Full Belly Files: Spices, Sausages, and Sencha: My Online Ordering Habit

How I Learned to Love the Ease of Buying Food and Drinks on the Internet

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My habit started innocently enough. Last August, when it was clear that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere, I was watching Padma Lakshmi’s Taste the Nation show on Hulu with my son. When she stopped into Usinger’s Famous Sausage house in Milwaukee, I was intrigued. I’m a big fan of all sausage — I think an intelligent case can be made for it being the world’s most perfect food — but had never heard of this apparently well-known place.

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Seconds later, iPhone in hand, I was on their website, ordering a range of sausages: brat ’n’ onion, bratwurst, Bavarian wieners, baseball brats, chicken apple, beef frankfurters, and smoked bratwurst with cheddar and jalapeño. 

I quickly learned my first lesson in ordering meat from across the country: Pay attention to the shipping costs. My sausage was $50, but the shipping was $60. Oh well, the sausages were solid enough, though far from mind-blowing.

A month later, in need of more sausage, I did a bit more sleuthing for something closer to home. While there are certainly plenty of places to buy fresh sausage in Santa Barbara — the Country Meat Market and Sprouts in Goleta do great jobs, especially with Italian on the former and chicken sausage on the latter — we aren’t much of a sausage mecca, at least when it comes to lots of inventive options on the retail side.

So I discovered Maestro’s Sausage Company in Los Angeles, which Italian immigrant Domenico Pontrelli started in the 1920s. It’s since become a preferred source of sausage for restaurants and markets across Southern California, and for good reason. I found these sausages to be creative and delicious, from the snappy little fatties of Brazilian linguica fresca to the rich logs of Italian sausage with goat-milk cheddar inside. By spreading the word to other sausage lovers about Maestro’s over the weeks to come — the five-pound minimum makes team-buying advisable — I was able to try jalapeño bacon cheddar, three pepper, and the sweet luganega, which arrives in one rolled-up five-pound link, perfect for a party.

Meanwhile, I started dabbling in the online ordering of tea as well, starting with sencha and matcha from the Art of Tea before graduating to a much more eclectic range from Rishi Tea: jasmine, ginger geranium, guayusa cacao, turmeric ginger, chai masala, and so on. Then came waves of chile sauces and spices: Momofuko’s chile crunch; Fly by Jing’s zhong sauce; single-origins black peppercorns from Kerala, India, imported by Diaspora Co. I fell down the peppercorn hole for a bit, ordering $50 worth of various peppers from The Spice House: red kampot and long peppers from Cambodia, tingling sansho from Japan, and white peppercorn as well.

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I’ve since been sharing those peppercorns with whoever comes by my house, though I am still trying to figure out which food goes with which pepper. I’m very happy to be able to shop in real stores again, but I’ll probably keep up with my online ways as well. The goods tend to be very fresh, and the ease is unparalleled. 

This edition of Full Belly Files was originally emailed to subscribers on July 23, 2021. To receive Matt Kettmann’s food newsletter in your inbox, sign up at independent.com/newsletters.

From My Table 

A rundown of my recent articles.

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  • In this week’s issue, I return to Aperitivo to see what their “normal” service is like. I covered their pasta club earlier this year as well, but I much prefer the casual sit-down situation, complete with an endless array of spritzes. 
  • For my Bottles & Barrels column, I met up with Benjamin Holland in my backyard a couple months ago. After experience at Kosta Browne and Sine Qua Non, he started a brand called Walson Holland with a Swedish couple in Ojai. 

From Their Table

Content from other producers that I’ve enjoyed this week.

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