Food & Drink » Food & Wine

Rashers & Pub Grub

F. Nolan and Sons: bacon and sausage, Irish-style; the Mad Earl: the Brass Door’s British cousin.



If you aren't still reeling from your wild St. Paddy's Day romp, we've got some more Emerald Isle feasting for you.

F. Nolan and Sons, a producer of Irish breakfast standards like rashers, bangers, and puddings, has begun processing and delivering to Mid-South restaurants.

"What makes ours special compared to what you usually get here is that ours is made with very fresh meat from pigs slaughtered the previous day, at the same plant where the sausage is made," says Fergus Nolan, one of the company's owners. "It's as fresh as fresh can be."

F. Nolan uses meat from pigs raised in Arkansas and then processes the Irish-style sausages and bacon at Cypress Valley Meat Company, a small-scale, custom processing plant near Little Rock.

Recognizing the dearth of local producers in this niche market, Nolan and his business partner John Gasquet decided to produce these specialty items locally, edging out the remotely located competition, which serves at the mercy of shipping costs.

Developing the recipes required a bit of research into traditional methods.

"I'm a geek," says Nolan, a computer programmer by trade. "But I also love to eat."

The rashers are produced using a centuries-old process called Wilshire brine curing, introduced in 1650. Leaner cuts of back meat ("almost like a cured pork loin," says Nolan, and not the belly or side bacon you're used to) are brined, slow-cured, dried, and sliced — a far cry from the quickly processed, brine-injected bacon on supermarket shelves.

The bangers, or sausages, are made with a spice blend prepared locally by Ingredients Corporation of America, mixed with rusk (bits of double-baked sourdough), and stuffed into natural sheep or pork casings. The puddings, perhaps the most adventurous items for American diners, are made with pork, beef suet, oatmeal, a special blend of spices, and, in the case of the black pudding, beef blood.

F. Nolan and Sons only sells wholesale, for now, to restaurants that serve Irish breakfasts, like the Brass Door Pub and Cafe Eclectic. Gasquet says a retail product could be in the company's future, but head over to the Brass Door Pub to enjoy the full array of F. Nolan's rashers, puddings, and bangers.

F. Nolan and Sons (634-3063)

After a breakfast at the Brass Door, consider lunch next door at The Mad Earl, a younger, more casual, British-themed cousin to Seamus Loftus' Irish pub, which opened last weekend.

Ireland and England right next door to each other?

"It's a companion piece to the Brass Door," says Loftus, owner of both restaurants. "What we're hoping to do is create a space for a young, cool crowd to hang out. The Brass Door is such a beautiful pub, we needed a space where we could let our hair down."

The English-themed sports bar and sandwich shop on Madison ("Mad" for Madison, "Earl" for the Earl of Sandwich) is physically connected to the Brass Door via entryways upstairs and downstairs. (Since the Brass Door is housed in a former bank building, manager and chef Clay Shelton says they had to break through four walls of heavy concrete to create the passageway.)

But the Mad Earl will be distinct from the neighboring pub in its more playful vibe. Decked out with around 10 televisions and one 96-inch projection screen, the bar will certainly draw sports fans, while the downstairs game room, complete with pool tables and arcade games, is aimed at local law and med students eager for a break from studying.

Prices will also be student-budget-friendly, focused on a variety of bottled and draught beers, a standard house red and white wine, and plenty of well liquors. As for food, Shelton is whipping up good, cheap sandwiches and bar food — with a twist.

"Almost everything is being cooked sous vide," says Shelton, referring to the method of cooking food in airtight plastic bags in a water bath. "We're cooking everything slow, including chicken wings cooked long and slow until tender and finished under a broiler until crispy."

"The Mad Earl" sandwich, a house specialty, will be made with slow-cooked top round sliced thin and served au jus with horseradish sauce. Shelton also plans to offer build-your-own salads, chicken sandwiches, kale chips, soft pretzels with beer cheese, and a variety of "options for everyone."

Still in its soft-opening phase, the Mad Earl will be open every day from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Once the ball gets rolling, Shelton says they will stay open from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week.

The Mad Earl,
150 Madison (249-2135)

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