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Apr 15, 2009 09:14 AM

Ryan Farr's healthy chicharrones - “Crunchy crack-in-a-bag”?

I was amused to see bags of fried pork rinds at Fatted Calf's Napa store ... the upscaling of the snack is what I found funny.

Anyway, I breifly mentioned it in a trip report and there was an enthusiastic chowhound reply, so I thought I'd pull it out as a tip for fans. I haven't tried them yet.

Here are where they are sold in addition to Fatted Calf. FC doesn't make these.

They are fried in "healthy rice bran oil" and are from local upscale pigs, Devil’s Gulch Ranch and Niman Ranch. They contain natural pork, sea salt, cane sugar, and chiles. The crack quote is from Tablehopper.

Other press mentions with photos

Does 4505meats sell anything else? Are they planning to sell anything else?

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  1. On Saturday, March 28th, they were available for tasting at the Fatted Calf counter at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. I had no idea that pork rinds were so good - though I've never had any of the widely available supermarket brands so I don't know how they compare. A little tiny bag was I think $3.50. Probably a good idea that the bags are small, I guess (don't want to go into pork rind overload.) Not a buy every week, but for sure, once in a while. Very light, crisp, with a slight heat to them.

    1. According to the SFGate article, each bag (which retails for $2.50-$3.50) is just under half an ounce....what the...? By comparison, a SNACK-size bag of Kettle Chips contains 2 1/2 ounces.

      Either this was an error, or the "crack" analogy is more fitting than we thought...

      10 Replies
      1. re: Agent 510

        A better analogy would be to chicharones anywhere in the Mission or Fruitvale or really anywhere anyone hispanic lives.

        As for the taste, I can vouch that these are the tastiest chicharones I've had in my life. By far the crispiest, with a great balance of salty/spicy/sweet that goes awfully well with beer. By coincidence, I encountered these at two of the bars where they are on offer, Mini Bar, and Bloodhound, last weekend. Bloodhound also has upscale slim jims by Fatted Calf for sale, $3 each.

        So, hounds, who makes the best chicharones? I'll have to check out La Palma, but frankly I'd be surprised if there is much competition out there--these are very light and shatteringly crispy with ideal seasoning. My memory of lard-fried chicharones is much heavier.

        The event is now past, but the grilled rabbit, rabbit sausage, and smoked ham event put on by Ryan Farr & Taylor from Fatted Calf at Bloodhound bar was pretty good. Tasty food, and all you can eat chicharones. I particularly liked the ham, which was strongly smoky and salty with deep hammy taste. Somewhat dry, but not so dry it was unpleasant to eat, and since it was smoked in thick slices the dryness was not surprising. It just meant it had to be paired with beer or other beverage to balance the strong flavors.

        1. re: SteveG

          Not to be smug, but the only time I've tasted chicharones was on a Labor Day picnic at China Beach in SR when I kept watching this large Hispanic gathering on the tables next to us where the men were cooking big pots of food over a fire, including a pot that was deep frying different meats. After they'd fried up some pork that was transfered to the stew pot, I saw them snacking on what looked like curled up fried skins, so I wandered over and asked for a taste. They chuckled and seeminly dared me to try. I think they were amused that I liked them. They needed more salt, and they were plenty greasy. But the crispy pork flavor was a fun, unexpected treat.

          If my chance encounter was representative, you would not want to consume large quantities of this stuff. A few small chomps were just right. And I don't see how I can ever match the circumstances of my first encounter, so even if the ingredients and preparation are many gourmet worlds beyond what I had, I think I might have to pass on this new take on this old treat. Why mess with this memory?

        2. re: Agent 510

          $5-$7 an OUNCE? To give you an idea of the profit margin, thin chicharron at my latin market is $7.99 a pound. I bough 2 huge sheets of it today, each about the size of a ladies hat at the Kentucky Derby, for 4 bucks.

          1. re: Veggo

            You didn't mention how your hat-sized hunks of chicharron tasted, though. Ryan Farr's taste really good, and have a unique texture that I like quite a bit.

            When you're paying $5 for a draft beer, $3 for a bag of chicharrons to snack on is not an unreasonable price, especially if they're absolutely delicious.

            1. re: SteveG

              I have only been home an hour and I've eaten about half a hat. I never had Ryan Farr's for comparison, but the one's I'm enjoying are mild salty, almost as light as Cheetos, zero oiliness in taste or feel. I lathered up my last chunk with El Yucateco red, and I had no choice but to open a frosty Tecate.

              1. re: Veggo

                I think from now on grocery store chicharrones should be referred to only in terms of Hat, Half-hat, etc etc. Thanks for giving my afternoon a smile.

                1. re: Veggo

                  As light as cheetos? Are you joking? Cheetos are massively heavy compared to Farr's chicarones, which are lighter than the lightest tortillas, more like a heavenly pillow of pig reduction, molecular gastronomy style.

              2. re: Veggo

                Ryan Farr's are so light because of the extremely labor intensive process used to make them. They manually scrape every bit of fat off the skin after it has been simmered, then the pieces are spread out and dehydrated before frying. That's what makes them so light and crunchy in a way that melts in your mouth. Your local market chicharrones are, I'm sure, much heavier. Even so, if Ryan made his in vast quantities in a factory, using industrial equipment to dehydrate rapidly and that sort of thing, he could certainly get the costs down. But then they wouldn't be nearly as special.

                1. re: barzelay

                  I would like to be able to do a taste comparison, but I am not aware of Ryan Farr's in my area. My market makes / sells 2 types of chicharron. Delgado is very thin, light, non-oily and very crispy. The grueso has a little fat / meat by design and is distinctly thicker and tougher on the tooth. I prefer the delgado.
                  Does Ryan Farr use any seasoning or additional flavors? I don't think chicharron needs any. Also, does anyone know how long this stuff stays fresh?

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Ryan Farr is the proprietor of 4505 Meats, an artisanal producer of sausages and meat products in the Bay Area. According to the label, the chiccharrones are seasoned with chili, sugar and salt, but just enough to tantalize the tongue. The package I bought July 29 is stamped August 10, which I assume is the "best by" date.

                    4505 Meats
                    1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111, CA

            2. Yeah, I saw these and I'm curious. But they'd have to be a thousand times better than the stuff I can get in the Mission or the packaged ones I can pick up in any Asian supermarket to be worth that price.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PegS

                I'm thinking about going to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Saturday just for these alone. That's how good they are.

              2. Thanks for these links!!

                I was hooked on them before reading any media on it, apparently they're all the rage! I'm an addict.

                1. Ryan Farr's going to be one of the guest chefs at the Meatpaper pig party next Monday at Camino. The food at their last event was really good.


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    He'll also be at a "Pig Out" at Coffee Bar on May 3rd., starting at 3:00 for a butchering demo, with dinner at 6:00. They also sell the Chicharonnes there.

                    Coffee Bar
                    1890 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Oh darn... I recalled this thread but didn't remember the name and couldn't make the connection. And this chicharonne craze is suprising to me... (also used to getting them at Asian stores)
                        I saw small bags of chicharonne at Ritual Coffee in the Mission this afternoon. I'll have to go back and try them. Healthy is good, that will make me feel better about them. The ones at Asian store have more fat (good, but limiting)

                      2. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                        I went to this event at Coffee Bar yesterday afternoon. It was really enjoyable, and in a charming venue. The space is quite airy, and the event started right as the rain stopped so it was hazy and bright. We started sipping the Balleto rose as the pig was hauled up the stairs and dumped on a giant cutting board for photo ops. The demonstration started sort of unceremoniously, I didn't realize at first that the chopping had begun. The butchery was fascinating to watch - Farr was clearly adept, and quite gracious as well, taking questions and providing lots of insights and tips (I can't say that there aren't old school butchers around town who could perform similar feats, but I'm not aware of any doing these sorts of demonstrations). The meat was well prepared, seasoned mostly with salt and a little of Farr's spice rub. The whole thing took about four hours.

                        My only beef (I am hilarious) was that the event could have been a bit better organized - the staff of the venue were setting up for some time while the actual demonstration was happening, which was distracting. There were also people turned away at the door for having RSVP'd late, only to be contacted a few hours later saying that there was room for them because of some no-shows. My friend then hustled back across the Mission, having missed the bulk of the actual butchery, but no discount off the $35 entry fee.

                        Other than that, good times.

                        1. re: isaac1972

                          I missed the butchering (though many pieces were still on the cutting board when I arrived). My only regret was not making it up to the table for a taste from each new platter that came out!