The Liverwurst Renaissance Has Arrived: Brace Yourself

For your chopped organ delectation.
For your chopped organ delectation.
stu_spivack, Flickr

It is on the menu at Café Katja, where it is made by hand, paired with red-onion jam, and sold for $8. It is on the menu at the Upholstery Store, an Austrian-inflected wine bar, where it was deemed "excellent" by Our Man Sietsema. It is on the menu at DBGB, where it lurks under the genteel name "tender German-style wurst."

And it is a staple of many Long Island grandpas, who simply call it "lunch."

A liverwurst revival is upon us, and it will not be ignored.

"It's about time," says Ian Knauer, the former Gourmet test kitchen cook and blogger. He loves the "Modern Liverwurst" at Bar Room at the Modern, which is more spreadable than the pale lunch meat many know and some fear. It contains what Knauer calls "silky fat," and is served with four pickled vegetables -- perhaps to distract otherwise nervous diners.

Liverwurst is "a broad term for liver sausage," says The Food Lover's Companion, "referring to well-seasoned, ready-to-eat sausage made from at least 30% pork liver mixed with pork or other meat." Now, chicken liver has certainly had its close-up, with an eponymous mousse making cameos on menus across the city, from Brooklyn's Buttermilk Channel to Manhattan's Salt. And it had a predecessor: In the midst of the young foodists and trendy canapés at BAM's Good Beer event, a florid gentleman from Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse stood in the center of the room, hawking chopped chicken liver on rye in less-than-dulcet tones. Why? "It's been the best thing on the menu for 75 years." One bite later, a revelation: Chicken liver mousse tastes almost precisely like chopped liver. It has just been whipped into a palatable texture for the younger generation.

Perhaps in a nod to this trend, chicken livers have become more expensive, says Knauer, "as expensive as chicken breasts" at some butchers. Restaurateurs are clearly examining other options, including homemade, spruced-up versions of the pork-liver-based classic. Kitty-corner to old-timer Sammy's was the newer Prime Meats, serving up a Bavarian veal-pork weisswurst (white sausage). Sam Sifton of the Times has declared that their weisswurst tastes "like a hot dog from a parallel and slightly more enjoyable universe." Weisswurst is a sibling to liverwurst, with that same lunch-meat-like texture, those same pork casings, and the addition of veal.

Chopped liver, chicken liver mousse, weisswurst, and now liverwurst. No matter how menus reframe it and tart it up, it's on the march and going upscale. One wonders if New Yorkers -- young and old alike -- are ready.

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Cafe Katja

79 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002


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