A table of industrial-size spice containers stood at the back of the room. Tangles of natural sheep casings floated in the water held in large square Lexan bins. Our semi-circle stood a respectful distance from the grinder, a bowl cutter and a sausage stuffer, each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, precision-built and spotlessly clean.
We watched as Meusel put the meat through its paces, adding spices, water, celery juice and phosphates to bind it all. His hands moved awfully close to 300-mph blades, sensing when the mixture was at the right consistency for andouille sausage, and later for nitrate-free hot dogs. The third and fourth fingers of his left hand were all he needed to guide links that came shooting through the stuffer. When one of us had a go at it, the expertness of Meusel’s touch became clearer still. Griffin efficiently packed the connected links onto poles that fit in a great rolling rack.
We followed them down the hall to a German-manufactured smoker large enough to roll the rack into. I mistakenly stuck my head halfway across the threshold to take in the aroma and spent the next 20 minutes with watery eyes.
While lunch in the pub warmed us up, technology and hickory chips cooked the andouille and hot dogs to a moist, smoky doneness.
Back in the cold room, the lesson in pork continued, as the half-steer that Meusel would have broken down for us was not ready for prime time. Using what looked to be a seven- or eight-inch boning knife, he placed the tip of it on whatever he was aiming to separate, and then dispatched it in seconds. Sure-handed, steady cuts. The loin, flat and oblong. The part of the ham from which real German schnitzel is carved. The neck, whose two chunks are often tied together to form a roast. The Sanderling’s Left Bank chef de cuisine, Mark McCleary, who had appeared for the after-lunch session, told us that we’d be seeing some of the meat on our dinner table later on.
Meusel retrieved the links after two hours in the smoker. Mugging for the camera, he suggested that if he’d done his job right, the hot dogs should audibly snap when broken in two. A sample one did. They were the best dogs any of us had ever tasted.
Back at the Sanderling, we cleaned up and ambled over to the resort’s white-tablecloth Left Bank restaurant, where we were served family-style: house-made duck ham and trout fritters and small pots of Weeping Radish sweet potato liverwurst pate; lentil gnocchi and a red wine sauce and meltingly tender braised short ribs from a farm 21
2 hours away; Meusel’s fine-cut pork loin, roasted with pickled apples and a porcini thyme jus. Dessert seemed insurmountable, yet when it arrived, we swooned and dug in: canning jars filled with layers of sour cream cheesecake, bacon-infused maple syrup, buttermilk ice cream and house-made graham crackers.
The dinner conversation replayed the master butcher’s greatest feats of the day. We shared food stories (aren’t they the most telling and intimate?) and agreed that we’d seen an artist at work. We wanted to come back for that half-steer. Sophie and the Sanderling staff said that we were welcome to do so.
And my husband said he was in for the full ride.