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“Fatted Calf” Review...

I have been buying products from “Fatted Calf” almost since they started production. However, unlike most of the posts on Chowhound my experience with their products has been a mixed bag. After an absence of more than 2 months I decided to try them again. Here is a description of some of the products that I tried over the course of last three weeks.

“Boudin Noir with Bramley Apples” – $8.00/lb. Links looked nice but tasted rather bland and were too dry. Addition of apples did nothing for flavor or texture. I do admit that it is v. hard to buy good “Blood sausages/Morcilla” in US especially if you tasted the versions made in Spain/Hungary/Poland but it is not impossible. I loved the “Morcela” made by “Moniz” Portuguese Sausage shop in Oakland (510-262-4940) that was sold (at one point) by the “Spanish Table” shop located in Berkeley. They were fresh, flavorful and inexpensive (~$4.00/lb directly at “Moniz”)...lately I called inquiring to buy some and was told that they had “problems” getting blood???...must be a "Halloween" thing.

“Pate Maison” - $13.50/lb. I had it before number of times and it was much better. This time it was way too salty and v. fatty. Bland, almost non-descript flavor.

“Duck Terrine with brandied currants” - $15.00/lb. Texture was OK but again very little flavor...yes, you could see the currants but you could not taste the brandy or the currants. Having said that and taking into account the prices my preference still lies with pates from “Café Rouge”.

“Beef Jerky” - $25.00/lb. If I’m not mistaken this is a relatively new product for them. My initial impression was actually positive...nice flavor profile, a bit of spice and smokiness...nice combination. Before purchasing I asked if the jerky was naturally smoked and was assured that it was...however, after having a few bites you can tell that “liquid” smoke was used. Not to say that there is anything wrong with using “liquid smoke” but I guess it does not go well with the whole “artisanal” notion and the price (at least not in my mind). Texture was v.dry and chewy since the jerky is made by slicing the muscles “with the grain”...not a big negative...just an observation.

“Breasola” - $35.00/lb. Again a new product for them. I bough a small vacuum packages sample that look quite nice. Well, what can I tell you...again no flavor and very “plasticy” texture which made me think...perhaps “humectants” were used to speed up drying?....I hope I’m wrong on this one???...but anyway, the price alone will make this “do not buy again” product. For my budget and my taste you can get very tasty, original, Uruguayan “Breasola” at the “Pasta Shop” ($25.00/lb) or a very good, domestic version at the “Café Rouge” ($20.00/lb).

“Kielbasa” - $9.00/lb. Sorry to report that this was the worst version of “Kielbasa” I ever had...and I had some bad ones. I broiled mine snausages and the links cooked out lots of water and fat...what was left was a non-descript “pulp” without any recognizable flavor...and at $9.00 per lb?....please.....

Long story short...not much has changed but the prices.....My advice is that more time is spent by the proprietors actually learning how to make the products and less time writing the silly “news letters”. Charging more...way more for their versions of the products is not going to bring more business or repeated business.

PS: I’m in no way associated with anyone mentioned above...

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  1. Huh, I buy from Fatted Calf regularly, but haven't tried most of those. I like:

    sausages: merguez, fennel, Toulouse, hot Italian, fresh chorizo, linguisa, blood (never had with apples)

    dry sausages: saucisson sec, dry chorizo, mortadella

    bacon, petit sale, guanciale, pancetta

    duck confit


    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I like the rabbit pate from Cafe Rouge almost as much as the Fatted Calf.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I like the merguez, fennel, and toulouse the best at FC also. The crepinettes are also good...basically sausage with more fat on them.

      2. I have bought either terrines or pates on Saturdays at the Ferry Plaza and always found them very good. Last week, I also picked up some cotto salami which was outstanding. It had a deep smokey flavor, which was unexpected but wonderful.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chris Rising

          I agree re: terrines. The guinea hen version from a few weeks ago was excellent, as was the duck rilletes.

          I also was very pleased with one of their specials: heirloom pork loin stuffed with sausage and prunes.

          This was my first time ordering from them - seems like I may have gotten lucky?

          1. re: mbaldauf

            I have the opposite opinion on the guinea hen terrine, which I thought was bland, one-dimensional and rather fattier than I'd like.

            I have tried one of the crepinettes with duck and fig which I did like.

        2. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. I shop at Fatted Calf every Saturday, and though I've had some disappointments in the past, most of what I buy from them is excellent. My standards are the rabbit pate, bacon, duck rillettes, salami cotto and mortadella. All those items are consistently delicious. When I veer from my standards, sometimes I'm pleased and sometimes I'm unimpressed.

          I didn't like the beef jerky, but I highly doubt that they use liquid smoke. They introduced the beef jerky right after purchasing a state of the art smoker. They say they smoke it, and I believe them. They do use a lot of booze in the jerky, perhaps that's what you tasted?

          I don't think that writing the newsletter takes up more than an hour a week.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            The only comment I'd have about the info on the jerky is that maybe it wasn't one of the owners at the stand. They really need more knowledgable people who care at the farmers market stands when they are not there.

            While I haven't personally bought anything to bring home, I've had some of their stuff at restaurants. It can be great or merely ok. I haven't had anything really bad to date ... will skip that keilbasa though until I hear any positive stuff.

            Looking for your Fatted Calf (FC) post Morton, I looked at a few more posts ... and putting the OP name in that search list would be a TREMENDOUS help ... anyway ... surprisingly, there were a lot of the posts that were not love fests, mentioning things to avoid.

            I think that the thing with FC is that when they are on target they are so extradinary that the hosanahs push the ordinary or below average stuff out of your mind.

            And it is always great to get posts like this topic to steer people away from the not so great stuff ... which is probably a moving target anyway when someone is doing artisan stuff. I don't know why I have tolerance for some vendors and not others. Maybe if most of what I try is a hit, I don't feel like I'm being experimented on which reminds me there's another post I need to do an update on in this area.

            Here's your previous excellent FC report:

          2. I find the bacon to be the only consistently outstanding thing. The pates and especially the rilletes are often very bland,and taste only of fat. I buy there b/c I want meat that is not fed other animals,and there is not much choice on that in SF. The salami appeals to me more than Fra Mani's does,the bacon is good,and other things can be lovely ,like the crepinettes. My other complaint is that the seasoned roasts,etc,have no info as to cooking times,cuts of meats,and the market is busy. It is like finishing someone else's recipes without knowing what it is or how long to cook it...

            1. Hey,

              Just wanted to pop in. Nope, no liquid smoke. It is a heavily smoked product though, just the way Biggles likes it.

              As far as getting knowledgable staff to run the stall, they do for a large percentage of the time. However, sometimes they have an emergency or someone can't make it to work. So, they email someone such as myself to help out for a day. I've never received pay for working the stall, I do it for fun and enjoy the company of friends. I feel I do the best I can and have a great time.


              1 Reply
              1. re: DrBiggles

                Since you state definitively that liquid smoke is not used in jerky production I assume that you have seen their operation? If so, do you know what kind of wood is used in the smoking step?....by the way...I did not find the jerky very smokey just an after taste tipical of liquid smoke use. Any idea if FC is willing to do tours of their production facility?

              2. I've been to their kitchen a few times, but haven't seen the direct jerky production and don't know about the specific wood. I can tell you I now own their previous smoker, a J&R Little Red Smokehouse. The smoker's inards smell divine. This is the one he started the bacon production on.
                They don't have the time at the moment for tours and their kitchen is about the size of a gnat. The speed and agility those people work at is amazing. There's no room for anyone that isn't directly involved with cooking. The rumor is they've secured a store front at some high-end mall in Napa somewheres. So, I believe they'll be moving their kitchen up there. And THAT would be the place to ask for a tour sometime in 2007.


                1. I have never gone wrong with the duck mousse, the rabbit pate or the smoked pork chops.

                  I also bought some fantastic sausages there a while ago - fennel and something else Italian.

                  1. June, 2009 UPDATE: This is not going to be MY local meat source. When I ordered a lamb round roast, they gave me a the smallest end of the lamb shank (they did bone it, though). When placing an order for fresh quail a week in advance for a luncheon, they called at the last minute saying the meat wouldn't be available until the morning of my lunch! Stick with Vallergas or Whole Foods - these people are out for $$$ and are not craftsmen, nor are they concerned with their local connection.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: NapaFoodie

                      There are few vendors more serious about their craft or sourcing than Fatted Calf, but, partly because of their pickiness about sourcing, it's probably best to choose from what they have available on any given day.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I have to agree with Robert, I have been buying from them for years and the only impression I've gotten is how serious they are and how much love they have for what they are doing, I don't believe its all about the money for them at all.

                        1. re: Kristine

                          Third here. While I'm not for the most part a Fatted Calf fan, there is no denying the quality and care they take ... it is not always successful for me, but there is a lot of attention paid. I personally would never choose Whole Foods over Fatted Calf.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Well, I would pick Whole Foods over Fatted Calf if there was something specific that I absolutely needed, and it wasn't something that they carry every week. As others have said, they're fussy about their product (in a good way) so they're not going to get you something unless they know it's great. They're also not as big as Whole Foods (understatement of the year) so it's not as easy for them to get some products that they don't have all the time.

                      2. re: NapaFoodie

                        My husband and I love Fatted Calf. Just wish there were one in the East Bay.

                        1. re: Missmoo

                          There is the Berkeley farmer's market on Saturday.

                        2. re: NapaFoodie

                          I know a thing or two about the FC operation. Questioning the craftsmanship or or the commitment to local product is laughable.

                          Fresh quail isn't any easy score. Frozen? I can find a few places in town that will acomodate you.