Red Hog: This Little Piggy Went to Market

By Lois Mateus / Photography By Andrew Hyslop | December 03, 2016
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Red Hog Louisville

A couple who by all standards  have succeeded immensely  in creating the best bread  in Louisville inevitably  confronts “Where do we  go from here?” Not content to rest on their  laurels, Bob Hancock and Kit Garrett have  answered that challenge by creating Red  Hog Butcher Shop and Café, located just a  few blocks west of their 18-year success at  Blue Dog Bakery and Café. 

The Kentucky-born couple is a unique  combination of taste and talent. Both  are well informed and diligent in their  research, with the grit and vision to raise  their own hogs and guinea hens while  reimagining an old-fashioned butcher  shop and café featuring artisan cured  meats. 

Kit’s the unflappable, calm, steady  one. Bob is daring, fiercely stubborn and  unflinching in his quest for perfection. His  treatise, engineered by instinct, trial and  error, is that there are some things in life  you simply need to know, and one of the  most important is where the food you eat  comes from, especially the meat. 

The restaurant business came naturally  to them, though they admit that neither  cares much about eating. Bob enrolled in  culinary school in Spokane in the early  1990s when Kit took a job there as historic  preservation officer for the city. The couple  opened Fugazzi, their first restaurant, in  1993, but within a few years they were  longing to return home to Kentucky. 

Red Hog, at the corner of Frankfort  and Franck, is no ordinary butcher shop  and restaurant. A repurposed old gas  station and garage, the place didn’t open  until it was good and ready, buffed and  polished to the couple’s expectations. The  back of the house boasts a large, walk-in  Italian-made curing room with hanging  meats. The cinder-block walls of the café  are the color of Red Wattle pigs and the  tables are made of butcher blocks. 

The retail shop features pork the couple  raise in Oldham County, as well as poultry,  beef, lamb, bison and additional pork  sourced from local farmers committed  to raising their animals to the highest of  standards. Precisely trimmed quality cuts  of the meat are sold by weight. Almost  nothing goes to waste: pigs ears to tail,  snout to rump, bones to broth. 

There’s masterfully prepared Red Hog  andouille, country pâté, Polish sausage,  Braunschweiger, rotisserie chicken,  soppressata, mortadella, smoked jowl,  pancetta and, of course, bacon. Shelves  are also lined with pickles, cheeses, butter  and other assorted locally produced and  Red Hog signature items, including, of  course, fresh bread from Blue Dog. A  special sandwich of the day is offered  around 11:30am and sells out quickly. 

On the eat-in food and drink side, open  only in the evening, the chalkboard menu  changes daily. Small-plate sandwiches,  pizzas, cold plates, wine, craft beers and  signature cocktails are among the regular  options but on any given day, there are  tacos, tartare and other delicious offerings. 

Staff knowledge runs deep in both  venues as butchers and servers are crosstrained.  Kit says, “Duncan Paynter did  much of the comparable study of meat  markets in other regions and helped us  design the ultimate meat production facility.  Jay Denham, who has been pursuing  pork for years, worked with Duncan to  assemble our amazing team of knowledgeable  butchers, who not only know how to  cut meat but enjoy telling customers how  to cook it for maximum enjoyment; and  then there is kitchen manager Zack Leezer  and our Guatemalan team who raise the  bar on all standards.” 

Bob and Kit’s credo is “local, sustainable  and humane.” Essential to them, as  yeast is to dough, is to raise animals the  way they exist in nature, to ensure they  are treated as humanely as possible as they  graze and forage and as they are transported  from the field to the abattoir.   

Bob, whose introduction to butchering  homegrown meat took place as a child at  his grandfather’s tenant farm in Trigg County, urges consumers to learn about  the origins of the meat they eat. 

“All of our meat comes from local  farms committed to sustainable, humane  and all-natural farming practices,” he says.  “The bottom line is to produce ethically  raised meat. It is important to know that  the animals have had contented, well-fed  and properly cared-for lives. Red Hog  receives animals fresh from carefully  monitored local slaughterhouses that  serve small producers. Whole or quartered  animals come in the back door, and  are carved into pieces on nearby tables  and held, cured, or dry-aged to USDA  specifications.” 

Kit acknowledges the higher-quality  cuts of meat at Red Hog are pricier, but  suggests it may not be such a bad thing  to eat a little less, but better, meat where  one can savor the difference in taste of  naturally raised animals. 

Mark Williams, local chef and southern  regional governor of Slow Food USA  as well as a director of the National Livestock  Conservancy, says “Both Blue Dog  and Red Hog are real gifts to our community.  Bob and Kit are two of Louisville’s  unarguably great locavores. 

“Knowledgeable consumers are rightfully  suspicious of mass-produced meat. A  strong local food economy is an important  step in taking back our food supply from  factory farms. Buying meat that has been  raised by local farmers is one of the best  choices we can make. It just makes good  sense, when we do eat meat, to choose  the best.”

Seemingly indefatigable and totally  committed, Bob and Kit share a fierce  determination to offer consumers that very  best, be it bread or bacon. 


RECIPES

Redhog BBQ Rub

Redhog Black Garlic Salsa

Article from Edible Louisville & the Bluegrass at http://ediblelouisville.ediblecommunities.com/eat/red-hog-little-piggy-went-market
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