With Super Bowl Sunday mere yards away, millions of football fans are busy getting their jerseys pressed, practicing trash talk in the mirror, and preparing epic Super Bowl food spreads. While there’s something to be said about grilling burgers and hot dogs, this year you might switch things up by serving traditionally cured sausages. No matter how the game turns out, everyone wins with the Game Day Grillin’ Pack from Olympic Provisions. For insider information about the product and the company, we managed to tackle Eli Cairo, lauded salumist and co-owner of Olympic Provisions.
About Eli Cairo and Olympic Provisions
Olympic Provisions is a wildly successful USDA-certified charcuterie in Portland, OR. Founded in 2009, Olympic Provisions has already won nine Good Food Awards for charcuterie in four consecutive years–including two awards in 2014. In addition to a meat shop, Eli Cairo and his partners own two restaurants in Portland.
Mr. Cairo grew up on a working farm in the Salt Lake City area, where he and his big Greek family raised a menagerie of animals and grew a large garden that supplied fresh food for their two restaurants. This is where Eli first discovered a passion for food in general and Old World meat processing in particular.
When Eli was still a lad, he began a five-year charcuterie and culinary apprenticeship in Switzerland. “The man in charge of my apprenticeship was the Jäegermeister for the valley,” says Cairo. “When someone shot an animal in his valley, they’d bring it to us and have us fully process it. We did ibex, elk, deer, marmots, rabbits–everything.”
Cairo ran a small restaurant in Greece, briefly returned to Switzerland, and ultimately found himself in Portland. He sizzled his way up from line cook to executive chef at Castagna–a renowned Portland restaurant–before starting Olympic Provisions with his four business partners. Eli’s team works extremely well together; “We eat breakfast and lunch together, we hang out on weekends, we go fishing with each other,” says Cairo. “We’ve built such a great family, and everyone strives for absolute perfection.”
It’s worth noting that Olympic Provisions is a family business in the literal sense, as Eli’s sister Michelle is also an owner. She’s had extraordinary success in her own right–in 2010, The Portland Business Journal named her Portland’s Best CFO for medium-sized companies. In short, Olympic Provisions is extraordinary and the Cairo family is unstoppable.
About the Game Day Grillin’ Pack
“About two years ago, our employees were going to various Super Bowl parties and putting in huge meat orders,” says Cairo. “This got us thinking about how many people would like to eat delicious meats for the Super Bowl.”
What makes the $50 Game Day Grillin’ Pack different than store-bought sausage and hot dogs? Cairo says it best: “Of course you can go out and buy any bratwurst, hot dog, or kielbasa, but I make real smoke, which is a rare thing–I smoke over true applewood and hickory. I use fresh garlic, I use lamb casing that makes the sausages snappy, and I use high-quality pork.”
When most people think of hot dogs, they imagine something like a frankfurter, which is a traditional German sausage encased in a thin lamb casing. Olympic Provisions’ frankfurter is smoked with oak or applewood and hickory, and has oregano and paprika inside. When you bite into it, you experience the classic “snap” of the natural casing. “They’re basically foot-long hot dogs, like you would order as a kid at a ball game,” says Cairo.
You might say that eating kielbasa is kind of like giving your doctor the middle finger. But since you probably won’t invite your doctor to your Super Bowl party, go ahead and enjoy this absurdly delicious, traditionally prepared sausage. Cairo makes his kielbasa with plenty of garlic, mustard seed, sugar, and salt, smokes it over applewood and hickory, and gives it a traditional horseshoe shape. Cairo suggests eating kielbasa with boiled potatoes and mustard.
“Bratwurst is what every sausage maker in the world judges every other sausage maker on,” says Cairo. The bratwurst from Olympic Provisions is the envy of sausage makers everywhere; it’s full of flavor but balanced at the same time. Cairo recommends combining the above sausages to create a traditional dish called choucroute garnie–all you have to do is boil sauerkraut and potatoes, chop up your sausages, and simmer them in the sauerkraut liquid.
Navarre and Sopressata Salami
The other meats in the Game Day Grillin’ Pack are dry-cured Navarre and Sopressata salami. These badboys are very flavorful and a little spicy. “Just slice ‘em up before your buddies get there, and you’ll have something delicious for the game,” says Cairo. “Then, at halftime, you can cook the sausages.”
Two Beer Koozies
At some point during the big game, you’ll likely clutch your cold beer with rage and/or delight. When you do, your Olympic Provisions beer koozie will help you retain feeling in your hand. Cairo recommends pairing your sausages with a Kölsch from Double Mountain Brewery of Hood River, OR. Otherwise, a pilsner or any light beer will do. Since the sausages are pretty heavy, you don’t want anything that’s super dense.
More From Olympic Provisions
Olympic Provisions has many more products to make game day–and every other day–more delicious. Cairo recommends adding pickles to your order, or perhaps impressing your guests with a whole charcuterie board. If you’re a fan of salami, you could join Olympic Provisions’ “Salami of the Month Club” and have traditionally cured salami delivered to your door every second Tuesday. You might also try the 2014 Good Food Award-winning Flaco Paco chorizo, which Cairo describes as “our answer to the Slim Jim.”
To get your Game Day Grillin’ Pack in time for the big day, try to get your order in by noon Pacific Time on Wednesday, January 28. You could also opt for an overnight order in a pinch. For the curious, Eli Cairo will be (reluctantly) rooting for the Seahawks to win it all.
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