Local Ham Comes In Third

August 25, 2009 at 7:59 am

I am all about local triumphalism.  I sell local by the goodness of our food.  Still, I have to be honest, and when the local ham, the prosciutto di Iowa, went up against two of Spain’s finest, including the ungodly expensive pata negra, it came in third.

The challenge occurred at Carnivale the other night.  My wife and I dined with another food obsessed couple.  Soon after sitting, while one of us quizzed the Carnivale waiters in their signature itsy-bitsy ties, the rest of us began the dinner negotiation.  Me, I went straight for insisting on the ceviche sampler.  Someone else wanted the ham sampler.  I demurred, thinking I could just go buy my own ham, but when push came to shove and chowhounds like us were throwing in our orders, the appetizers included the hams and the fishes.  I was not going to turn down the plate, the very, very generous platter of hams, once it hit the table.

I needed to see how the local ham compared right?  The Carnivale server advised, after asking, eating the Serrano ham first, then the La Quercia, and finish with the Iberico.   You know what.  We found the Serrano the consensus favorite.  Maybe it’s a cheaper thrill, but the Serrano had a nice saline jolt to prepare you for its buttery finish.  The Quercia is subtle, just a bit too subtle against the Spanish hams, although it tied the Serrano in richness.  This was my first sampling of the long embargoed pata negra, a ham marbled like Kobe beef.  And that’s what it reminded me of, beef, like carpaccio.  Of course it melted in our mouthes.  Still, it was all a texture thing.  On this day, I preferred something more.  I’ll continue to buy my local ham whenever I get the chance.  Coming in third is not such a bad thing.