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Like Minded: A Tour of Olympia Provisions

Eli Cairo grew up in Sandy, Utah working in his family’s Greek restaurant and they ran their restaurant the way that they ran their household. They did things the old fashioned way, meaning that they did things themselves. As much as possible every aspect of food preparation was done in house; the butchery and harvesting of meats, the prepping and sifting of grains, the cultivation of vegetables. After high school Eli traveled to Europe to apprentice in Switzerland at the renowned Stump’s Alpenrose restaurant in the Toggenburg Valley. There he trained in every station of the restaurant eventually finding his calling working with the Jägermeister (the Hunter Master). In traditional Swiss communities the Jägermeister processes the communities’ livestock and game. It was there that Eli learned the traditional methods of charcuterie including sausage making and butchery. After Switzerland he traveled throughout Europe, cooking and experiencing the continents’ cuisine before returning to the US and settling in Portland where his sister Michelle was living.


Once in Portland Eli quickly recognized that the city was lacking charcuterie that was produced in the traditional, artisanal fashion. A plan was hatched and in 2009, along with his sister Michelle Cairo and partners Nate Tilden, Tyler Gaston, and Martin Schwartz, Olympia Provisions (OP) was born. Five years later they are now operating two restaurants in Portland, each with its own distinct menu, and a thirty-nine thousand square foot USDA certified meat-processing plant.

The company recently moved into this new plant, their third in five years, and made sure that this time they would have room to grow. Brenda Crow, the company’s national sales manger, told us that when they moved into this new space they forecasted room for ten years worth of growth.

Every tour starts with visitors donning the correct jacket and hair management garments, because we would be touring throughout the entire facility we would be wearing dark blue coats. Workers wearing white coats are only able to handle raw product, while those in light blue jackets are restricted to the intermediary incubation and curing process. Blue coats are for the final steps of production. Hazard Analyses Critical Control Plan (HACCP) strictly controls the workflow of OP’s processing plant, a process designed by the USDA to precisely manage the production environment and mitigate food contamination. Each step has clear procedures and each room has specific temperatures that have been established by the HACCP.


OP sources all of its meat locally from Carlton Farms and they work with Carlton to make sure that they use only the highest quality meat. OP’s salami is made strictly from the hog’s leg meat, the leanest muscle on the animal, for its texture. They then add pure back fat, the cleanest fat on the hog, to create their renowned salami. “Our goal is a clean and decadent flavor,” says Brenda. They currently produce eight thousand pounds of raw sausages per week and each sausage will lose up to 40% of its weight during the curing process. OP only uses natural hog casing rather than cut corners with beef or synthetic casings, with natural hog casing there is no need to peel the salami and the casings contain valuable natural mold that adds flavor to the finished product.

The encased sausages are then incubated with low heat for 4 days. Incubation kickstarts the fermentation process, a critical step that will have a important affect on the final taste of the product. OP intentionally keeps the process low and slow in order to reduce the build up of acids in the meat. “This process could be done in 6 hours or less,” says Brenda, “but that would create hard and unsavory flavors, the meat would feel rushed. We take our time and maintain a high PH level, this develops a flavor that will compliment, rather than compete, with the flavors of the meat’s wine and food pairing.” The product then moves to the curing room where it is indoctrinated with white mold, Penicillium, the same mold used on Brie and other soft cheeses, and cured for around twenty five days.


The finished product is taken to a dry storage area where it is picked, packaged, and shipped to picnics, dinners, and special occasions throughout the US. After learning about the thought, effort, and energy that is put into every part of making their product we are extremely excited to have a like minded maker like Olympia Provisions as part of our Portland Gourmet Century family.

If your taste buds are piqued and you can’t wait for the ride head over to their site, and order a compliment of sausages. They are perfect for a mid-ride snack and easily fit in a jersey pocket or fanny pack. If you don’t feel like carrying one, leave it back at the car or at home alongside some choice beverages for the perfect post-ride refreshment. Trust us, the flavor is well worth it.


Want to host your own Gourmet Century event? Have it at the Chris King café in Portland Oregon or have us come to you with our new field support program. Learn more at

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