When you approach the Olympia Provisions stand at the market you’ll see their speciality is no secret. An iconic “MEAT” banner welcomes market-goers who follow the scent of cured meats and spices that radiates from their stand.
The “MEAT” sign just about sums their operation up. Although they operate two European-style restaurants in Portland (one in the industrial inner-southeast and the other in the northwest) that have garnered rave reviews, it is the sausages that are crafted at their salumeria (the first USDA-approved of its kind in Oregon) that run the show at the market.
Michelle Cairo, Tyler Gaston, Elias Cairo, Nate Tilden and Martin Schwartz all have ownership in the operation, and it is Elias Cairo that runs the meat-curing facility. Elias was born into a Greek family that raised, butchered and smoked their own meats. Pairing his upbringing with training under master chef Annegret Schlumpf in Switzerland and a stint as executive chef at Portland’s Castagna, he honed his skills to produce top-notch sausages.
Compared to traditional US delis that serve up semi-dry or smoked sausages, Olympia Provisions takes a different approach. Their meats are dry-cured. This technique is basically fermenting the meats in high humidity until the meat becomes shelf-stable and takes on its own unique flavor profile. This is just one of the differences that really makes their product standout. Their focus on craft (and patience) is found in the long process that starts with butchering local pork at their meat-curing facility, then forming sausages in traditional styles with care and consideration (by hand and in small batches, using fresh ground spices) and finally hanging the sausages to dry-age for weeks.
At the market you will always find samples, just as you would in many traditional meat counters across European markets, letting your taste buds do the decision making. They are often showcasing various Spanish chorizos and region specific Spanish, Italian and Greek salamis. Visit their website for more information or better yet, stop by their stand and sample their product yourself!