Seattleites store all sorts of miscellany in their garages (bike racks, the inevitable rain boot collection, a gardening trowel, chicken feed) but Link Lab Artisan Meats owner David Pearlstein uses his Wallingford garage to house something much more high tech: the USDA-inspected and -approved sausage production facility of his dreams.
After spending all of 2010 and $20,000 of savings to convert his home garage into a full-fledged sausage factory, Pearlstein now produces between 100 and 150 pounds of fresh sausage—in 19 varieties so far—every week, including the popular Fremont beer bratwurst, rosemary lamb and chipotle-tequila sausages.
Pearlstein’s career wasn’t always so meaty. Sausage used to be a hobby for the former Microsoft user-assistance rep (he left in 2007 to stay home with his 2-year-old daughter, Cora). “In 1999, I watched Bruce Naftaly [chef at Le Gourmand in Ballard] demonstrate how to make garlic sausage for cassoulet,” he says. “I came home, stayed up late that night and made my first fresh sausage. For 10 years, I experimented.”
Link Lab uses strictly Northwest meat, sourcing hazelnut-fed pork from Portland's Tails & Trotters, other pork from Creviston Valley Farm in Longbranch (on the Key Peninsula) and lamb from Martiny Livestock in Concrete, among other small farmers. “I try to visit all of my farmers to get a sense of how they treat their animals, their farm workers and the soil on their property,” said Pearlstein. “The meat from these folks tastes better than conventional meat, and I believe I am an important connection between consumers and this type of producer.” After hand-spinning every link of sausage, Pearlstein pairs some meats with seasonal fruits, such as cherry with lamb, black currant with duck, and apple with pork.
You can link up with Link Lab’s sausages online (linklabartisanmeats.com), taste them at area restaurants such as Sand Point Grill and Elemental in Wallingford, or buy them at the Virginia Mason Farmers’ Market (noon–4 p.m. every Friday at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, just east of Ninth Avenue on Seneca Street).