And I love charcuterie. Pâtés, terrines, rillettes, galantines, and all manner of hams and other smoked meats -- I eat them all, with mustard and cornichons (if I'm lucky).
So it comes as no surprise that I also love sausages, which in their infinite variety seem to me like the divine marriage of charcuterie and hot dogs: smoothly ground or roughly chopped flesh, blended with herbs, spices, and sometimes fruit, vegetables, or nuts, forced into a casing or formed into patties. I eat them all (well, I do bear some resistance to "sausages" made for vegetarians and vegans. But even there, as we shall see, I am willing to try).
What does come as a surprise is that the first thing I eat at the venerable Rosamunde Sausage Grill is not a sausage but a burger. Joyce tells me about the special, one-day-a-week cheeseburger at Rosamunde, with some regret, after a lunch at an Indian place across Haight Street -- regret because it's Tuesday, burger day, and we're too full even to split one. (Must have been that third helping of chicken makhanwala. And lentil dhal. And maybe all that Indian pizza.) "It's the best!" Joyce says, and though I'm not sure why I should trust a girl who has just nonchalantly peeled the topping off the Indian pizza she dragged me to try because she assured me it's better than my favorite, Zante ("I hate cheese," she explains), I do.
Not very many Tuesdays slip by before I induce my dad to accompany me to Rosamunde. "You can have anything you want," I say to him as we gaze up at a board with 14 different sausages listed, from andouille to vegan (actually, alphabetically it would be andouille to weisswurst, but vegan seems funnier to me). But he goes for the cheeseburger, too, hold the grilled onions; I take it as it comes (with lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup, and pickles, as well as the onions, on a puffy bakery bun). We order a knackwurst with sauerkraut and some German potato salad, to go, for my mom.
It seems that everybody in line -- and there are lots of people -- is there for the burger. We luck out and grab two of the half-dozen stools at the tiny counters set in the windows of the small, neat storefront, over half of which is taken up by the efficient open kitchen. We also luck out because our burgers take 10 minutes. While we're there, the line grows, so that by the time there are a dozen burgers working it'll take 20 minutes for the finished product. Most people say, "I'll be next door," meaning they're getting a beer at the Toronado.
These are some seriously delicious burgers. Mine is accidentally cooked past medium rare, but it's still dripping with juice. (When I look alarmed, the counterman says, "Don't worry, you're gonna love it." And he's right.) This is a burger to cross the city for, a burger worth marking your calendar for. ("Why do you only serve them once a week?" a supplicant asks. "Because they're a pain in the ass!" is the cheerful reply.)
I look up at the sausage list, planning to eat my way through it the way my childhood favorite Francie, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, plans to eat her way through an alphabetical list of ice cream: "Francie had a mental list of all the soda flavors. She was going down the list so she could say she had tasted all the kinds of sodas in the world. Pineapple was next and she ordered that." The taste I eventually get of the fat, all-beef knackwurst is convincing: densely textured, garlicky, with that all-important snap when you bite through the casing.
On return visits, I work my way through about half of the 14 varieties on offer (assembled from a number of different sausage makers, including Schwartz, Montebello, and Saag's, and priced from $3.75 to $4, cooked. You can also buy the sausages uncooked for $1.75 each; the duck sausage is $2.25). Both the wild boar, gentled a bit with apple, and the spicy merguez, made from lamb and beef (it's got the most kick of any I sample), are from the same supplier, Fabrique Délices, and the firm, thin sausages come two to a crisp baguette. (You can choose two condiments free from a list of four: house-made sauerkraut, grilled onions, chopped red and green peppers, and house-made spicy beef chili, tasty but a bit gritty and overpowering for my own sausage inclinations. I'm a raw onion girl, and the kitchen was willing to provide me with chopped onions to order.) The smoked duck, flavored with juniper berries and hazelnuts, has too much pork in its composition to taste of the bird; the finer-textured smoked chicken, sweetened with cherries, is closer in flavor to its namesake. I'm very fond of the juicy, fatty, rough-textured Hungarian, a pure pig product. I look forward to completing my sampling: There's still a smoked chicken with peppers and garlic, a spicy beer sausage made from pork and beef, the intriguing smoked lamb with sun-dried tomato and potato, a spicy pork Nuernberger bratwurst, an Italian sausage (also spicy pork), the Cajun smoked pork andouille, and a weisswurst made from veal and flavored with onions and leeks to go. And then there's the organic vegan sausage, which, despite my own entirely carnivorous inclinations, I am interested in, because I have had successful vegetarian sausages.
In fact, I've had one recently, because I hadn't been aware that Lee is a vegetarian until we descended on the new World Sausage Grill, at 14th Street and Market, with Randy, after seeing a double bill. We're happy that the place is open until midnight, and even more so that there are brightly painted wooden tables and chairs, each with a different motif, for sitting at after you order at the counter. It's going to take me longer to sample all that's on offer here: I count two dozen sausages, including four vegetarian options, at $4.50 each. (You can take 'em home raw for $2 each.) The largess continues with your choice of add-ons for the sandwiches; an order form lists seven dressings (sauerkraut, grilled onion, fresh onion, hot peppers, minced tomatoes, mango chutney, and sweet relish) and five condiments (Dijon mustard, spicy brown mustard, yellow mustard, tomato ketchup, and curry ketchup), and you can choose two of each. Randy gets bratwurst with sauerkraut and minced (actually diced) tomatoes, Lee chooses the vegetarian sweet Italian topped with mango chutney, and I can't resist a Hawaiian-Portuguese sausage ("medium to highly spiced pork with bacon fat") with raw onion and brown mustard. Wine and beer are available, so Randy washes down his brat with an organic Bison Red Ale, from an interesting international list including Belgian, Czech, Vietnamese, and Philippine beers.
In fact, as I read on the place's heavily signed wall, World Sausage Grill is organic in more ways than one: "Our sausages are made for us in the Bay Area [Sonoma and Petaluma, I'm told] by local artisans. We serve all our sausages to you naturally which means no preservatives, no nitrites and artificial flavorings of any kind are used. Our condiments and sides are mostly handmade and prepared daily using only natural and organic ingredients. Our bread is baked and delivered fresh everyday using organic flour. Enjoy!"
We are enjoying, but I'm a trifle miffed to see condiments and dressings listed on the wall that weren't on the order form we got: garlic mustard, hot chipotle ketchup, artichoke mayo, wasabi mayo, pico de gallo, and pickled ginger. When I point this out to the charming counterman, he tells me that the grill is printing new order forms, and offers generous samples of anything we'd like to try. I'm especially taken with the fresh-tasting artichoke mayonnaise and the kicky wasabi one (I look forward to trying them with World's occasionally available seafood sausage, made with scallops, shrimp, and red snapper). The only loser is the garlic mustard; the dusty flavor of garlic powder predominates. In addition to more familiar sausages, World offers a Thai chicken and turkey sausage flavored with lemongrass and cilantro, a Southwestern salsa pork sausage with onions and tomatoes, and a spicy chicken habanero tequila sausage. I am so surprised by the hearty texture and flavor of Lee's vegetarian Italian (made from tofu with sun-dried tomatoes and basil) that the others the place offers (a vegetarian Polish kielbasa, a vegetarian "chicken" also made from tofu, and a house-made version created from an assortment of vegetables) suddenly sound intriguing. Like Francie, I'm going to try them so that I can say I've tasted every sausage in the world. (I've already tried World's fat, juicy Polish sausage, which pops satisfyingly when you bite into it, and the delicious pale weisswurst, here made with veal and pork and flavored with leeks and parsley, as delicate a sausage as there is.) I'm really more of a brat girl, or a piggy one, when it comes to sausages.
Which should come as no surprise.