At Paul Kahan’s butcher-shop-slash-café Publican Quality Meats, he is surrounded by some of the most delicious things on Earth. One wall alone is like a gastronome’s fever dream: Bourbon-barrel-aged fish sauce, proprietary local honey and Thai-style drinking vinegars. And then there’s the butcher case, filled with the house-made charcuterie, meat, cheese, stocks and crusty loaves of bread sold retain and served at his other restaurants, Blackbird, Avec, Publican and Big Star.
From the wall of wonder and his kitchens below, Kahan picked his five current obsessions, from “the greatest peanut butter in the world” and a secretive spice blend to hand-harvested Oregonian sea salt and revelatory Umbrian legumes. Here, he explains in his own words, why he covets these products so.
Umbrian Wild Chickpeas
“I was at Ceres Table in Chicago, and they had a dish on the menu with cicerchie, or wild chickpeas. I was like, ‘What the fuck is a wild chickpea?’ But I can tell you now that they are the most unbelievable beans I’ve ever eaten. We sell them for $16, which seems like a lot, but they’re totally worth it. We use them at brunch with ‘Nduja broth, head-on shrimp and a slow-cooked egg.”
Canacle Spiced Salt
“Lior Lev Sercarz of La Boîte á Epice knows everything about every spice known to humankind. I love all his blends, but his Cancale orange- and fennel-spiced salt is my absolute favorite. He recommends using it on fish, but I use it on everything. For instance, if I take a pork chop home, I’ll season it 15 minutes ahead of time with Cancale. It’s an easy way to make any food taste great.
“He only lists three ingredients for each spice blend, and if you ask him to tell you more, he always says the same thing: ‘Do you want my American Express card, too?’”
Koeze Peanut Butter
“Hands down, the Koeze Company produces the greatest peanut butter in the world. The peanuts come from Virginia, but the peanut butter is made in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s amazing—pure, clean and salty. Just don’t refrigerate it.”
Jacobsen Salt Co. Sea Salt
“It’s the only natural sea salt made in the United States—Oregon to be exact. I use it mainly as a finishing salt. It’s totally natural and super clean—i.e., it’s not hot on the tongue at all.”
Bianco Di Napoli Tomatoes
“My good friend Chris Bianco runs Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. I consider him a culinary prophet. For a decade, he made every pizza that came out of his kitchen himself. These are the tomatoes he uses. He sources them from a farm in California. A lot of people tell us they’re better than the best Italian tomatoes you can buy.”