The Mercedes of ham, at Mercat.Photo: Daniel MaurerForget the Led Zeppelin reunion — the real news today is the arrival of ibérico ham on our shores. Angelica Intriago, VP at Despaña, the tri-state’s only supplier, says that on Friday she got a mere twenty of the 300 “pata negra” (black foot) hams shipped to the United States after Spanish purveyor Fermin finally satisfied USDA* export standards. Her supply has already dwindled to to the point where she is now only selling it by the slice at $99 per pound if sliced by hand and $90 per pound if sliced by machine, which warms the meat up undesirably (it’s best if eaten at room temperature). For that you can thank restaurants like Mercat, which is selling it at cost at $14 per plate — a price which will double after a weeklong introductory phase.
Intriago assures us that more hams are on the way, but if you’re going to blow money on a pound of the stuff, keep in mind it’s the free-range ibérico and not the top-shelf “bellota,” which is made from pigs that are fed on acorns for the last four months of their lives. That variety, which we taste-tested a while back, will be available in July of next year.
Update: Commenter Cla Lll points out that Bellota is actually available at Dean and DeLuca at the moment. We checked and they do have thirty USDA-approved hams, guest residents admitted to our shores by the USDA as a preview of hams to come. The price is a cool $75 per pound.
*Correction The original version of this item referred to FDA import regulations. It is instead the U.S. Department of Agriculture that oversees meat and poultry imports, as commenter caphill2320 states below.