Good to Go

Good to Go: Red Apron Charcuterie at Planet Wine in Alexandria

Nathan Anda's charcuterie will gain a wider market this year.
Nathan Anda's charcuterie will gain a wider market this year. (By James M. Thresher For The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Push open the screen door of Planet Wine in Del Ray and head for the fridge in the back. You'll find what many local meat aficionados have been waiting for: Nathan Anda's charcuterie to go. In the speak-easy style that's de rigueur of late, the former Tallula and EatBar executive chef has released his "secret" Red Apron brand.

It's no secret that Anda's charcuterie is beloved. Restaurant patrons fawned over his house-made all-beef hot dogs, flavored bacons and pastrami sliders. When Anda left last summer, he announced it was to develop the next Neighborhood Restaurant Group project: a restaurant and butcher shop in a yet-to-be-determined location.

With NRG's efforts focused on Birch and Barley, set to open on 14th Street NW this spring, the unveiling of the shop was delayed. In the meantime, Anda uses Tallula's kitchen for production. What the chef makes depends on what his farmers deliver. "Farmers are raising animals specifically for us now," he says. Those include Black Angus and Piedmontese cattle as well as heirloom-breed pigs.

His charcuterie to go at NRG-owned Planet Wine includes spicy smoked chorizo with Spanish paprika and garlic ($3.50 each), hot dogs (14-ounce four-pack, $9) and a chewy beef jerky brined with blackstrap molasses and bourbon with notes of vanilla ($1.50 each). A favorite is Black Angus bresaola ($27 per pound), somewhere between mahogany and garnet in color and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Other specialties that recently entered the Red Apron rotation are sopressata, bologna, coppa salami laced with pork fat, capicola and finnochiona seasoned with wild fennel, black peppercorns and curry.

Panini with Anda's meats, now available at NRG's Buzz Bakery in Alexandria, will be offered soon at Planet Wine. The pastrami on ciabatta bread is the crowd pleaser ($8). It starts with deliciously fat-laden beef brisket that has been brined for 10 days with coriander, juniper, clove and cinnamon, then rubbed with fennel and black peppercorns. "I've been through a couple different interpretations of it before I got it right," Anda says.

Other options will include barbecued pork, porchetta and roast beef, as well as Anda's cured salami with roasted eggplant and mozzarella cheese, all served on ciabatta with a chipotle aioli.

Red Apron products will become more widely available on the menus at NRG's Vermilion, Rustico, Evening Star Cafe and Tallula over the next couple of months and for purchase at area farmers markets in Virginia and the District by the end of May.

And come spring, Planet Wine will reinstate canteen nights -- Thursday, Friday and Saturday happy hours from 6 to 10 p.m. -- during which the shop will offer a selection of cured meats ($3.50 per small plate), terrines and artisan cheeses. Assortments also will be available to carry out, though a balmy evening, a cool breeze and a seat at an outdoor table might convince you otherwise.

-- Melissa McCart

Planet Wine 2004 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, 703-549-3444.; Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

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