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A slice of life at the Brasserie

May 14, 2003|S. Irene Virbila

It's Ferrari red and gleaming, but it's not what you'd think.

"Some people buy exotic cars. I buy a meat slicer," chef Hans Rockenwagner says of his newest acquisition, which stands waist-high, weighs 500 pounds and is the centerpiece of his newly remodeled Santa Monica restaurant, Rockenwagner Restaurant & Brasserie.

Rockenwagner uses the machine to slice smoky Black Forest ham, prosciutto and salami.

The prewar meat slicer's workings are all mechanical. A faceplate with prongs holds the ham or salami in place and, with the silent turn of a wheel that looks as if it belongs on a vintage submarine, the meat glides back and forth across the blade. Silence is bliss.

"This machine has been all over the world," he says. "They've actually gotten to be very rare."

It was manufactured in Holland more than 70 years ago, but Rockenwagner bought it from some guys in Italy who restore vintage meat slicers as lovingly as they might an old Bugatti.

The sliced ham is served on its own or as an accompaniment to steamed white asparagus, which is in season through about the end of June and a specialty of Rockenwagner's.

A pound of the beauteous pale spears with new potatoes and a mustard mayonnaise is $32.50; order a side of that specially sliced Black Forest ham for $8.50 more.

-- S. Irene Virbila

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