Tip: Although you’ll likely find a line out the door even before it opens (Salumi has limited hours, Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.), don’t despair. The line tends to move fairly quickly, and if you try to avoid it by coming late, the shop may well have run out of everything you want.
Behind an all-glass storefront, Blackbird’s interior is sleek and minimalist, adorned with bare white walls, hardwood floors, and metallic chairs facing high-backed gray banquettes. Seating is closely packed, but diners are willing to overlook the loud, crowded environs for imaginative New American cuisine from award-winning chef Paul Kahan. The seasonal menu may include such highlights as the organic pork belly sandwich with garlic frites as well as unusual desserts like the almond financier with plums, curried couscous, and Thai basil. Patrons especially appreciate the affordable lunchtime prix fixe menu.