Roundman's Smokehouse: A Carnivore's Paradise

Story by K. Andarin Arvola

The scent strikes me as soon as I open the door to Roundman’s Smokehouse; smoke. Better yet, smoked meats. As an avowed carnivore, my mouth begins to salivate. If you weren’t hungry when you walked in, you will be.

You don’t have to love meat to shop here but, boy, if you do, it’s the place for whatever you desire; fresh, smoked, stuffed, a special cut, a two-inch thick New York Strip?

The front fresh meat counter is run by Randy Gibson. There’s an extensive variety; fresh lamb, beef, chicken and pork are cut up daily. (There’s no fish except smoked.) Gibson comes up with the speciality stuffing for chicken breasts, pork loin and chops, and skirt steak.

Roundman’s make their own sausage, both fresh and smoked. Chicken-apple is a favorite. Most wild game can be turned into sausage, owner Stephen Rasmussen tells me. Plus, they‘ll custom make a batch of your very own breakfast sausage. How about some extraordinary bacon for BLT? It’s one of their most popular products.

Roundman’s is inspected five days a week by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “It’s not a hinderance,” Rasmussen tells me. “It’s the way we want to do things anyway, to exacting methods.”

Rasmussen explains that we’ve all become increasingly aware and concerned with what we put into our bodies; it’s the old adage “we are what we eat.” Therefore, they stock beef and pork range-raised in the hills of Covelo that is then grain-finished for flavor and tenderness. They get it from the ranch of Tim and Leanne Hurt. “We’ve had a great reception,” Rasmussen reports. He goes on to say that there are no antibiotics and no hormones used when raising the meat.

The Mendocino Café is one of the restaurants that uses a variety of Roundman’s products. Gary Robinett primarily does their buying. “I’m a huge fan of Roundman’s both professionally and personally,” Robinett says with enthusiasm.
“They’re amazing. They do everything from scratch, use great ingredients, and have an interesting mix of products.”
He tells me they use a lot of sausage at the café. “I get a quality sausage from Roundman’s; they’re local and they’re good, I don’t have to go elsewhere.”

Meredith Smith has had the Mendocino Café for at least twenty-two years and Robinett tells me that in his ten years there “I don’t ever remember not using them. They’re our primary meat supplier.”

Of the speciality items, the most unusual is the Turducken, which is turkey, duck and chicken stuffed with a light, spiced Cajun mixture. I’m not too clear of the concept here—you’ll have to ask.

Other goodies
By pursuing her own interest in cooking and baking, owner Steve Scudder’s wife Claudia has learned what cooks need to get the results they want. She’s assembled a comprehensive and extensive variety of kitchen tools from recipe books to the speciality pan needed for a given dish.

Enhancements describes the row upon row of bottled, canned and bagged savories to add to whatever is being prepared as a meal.

Because of the federal Department of Agriculture regulations, a fisherman can’t bring his fish in for smoking, but he could buy alder or apple wood chips to smoke his own and get an abundance of expert advise.

For Fido there’s a freezer full of smoked beef bones and owners send in smiling photos of happy pets.

Because of the amount of visitors to the coast, they do a good business with mail orders which they ship nationwide.

Need some bones for soup stock? They’ve got both veal and beef bones. What about fresh corned beef and marinated tri-tip? They’ve got it covered.

And let’s not forget that they buy cheeses from all over the county and the world and smoke it themselves.

Currently there are four principle owners at Roundman’s; Stephen Rasmussen, Steve and Claudia Scudder and Vaughn Thorpe. They go back a long way, decades in the Bay Area and in one case before birth. Before Stephen Rasmussen was born, his parents were friends of Marilynn and Warren Thorpe and their son Paul (now called Vaughn).

Whenever Vaughn Thorpe and Stephen Rasmussen would come up for a visit to Fort Bragg, where Marilynn now lived, off they’d go on a beer-and-jerky run to a local shop. Some years later the owner said it was for sale.

“I’d been widowed for four years,” Marilynn tells me, and Rasmussen told her he “wanted a more down-to-earth life.” He’d worked in the aerospace industry in San Jose for years and was tired of it.

“Raz and I looked into it and by March of 1994, the old Green Parrot building (on Laurel Street in Fort Bragg) was ours. We got seven or eight weeks of hands-on training.”

They wanted more expertise in the wholesale business. Enter Steve Scudder, who had an extensive wholesale and restaurant background. He and he wife Claudia were welcomed as two more partners. Then a meat market on Main Street went out of business and they snapped it up.

Going into business was the second time Marilynn had failed retirement, the first time was when she and her husband moved to the coast in 1987. She’d been a librarian at the San Francisco State Public Library. After a while she was hired at the Fort Bragg Library. “My introduction to the library was dramatic. The building burned down.”

While it was a struggle to put together another library, the wonderful circle of friends she met then “were a huge help when my husband died two years later,” Marilynn says.

Vaughn (Paul) Thorpe is Marilynn Thorpe’s son. Vaughn worked at Roundman’s for about a year-and-one-half when once again Marilynn retired and Vaughn became an owner. “I had to do this because she consistently ‘fails’ retirement,” he says with a smile.

He had his own reasons for moving away from San Francisco; “to get away from ‘no parking,’ no yard for the dog and small apartments.” It’s been a very good move for him, he says. “It’s a relaxed environment. There’s the family obligation too, which is a positive thing.”

While Vaughn does production in the back when needed, the public is what he likes; retail sales and customer service. He tells me that a common reaction is, “Wow! A small butcher shop!”

Vaughn says that he fosters the good rapport with customer service. “They know they can ask for special cuts so they keep coming back.”

He’s awed by the amount of community support for their small butcher shop. “When people asked for an excellent local range-fed source of meat and we found it, people continue to come in and buy it.”

Steve Scudder came from a huge restaurant and wholesale meat background. He was also the head chef at the famous Seagull Inn in Mendocino during its heyday. His wife, Claudia, does the books and is the buyer for the speciality retail products.

Besides the owners, daughter Stevie Scudder does retail, helps with wholesale and mail order and, as with many folks up here, also has her own business, In Local Hands, massage therapy. Faron Pettys is another Scudder daughter and works mainly retail.

Although not everyone is related, there is a lot of connection with the employees. Joan Cottrell handles retail, helps with wholesale and mail order. Cindy Partridge works primarily retail. David Martinez has been with the company since the beginning and delivers products up and down the coast.

The fabulous display of fresh meat is the job of Fort Bragg local Randy Gibson. He’s the head meat cutter, as he was at Mendosa’s in Mendocino. “I’ve been cutting about ten years,” he says. “It’s interesting, especially the sausages and the stuffings. I like to get new ideas from cooking programs.”

“We have no turnover in employees,” Rasmussen tells me. “Everyone is responsible for the ongoing success of the business. We all, together, make it work.”

And it is work, it’s a physically demanding business because of the weight of half sides of beef and pork, in particular. “If you look around, you won’t see any small people here,” Rasmussen grins.

Community pride
As with most of us on the coast, we have to pick which community project to support. Roundman’s supports several on a regular basis. In collaboration with The MacCallum House they put on a barbecue on the Fourth of July weekend which supports MUSE [Mendocino Unified School Enrichment programs] in Mendocino.

Another is the annual Toy Run for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. It’s always the first weekend of December, on the Saturday. They meet at Harvest Market on motorcycles or in classic cars and parade up Main Street in Fort Bragg and then to the Lion’s Club on Redwood. A new unwrapped toy is admission for the marinated tri-tip dinner.

The only time in over a decade they missed volunteering at the local hospital foundation’s charity event Winesong! was when there was a college graduation in the family.

Neighbor Mandi Liberty from Paws for Cats and Dogs has a huge commitment to the, especially homeless, animals of the north coast. She bakes dog cookies to raise money for animals. “Roundman’s have been absolutely phenomenal. When I first moved next door I knew I wanted their meat for my cookies. I explained what I needed and asked for a price,” she says. “Within hours they said they’d donate the meat.”

Here on Main Street in Fort Bragg we have a small speciality butcher shop run by local people and their families dedicated to quality products for those of us who live here and our many visitors.

Roundman’s Smokehouse
412 North Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
707 964-5954

Here are some other places that serve products from Roundman’s.
Check them out!

The Restaurant
418 North Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Mendocino Café
10451 Lansing Street
Mendocino, CA 95460

Little River Inn
7751 North Highway 1
Little River, CA 95456

Purple Rose The Mexican Restaurant
24300 North Highway 1
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Silver’s at The Wharf
32260 North Harbor Drive
P.O. Box 1429
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Mendo Burgers
10483 Lansing Street
Mendocino, CA 95460

124 East Laurel Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Cirino’s Sandwich Shop
131 East Laurel Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Here’s some ideas for new meals from Roundman’s Smokehouse. For something different for the holidays, try the Crown Roast of Pork.

Crown Roast of Pork with Apple, Cranberry and Pecan Stuffing—Serves 24

24-rib crown roast of pork
Salt and pepper, freshly ground, to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 Fuji or McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch dice
1 package La Brea Bakery harvest blend stuffing
1 packet dried cranberries (included with stuffing)
1 packet toasted pecans (included with stuffing)
4 cups chicken or turkey stock, warmed

Generously season the pork roast on all sides with salt and pepper. Let sand at room temperature for one hour. Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing: in a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and apples. Sauté until tender and caramelized, fourteen to sixteen minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl, add the stuffing, cranberries and pecans, and stir until well combined. Add the stock, one cup at a time, stirring to evenly moisten the croutons. Season with salt and pepper. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to four hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Place the roast in a large roasting pan. Spoon seven cups of the stuffing into the center of the roast and roast for one hour, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue roasting until the meat is slightly pink in the center and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, away from the bone, registers 140 degrees Fahrenheit, forty to fifty minutes more. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Using two large metal spatulas, carefully transfer the roast to a large carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for twenty minutes before carving. To serve, scoop the stuffing from the center of the roast onto individual plates. Carve the roast between the bones and serve immediately.

Salmon Jerky Pasta

Cooked pasta
1/4 pound salmon jerky
1 can chicken broth
1 pint sour cream
1 teaspoon dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat chicken broth, add cooked pasta, crumbled salmon jerky pieces, sour cream and dill, salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir together. Serve hot.

Grilled Lamb with Walnut-Mint Pesto

4 ten-ounce lamb shoulder chops
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 large rosemary sprigs
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 small garlic clove, peeled
2 1/4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Lamb: Combine all ingredients in large bowl, turn chops to coat in oil. Let stand one hour. Pesto: Blend first five ingredients to a course puree. Mix in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat large skillet. Add chops with rosemary mixture. Cook, four minutes per side. Transfer to plates, top with pesto.

Hanger Steak

1/2 pound hanger steak
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice or white wine
4 teaspoons fajita seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Add hanger steak to marinade for one hour at room temperature. Add salt and pepper to each side before frying. Fry in olive oil about five minutes per side for medium rare.

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