Portland’s Sausage Renaissance

by Ron Engeldinger | Photo © Laurelhurst Market

Whether sweet, spicy, mild, savory, simple or complex, sausages have been relished for centuries. Some are mild and delicate; they melt in the mouth. Others are robust, demanding to be slowly savored to release their full flavor. They can be enjoyed sizzling on the grill, slowly roasting in the oven, or adding flavor to a favorite stew. For thousands of years, curing and smoking have been the main ways to preserve meats, and sausages have been a part of food traditions around the world.

With the latest trend of bringing charcuterie back in-house, sausage-making is again beginning to take center stage, and Portland chefs are at the vanguard of this sausage renaissance. The basic hot dogs and Italian links that were often found in American restaurants have evolved with a wide variety of flavors, textures, aromas, and inspirational ingredients. Making sausage in-house allows chefs to have more control over flavors, the capacity to experiment, and the ability to create the exact complement to their menu. For example, diners can savor the perfect combination of peppers, spices, and lean, locally-sourced venison in the mouth-watering Pacific Northwest sausage at the Heathman Restaurant & Bar. At the Laurelhurst Market, 12 varieties of house-made sausages crafted from natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats wow shoppers and diners.

The Heathman Restaurant and Bar’s Executive Chef Michael Stanton takes a simple approach to inventive cuisine: Find flavorful ingredients and, in his words, “don’t mess with them too much.” That also goes for the sausages he makes. With an in-house butcher, all the succulent trim is put to delicious use. Taking advantage of locally sourced products and seasonally-available ingredients, Chef Stanton specializes in creating fresh-cured, naturally brined sausages.

Sausage has long been a staple on the breakfast scene, and Chef Stanton has crafted a flavorful chicken sausage for his menu. With a whisper of maple, it is the perfect accompaniment for pancakes or eggs. The French-inspired Boudin Blanc, a delicate creamy, fine-textured white sausage that brings a hint of sweetness to the palate is a lunch time favorite. In recent years, chorizo has become one of the most popular sausages in the country and Chef Stanton has created his version of this versatile treat. The chorizo-clam pairing has become a go-to bar food, while the chorizo scramble is a favorite on the brunch menu. On a more traditional note, the beerwurst, crafted when Wagyu beef is available, has a hardy, smoky flavor with a hint of stone-ground mustard that brings a classic German sausage into the Portland dining room. Pair it with horseradish, sauerkraut, and a frosty pint of amber ale for a Bavaria-in-Portland experience.

The high quality, fresh local ingredients and flavors crafted to fit the season add a new dimension to local menus. When you sample a house-made sausage at Heathman Restaurant and Bar, the Laurelhurst Market, or one of Portland’s other fine restaurants, you will savor the labors of some of Portland’s finest culinary craftsmen. To learn what sausage creations Chef Stanton is currently offering, you can view his daily menu at heathmanrestaurantandbar.com. To check out Laurelhurst Market, visit laurelhurstmarket.com. Other favorite Portland spots where you’ll find many varieties of quality house-made sausages are: Otto’s Sausage Kitchen and Meat Market (ottossausage.com), Edelweiss Sausage & Delicatessen (edelweissdeli.com) and Olympic Provisions (olympicprovisions.com).