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(post, Kathleen Bauer)
If my friend Luan Schooler at Foster & Dobbs was happy when she got one of 200 pieces of the first shipment of Jamón Ibérico that was allowed into the US, I can only imagine her ecstasy when she opened the package containing a sizable chunk of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. I'll let her elucidate: "There are two grades of this ham. The Jamón Ibérico lives the life of a regular, grain-fed pig. The Jamón Ibérico de Bellota lives, sleeps, roams and forages under the open sky in specially maintained oak forests, called 'la dehesa.' The meat of either is superb, but the freedom, exercise and diet render the meat of the Bellota pigs as the ultimate expresson of this exquisitely silky ham." After that description, and knowing I was heading to my brother's for dinner that very evening, I had to get a few slices for us to sample. Now this delicacy, as Luan says, "ain't cheap," running in the neighborhood of...get this...$100 a pound. But a few very thin slices of it will cost less than ten bucks and give everyone a little taste of a rare and, at that price, fleeting pleasure. And how does it taste? Soft and, yes, silky, the fat melts almost as soon as it hits your tongue, and the meat has a lovely nutty flavor with a bit of complex gaminess mixed in. Then it's gone. And I, and I think the rest of the company would agree, was glad I tried it. Details: Jamón Ibérico de Bellota from Foster & Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th Ave., Portland, OR. Phone 503-284-1157. Photo from Eat. Drink. Think.