Until two months ago, Scott Brennan was running Café Rouge‘s highly regarded meat market on Fourth Street — butchering whole pigs, whipping up foie gras and head cheeses and holding Monday night classes aimed at demystifying the topography of a goat carcass.
Now Brennan is venturing out on his own with a new business, The Fifth Quarter Charcuterie, where he will be making and selling his handcrafted charcuterie and selling it through local farmers markets. The only thing standing in the way of his launch is finding a kitchen.
“I am still searching for a shared kitchen space that is right for me. The East Bay is preferred, but I am open to start anywhere so long as the space is organized,” said Brennan.
Brennan’s motivation was threefold: he relishes getting out in the community, he’s ready to go it alone, and he looks forward to being able to separate the production side from the customer service side. “It’s always a struggle when you’re trying to work and help customers at the same time,” he said.
As the new business’s name implies, Brennan will be promoting the “fifth quarter” of the animal — liverwurst, beef tongue, lamb’s tongue, pork liver, as well as the more standard charcuterie such as paté, terrine, rillettes, and fresh sausages.
“After working at Café Rouge I have developed a good rapport with local ranchers and farmers, and plan on using an abundance of locally sourced ingredients,” he said. “Some of the best goat I have eaten comes from the McCormack Ranch in Rio Vista, I plan to continue using goat to make some interesting flavors.”
Brennan is taking the farmers market route because, he said, it is a good way to test the market and build a business and customer base without too much capital outlay. In that regard, he is following in the footsteps of another Café Rouge alum, Taylor Boetticher, who founded charcuterie company Fatted Calf — which now has retail stores in Napa and Hayes Valley — after starting at markets such as San Francisco’s Ferry Building Plaza.
Brennan is also tapping into a trend for responsibly sourced and managed meat, as well as for all things charcuterie. Local chef Paul Bertolli, a veteran of Chez Panisse and Oliveto, opened the Berkeley salumi company Fra’ Mani in 2006. On Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, restaurateur Jon Smulewitz’s second eatery, Adesso, revolves around its homemade charcuterie. And, just last week, Berkeleyside reported on the imminent opening of The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, the brainchild of former Chez Panisse chef Aaron Rocchino and his wife Monica.
Brennan sees himself as part of this movement focused on sustainability. “Once you develop a relationship with a farmer they are like family and you want to do the right thing and use the whole animal,” he said.
Ironically for someone who is now happily immersed in the more “delicate” parts of the animal, Brennan said he was a picky eater when he was growing up. He changed his views, he said because after a time he got tired of “making goat sausage every day” and wanted to experiment.
“I started making pancetta and bacon and pickled tongue and they were delicious,” he said. “Part of what I do is educational — I want people to try things so they realize how good they are.”
You can follow Brennan’s progress on The Fifth Quarter’s Facebook page.