everything old is new again: salt & time butcher shop & salumeria

Remember when there were neighborhood butcher shops? Yeah, me neither. Back in the fabled past (when you could also get fresh milk delivered to your door every day), I’ve heard there were neighborhood shops where skilled artisans cut whole animals to order. These butchers knew the farmer who raised the animals, knew what their customers wanted, and could tell you how to cook a roast, a steak or a chop. If you were a regular, they might even save the choicest cuts just for you, trimmed just the way you like it. Now, everything old is new again, and Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler are bringing the neighborhood butcher shop back in East Austin with the newly opened Salt & Time. Since they opened the doors to their stylish, inviting space in February, I’ve found myself drifting in more than once a week to pick up handmade salumi, charcuterie and cold cuts, fresh chops and steaks for dinner, or to enjoy a quick bite for lunch. (Insider tip: Cuvee Coffee is served at the bar, and Salt & Time’s sandwiches, made on fresh Baked in Austin bread, are amazing — they’re adding salads, soups and desserts to the menu daily!)

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Tell your brand story in 5 words.

Ben: Neighborhood butcher, with a twist.

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What was your first job?

Ben: Bussing tables at my dad’s restaurant.

Bryan: My first job was working with my father as a painter in his business.  I was 12 or 13 years old.

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What gets you to work every morning?

Ben: A 1996 Nissan Pickup.

Bryan: Pride. Knowing that I have a role in the community and wanting to raise awareness about my craft.

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Where do you get culinary inspiration?

Ben: I love the blog Ideas in Food. We don’t do much of the modernist stuff, but I’m always getting ideas from them.

Bryan: Peers, colleagues, bloggers, food experimenters, even mistakes can lead to daily inspiration for me.  You can learn a lot just by being attentive and listening. You know, be all Zen about it—be quiet and take it all in.

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What other businesses do you come back to again & again?

Ben: I go to Home Slice a lot. I appreciate the fact that they’ve managed to maintain their quality as they’ve grown. East Side Kingsat the Grackle is another staple, it’s right around the corner from the shop. I’m blown away with Paul Qui and his team, they are doing awesome things, and I’m excited about what they have in store withQui.

Bryan: I support many local businesses and restaurants that support me, my business and vice versa. Eastside PiesFranklin BBQ,The Alamo Draft House Cinema,Blackstar Co-opWheatsville Co-op & many others.

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What’s in your fridge right now?

Ben: It’s pretty depressing in there right now.

Bryan: Local veggies, a door full of homemade preserves, a collection of various pickled veggies and condiments, a deli drawer full of meats and cheeses, beer and wine.  I could open up a shop in my kitchen.

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What flavors inspire taste memories for you?

Ben: Roast chicken and potatoes was one of my favorite childhood meals, and it’s one of my favorite comfort foods now.

Bryan: Every single time I order a hamburger (no cheese, mustard, no mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion), it takes me back to the very first hamburger I ever ate.  I was a vegetarian until I was around ten years old, and my mom snuck me off one time for my first burger.  My dad was a bit of a veggie Nazi.

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Tell us about your dream dinner party–you can invite six guests (real, imaginary, living, or dead) to dinner-what, who, & where?

Ben: My friends Maura and Chap invite all their friends over when they throw parties, and they leave it up to fate to decide who comes. While this makes it tough to plan the menu, I love the sentiment.  I’d keep the food simple, maybe roasted pork and root vegetables, and invite all my friends.

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It’s Wednesday night at 6:30.  What’s for dinner?

Ben: I’d be getting ready to close the shop and head home, so if I haven’t figured it out already, I’m probably grabbing a couple of pork chops out of the case.

Bryan: Handmade sausage (I know a guy), veggies and pasta.

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Kitchen Inspiration: Korean Steak Salad with Rice Noodles and Crunchy Vegetables

Salt & Time is known for their pork, handmade sausages, salumi, and charcuterie, but they also have an impressive selection of fresh beef, lamb, goat and chicken, all locally-sourced and expertly cut on site.

Steak & Marinade:

  • ¾  pound bavette steak (substitute flank or skirt steak if bavette not available)
  • 2 Tbs gochujong (Korean hot pepper paste)
  • 1 2” piece ginger, grated
  • 2 Tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce

Korean Vinaigrette:

  • 1 Tbs gochujong
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 Tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs grapeseed or other neutral flavored oil
  • pinch brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce

Salad:

  • ½ pound buckwheat ramen (substitute regular highest-quality ramen noodles or buckwheat soba), cooked to al dente, drained and rinsed under cold water
  • 1 bunch radishes, cut into julienne
  • 4 carrots, cut into julienne
  • ½ small red onion, slivered
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 5 oz mixed baby greens
  • 1 handful pea shoots or sunflower sprouts
  • toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

Stir marinade ingredients together and rub into steak. Marinate for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for vinaigrette and set aside. Heat a cast-iron grill pan on the stove until smoking hot. Sear steak for 3-4 minutes per side (to medium rare), and set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Slice steak against the grain into paper thin slices, add to big bowl with salad, pour dressing over and toss everything together. Place in serving bowls and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

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kitchen inspiration: suppli with butternut squash & fresh mozzarella from antonelli’s cheese

Kendall and John Antonelli, cheese mongers, love mongers, and gastronomes extraordinaire, invite us into the tiny, but crammed-full-of-deliciousness Antonelli’s Cheese, where we could spend hours tasting and perusing the expertly-curated cheese selection and all manner of exquisite cheese-related delectables, including freshly baked breads, small-batch jams, nuts, salamis, olives, boutique wine, craft beer, artisanal chocolates, and handmade cheese boards and knives.   Here’s our insider’s peek into where they find culinary inspiration and what you’ll find in their fridge–keep reading for a recipe inspired by one of John’s favorite cheeses.

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What flavors inspire taste memories for you?

John: Fennel, wild thyme, anything my mom cooked when I was a child. And I have very specific memories associated with the following cheeses: fresh mozzarella, Tomme Crayeuse, Comte, and Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

Kendall: Still-warm, just-picked, sun-ripened tomatoes.

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What’s your favorite ingredient?

John: sea salt, olive oil, cheese.

Kendall: I pretty much agree with John. Almost everything that makes it to our plate is finished with one of those three items in some way or another.

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Tell us about your dream dinner party—you can invite six guests (real, imaginary, living or dead) to dinner-what, who, & where?

Kendall: Yes, I’m a cheeseball, but I swear the first person I’d have to have there is my husband. On the few times we’ve been apart, I’ve enjoyed some great meals, but they just don’t taste as amazing as they could without John there to experience them with me. (Plus, we’re known for ordering way more than we need so we can both share!) I’d also want my father there. My father, who passed away just over ten years ago now, never got to meet John. I attribute much of my love of food and travel to him. He exposed me to five different continents and countless cultures and cuisines before I reached ten years of age, and I feel we were robbed of the opportunity for me to ever tell him thank you for that. Of course, that means our son Everett would have to be there to meet his grandfather – granted, most of his meal would just end up on the floor. From there, it’s a draw. We’ve joked that it would be a great conversation to ask that first person who decided to eat that moldy blue cheese (a.k.a. Roquefort) just what he was thinking. (And to thank him for doing it and not pitching the piece!) While I know I should throw a famous person in there, I really think my dream dinner party would then just come down to a couple of good friends. (After all, they wouldn’t judge me when I went back for seconds!)

John: Don’t forget to invite “The Three Amigos,” without whom we may have never met, connected, and fell in love. (Yes, our two dogs are Lucky Day and Dusty Bottoms. El Guapo now lives at his grandparents’ house.)

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What’s in your fridge right now?

John: The standards in our fridge always include a huge hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, eggs, milk, greens, tortillas, beer, and baby food. Oh, and delicious butter. Tons of pickles. Soy sauce. And honestly, a lot of various condiments.  We’ve got INNA Jam Strawberry Seascape and Robert Lambert Wild Plum Jam right now. We’ve also got La Quercia bacon and some rabbit rilletes, as well as Widmer’s Cellars Brick Spread. We hoard Confituras Bourbon Brown Butter Peach Preserves for a rainy day.

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It’s Wednesday night at 6:30.  What’s for dinner?

John: Cheese! We actually don’t get regular dinner on Wednesday night since we’re often leading cheese class that evening; however, we do munch on the cheese board alongside our guests.

Inspired by John’s love of fresh mozzarella, I created these easy-to-whip up cocktail bites. Suppli are traditionally made with leftover risotto, but I’d cook a pot of risotto just to have these.  They make perfect cocktail bites or a light supper alongside lightly dressed greens.

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Suppli with Butternut Squash & Fresh Mozzarella

2 c cooked risotto (use your favorite recipe)

1/2-1 c diced butternut squash, steamed until very tender

6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 12 2″ cubes

1 c flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 c panko bread crumbs

oil for frying

your favorite ragu or marinara sauce

In a medium bowl, combine risotto and steamed butternut squash. Mix thoroughly until butternut is evenly distributed throughout risotto. Divide risotto into 12 small mounds. Scoop up about 2/3 of one mound and shape into a small disc. Place a cube of mozzarella on top and cover with remaining risotto from the same mound.  Shape into a ball, making sure cheese is completely enclosed. Set aside and repeat with the remaining mounds of risotto.  Heat oil in a deep frying pan or dutch oven to 350 degrees.  Roll each rice ball first in flour, then egg, then panko.  Fry until crisp and brown, turning so that they cook evenly.  Drain on a rack or on brown paper grocery sacks.  Serve with your favorite ragu or marinara and a light dusting of parmesan (these are great hot or at room temperature).

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for the love of fromage: kendall & john antonelli

You know those people who are madly, wildly in love with everything about what they’re doing? Those people who are so passionate about their ideas or their business or their craft that you can’t be around them without getting swept up in it too? Kendall and John Antonelli are those people. I once saw John Antonelli inhaling the scent of a piece of Comte, eyes closed, almost in a swoon. When he came to, I could see in his eyes visions of the flower-strewn pastures of the mountainsides of Eastern France, and he told us that the flavors of the cheese vary according to how late in the season it is made, subtle nuances shifting in the wheels made later and later in the season as the cows follow the grass and flowers up the mountain behind melting snow. From then on, I was deeply hooked. John and Kendall know who made every cheese in the shop–everything is available for sampling and every bite comes with a story of the animals, the place and the people who made it. As much as the Antonellis love cheese, they are also crazy about each other, adore working together, and care deeply for their fellow cheesemongers and customers. This kind of feeling and depth of connection just can’t be faked. As much as I adore cheese, sometimes I go into Antonelli’s just for the love.

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What gets you to work every morning?

John: The opportunity to work together doing something that we love energizes me to get to work and conquer the day. Plus, I love the opportunity to share my pleasures and passions with as many people as I can; few people get to do what they love.

Kendall: I look forward to the excitement of meeting the challenges for the day. As a small business, we never know what we’re going to encounter. We’ve found ourselves saying over and over, “When things normalize….” Or “Today is a perfect storm of…” The reality is, it would be boring if it were normal! The joy of owning our own business is that every day is different. We have the opportunity to continually rise to the challenge and I find that to be incredibly rewarding work; you have to celebrate all the victories (including the small ones!) and quickly identify problems, learn from them, adapt, and move on. It certainly never gets boring! That drives me on a daily level.

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What inspires you?

Kendall: I’m inspired by the labor and love that goes into making quality cheese and other artisanal goods. I know the word “artisanal” is thrown around a lot these days, but at the end of the day, I’m honored to represent folks who are dedicated to their craft and to working to improve it. It’s my pleasure to attempt to understand what drives these folks and relay that story to our customers. And truly, nothing is as reaffirming for that work as biting into a delicious cheese and knowing what it took to make it taste that way. Overall, we’re inspired to do good for our team, our customers, our producers, our community, and our family.

Tell your brand story in 5 words.

John: approachable, sexy, playful, knowledgeable, passionate.

Kendall: Hah! John’s answer sounds ridiculous, we know. But those are truly the five words we told interior designer Joel Mozersky and graphic designer BJ Heinley when we set out to create our brand! Cheese – sexy? Yes! We want folks that walk through our doors to know that we’re in love with all things cheese and that we consistently endeavor to learn more about it and share that education with those who want it in a fun, unpretentious environment. Often people can take themselves too seriously, and it’s crucial to us that folks feel at home in our shop. After all, we play with cheese all day.

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What other businesses do you come back to again & again?

Kendall: We’re attracted to businesses that revolve around the customer experience and are focused on service. In the end, we can go anywhere and love it – all depending on the service we got.

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How do you measure success?

Kendall: That’s a tricky one! We’ve been super fortunate and have already hit so many of the goals that we thought would be in our five-year plan. In fact, we’re constantly working on our vision. That being said, when John and I set out to start this business, it all came down to a few things. We wanted to work together and be truly inspired so that our enthusiasm for what we were doing was authentic and contagious (and made us want to work daily). So at the end of each day, we look at each other and evaluate those goals. Every single day – even the tough ones logging incredibly long hours and sleepless nights for the first many months after opening our business(!) – has been amazing because we’ve been in this adventure together, and we consider that a huge success. We also measure success in more tangible ways like involving our entire team in actively tracking our sales.

John: Originally, our goal was just to open a business! So we’ve had to work to redefine what success means to us and will continue to mean as we move forward. Loosely, we measure success as the results we achieve working towards our goals, visions, and mission statement. As we establish desired outcomes that are important to all of our stakeholders, we can redefine success.

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If you weren’t running a successful cheese emporium, what would you be doing?

John & Kendall: When we started envisioning a business that we could spend forty years working in, we created a list of our strengths and quickly narrowed that down to four: eating, talking, traveling and being together.  We spent two years identifying the shared passion of ours that would allow us to utilize those four strengths and cheese essentially chose us.  I’m sure for many entrepreneurs there is a sense that if they had not chosen their business, it would have eventually chosen them.  We can’t say with any certainty or sincerity what we would be doing if we weren’t running a cheese shop, because as we said before, this is our dream job. So we’ll just keep dreaming this dream.

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What was your first job?

John: Camp counselor: loved it. I raised enough money shoveling snow to buy hockey goals and goalie pads for our neighborhood

Kendall: As part of my rodeo association, we had to work the concession stands at high school rodeos, but I don’t think that would count as a job. I guess it would be the summer I worked as an intern for an advertising agency and also ran the admissions gate at Clark Gardens in Weatherford, Texas.

What’s your next big idea?

John & Kendall: We continue to exceed our wildest dreams, so it’s hard to get ahead of the ball right now! I’d say the main thing is that we want to carve out time to define our long-term vision. However, we do have a lot of exciting ideas in the pipeline. As far as to what the specifics are, we’ll let you know when they happen!

Stay tuned for more culinary q&a with John and Kendall and a cheesy recipe!