Charcuterie on the Move: Scott Brennan’s Fifth Quarter
By Stephanie Rosenbaum
Photos by Nicki Rosario
Everything is going mobile these days, so why not charcuterie? Scott Brennan’s Fifth Quarter brings all things fabulously meaty to the farmers’ market.
“Fifth quarter” refers to all those nose-to-tail bits left over after the familiar steaks, chops, and roasts are carved off a carcass. Brennan refashions these delicious, economical, whole-animal-respecting and newly trendy parts into such delights as boudin noir (a rich, crumbly, pigs’ blood sausage), duck confit (duck slow-cooked in its own fat), cassoulet (a hearty bean-based farmers’ stew from southwest France, made with sausage and both fresh and preserved pork and poultry), duck liver pâté and duck pâté with sour cherries, and a fiery, Moroccan-style merguez sausage made from lamb (and sometimes goat). Of course, there are some old favorites too, such as beef jerky, liverwurst, smoked tongue, hot dogs, Canadian bacon, corned-beef hash, and headcheese. Brennan’s wide-ranging inspiration has him picking and choosing from an international palette of flavors and traditions.
Brennan handcrafts his creations in an Emeryville commercial kitchen space using meat and produce sourced from numerous local farms and ranches, including Marin Sun Farms, McCormack Ranch, La Tercera Farm, Happy Boy Farms, Devil’s Gulch Ranch, River Dog Farm, and Dirty Girl Farm.
Brennan’s wares vary from weekend to weekend. “I am always looking to make something fresh and new,” he says. “Going to the farmers’ market and getting something nice to use is a routine that really lets you see what you have to work with. The products change as the season does.”
Over time, Brennan has learned which products are easy sells. Not surprisingly, he loves bacon. “I sell out of it every week. It’s a gateway meat that turns vegetarians to not-vegetarians every day. What a wonderful thing!” he jokes. Lamb tongue is a little more of a challenge, he says, but notes also, “I get a good amount of curious shoppers that are willing to try things they have not had a lot, or even any charcuterie at all. They’ll stop by the next week to tell me how much they enjoyed what they had.”
An Oakland resident, Brennan hopes to someday open a retail space either in the city itself or near the Oakland/Berkeley border, but for now, you can find his meticulously crafted items every week at the Thursday and Saturday Berkeley and Sunday Kensington farmers’ markets. Enjoy his charcuterie with a glass of local wine at the Punchdown, a wine bar located in downtown Oakland. •
Stephanie Rosenbaum is a longtime Bay Area food writer and the author of The Astrology Cookbook: A Cosmic Guide to Feasts of Love (Manic D Press), Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food (Williams-Sonoma), and Honey from Flower to Table (Chronicle Books). She blogs for Bay Area Bites on KQED.org as well as on her own site, Adventures of the Pie Queen, piequeen(dot)blogspot(dot)com.
Nicki Rosario is a freelance photographer working closely with local communities to produce imagery that represents everyday life to the fullest. To see more of her work go to nickirosario.com.