Nothing about this bungalow with a French name screamed smoked meat. Well manicured ivy enveloped the Épicerie sign out front, and the interior looked more like a wine and cheese bar, but the menu had a different message. Smoked house made boudin and beef pastrami, a smoked goat sandwich special, and even a salad with a smoked tomato dressing. I could eat well, and get my greens.
I learned of chef Sarah McIntosh’s smoked tomato vinaigrette in a recent Serious Eats piece on smoked foods. She smokes/dehydrates tomatoes for the dressing, and I immediately wondered about using those tomatoes in a barbecue sauce. Chef McIntosh was way ahead of me. On the night I visited there was a special of a smoked goat sandwich with smoked barbecue sauce.
The goat was smoked, braised, and pulled before being mixed with the sauce. It was then pressed in a roll with some avocado slices. The smoke flavor was bold, and the meat was tender. This truly unique barbecue sandwich was a welcome departure from the standard chopped brisket or pulled pork.
The same smoked tomatoes that make up the barbecue sauce are also what goes into the vinaigrette. It’s a simple salad that doesn’t look like much when it hits the table, but the first bite was surprising. With the concentrated umami of the tomatoes it actually tasted meaty. Chef McIntosh had found a way to use barbecue sauce as a salad dressing in a way that’s not as offensive as it sounds. It’s a meatless salad oddly suited for carnivores.
The pastrami is thinly sliced on the reuben-style sandwich with sauerkraut and Russian dressing. A more generous helping of the meat would have brought the smokiness out a bit better, but this was still a great sandwich. Its real downfall may have simply been sharing the same table with the smoked goat.
If you’re familiar with boudin, then you know the spicy pork and rice filled links often have a casing that’s too tough to eat. It’s common to cut the casing open or just squeeze out the contents. This isn’t a problem when the links are smoked as they are at Épicerie. They can be eaten more like a standard smoked sausage link, and a dunk in the homemade mustard doesn’t hurt either. These hearty links are just one of the many ways this French-American spot can surprise you. The wine and cheese were great, but I’ll come back for the smoked meats.