"Hopefully our trendy restaurants that say they buy local stuff actually do," Andres Barrientos says. Through their smokehouse, Miami Smokers, the Miami-born executive chef of Aaron's Catering and sous-chef James Bowers have spent the past year experimenting and testing how the Magic City responds to special smoked pork products.
What makes the place so special?
A Facebook page description of the operation reads, "Miami Smokers is bringing artisanal charcuterie to the sunny streets and shady peeps of the 305."
"We believe in the art of doing things the right way -- no shortcuts or cut corners," he says. Which also includes sourcing everything (down to the salt in the cures) locally.
The smokehouse has a mission: to bring timeless curing and smoking techniques and heritage-breed pork to Miami one slice of bacon at a time. Barrientos is picky when it comes to choosing his hogs, "like pigs raised with no antibiotics or hormones, allowed to graze in pastures, and fed a wholesome, all-vegetarian, grain-based diet."
Smokers uses naturally evaporated cane sugar from Central Florida, and the salt is their own harvested Miami sea salt. The need to carefully curate a local ingredient foundation is crucial because the techniques Barrientos uses rely completely on salt, smoke, and temperature/humidity control -- he refuses to use nitrites.
"What this all equates to are products that are not only delicious but also produced responsibly, consciously, and with a great deal of attention."
It's obvious that as tensions rise with the ever-problematic GMO scandals, an increasing number of people are concentrating on keeping things in the neighborhood, so to speak. Michael Schwartz was one of the pioneers in Miami to brand his focus through a local lens, but since then, plenty of others have followed suit. When we thought of Miami Smokers, the first thing that came to mind was Proper Sausages.
"We've spoken to [owner] Freddy and have been to their shop, and our concept is similar but not quite the same. Our focus is on pork products," Barrientos says.
With the exception of smoked salt and vegan bacon, everything is heritage-hog-based. Think bacon, hams, jowls, and eventually terrines and rilletes. "The goal is to make bacon, guanciale (jowl bacon), and hams in bulk for the wholesale market to offer to restaurants, and low-volume products and retail bacon for the shop.
"As well as our merchandise, because people love our logo," he adds.
Incidentally, the logo was designed by Miami artist Danny Fila, AKA Krave.
While Barrientos and Bowers have finally secured a storefront location at 529 SW 12th Ave., you can pick up your own goodies at the Pinecrest Farmers' Market on Sundays. Expect to find candied bacon ($5), bacon Krispy Treats ($3), chocolate bacon Krispy Treats ($3), smoked Maldon salt ($5), and a "Market" BLT with pink slaw ($8). By the end of this month, Barrientos plans to have their normal bacon available for retail sale.
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If you can't make it to the storefront or the farmers' market, the two have been in talks with chefs such as Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House and Dewey LoSasso from the Forge to get Smokers products on the local restaurant scene. "So far, they love it," he says. Expect to eventually see "Miami Smokers" listed under dishes on menus around town.
Follow Alex on Twitter @ARodWrites.