After a handful of trips to Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber's still brand-new Revival Market, I've yet to be completely blown away. Don't get me wrong, I think the place is fantastic on a number of levels. I've picked up wonderful cheeses and bread, fantastically orange-yolked eggs, and an array of amazing house-made pantry products. I'm particularly enamored of their deeply flavored yet strikingly subtle barrel-aged soy sauce. Then, of course, there's Morgan's meat, reason enough for the place's existence, and well worth excitement in its own right.
I'm sure I had unreasonable expectations going in. When I heard that Pera and Weber were expanding the offerings of the shop to include a veritable one-stop for local ingredients, I envisioned just that. I wanted a place I could go, grocery list in hand, and fill my pantry and my fridge according to my whims, rather than the realities of sourcing from local growers and purveyors. I wanted the best of both worlds; convenience and immediacy, married to quality and the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from buying local. In other words, I wanted the holy grail of farmers' markets.
Well, that's just not reality, and it's not a knock at what Revival Market is all about. But I must admit I've been underwhelmed by the produce selection, in general. What's there has been, in my experience, a bit lacking in terms of variety. As the weather has turned and harvests approach, I have no doubt that will shift somewhat, but the fact remains.
Where Revival wows me is in the quality of the café items. Where they could be an afterthought, value-adders tacked onto a grocery bill, they are fully realized creations in their own right. I've been by a few times in search of nothing more than a sandwich, and happened to pick up a dozen eggs and some Way Back When milk while I'm there.
A personal favorite is the Mangalitsa Hot Dog. First, there's the fact that it is a pure representation of place. That dog could come from no other shop on earth, and that has its own value. Then, there's the fact that it's really, really good.
The dog itself is fantastic. A natural casing offers a wonderful snap, there's just a hint of smoke and a hint of heat, and the meat is ground finely enough to be considered a hot-dog instead of a sausage (at least in my book), but not so finely as to lose the benefit of texture. It's deeply flavored, with a clean barnyard quality that I love about eating animals, and which is so sorely lacking in most commercially available meats. You know you're eating a pig, and that's a good thing.
To put things over the top, the dog is nestled into a Slow Dough pretzel bun. You could put dirt in one of these, and it would probably taste okay. It's just soft enough to make sense as a bun, but firm enough to stand up to the bold flavors and add counterpoint to the yielding meat. Topping it are green tomato relish, sweet and piquant, and cracklin's. I love the cracklin's, but find that they make a bit of an unwieldy mouthful on top of the dog. The easy solution is to simply take them off and eat them out of hand. Consider it a side-dish, and you're good to go. (I'm currently experimenting with methods for sheeting cracklin's, with the ultimate goal of being able to cut them into thin strips, like the tortilla strips adorning a cup of tortilla soup. I'll be sure to let Morgan and Ryan know when I've figured it out.)
Head to Revival Market with no expectations, and you'll be blown away. But even if you expect too much, you can still fall in love with a hot dog, or perhaps pick up some sorgum syrup for the pantry.