Oscar Winners Ham it Up with Iowa Prosciutto – Des Moines Register

The Des Moines Register

By Tom Perry

An up-and-coming Iowa food product will take a star turn in this year’s Academy Award spotlight.

La Quercia Rossa prosciutto, an all-natural, sea-salt-cured Italian ham, will be served at Sunday’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Governors Ball, the post-telecast, by-invitation-only bash featuring Oscar winners, nominees, presenters and performers.

Herb Eckhouse of La Quercia LLC, a 2-year-old Norwalk-based company, said Tuesday that     team tasted and then selected the prosciutto, which retails for $24.99 per pound.

The product is made with Iowa-raised Berkshire pork, “which is considered an heirloom breed in the United States,” Eckhouse said.

The pork fell out of favor as the marketplace gravitated increasingly toward leaner pork products “but has made a big comeback in the last 10 years” because it is regarded as more flavorful than most mass-produced pork, he said.

Jennifer Snierson is director of business development on the West Coast for the Chefs Warehouse, Los Angeles-area distributor for Eckhouse products.

“This is huge,” she said of the prosciutto being selected for this event. “This is really a big deal.”

Snierson said her company and West Coast customers are impressed by La Quercia products because of their taste and the fact that they’re all-natural.

“The products are phenomenal,” she said. “No one is doing what Herb is doing.”

Eckhouse said he doesn’t know how Puck’s catering team will serve the prosciutto to the 1,600 guests, which includes “the world’s most weight-conscious people,” as he put it.

“There’s going to be a tapas bar, trays passed with assorted bruschetta. So we’ll fit in there someplace,” he said.

La Quercia’s Prosciutto Americano made its debut at the Downtown Farmers Market in September 2005.

Co-founder of LaQuercia with his wife, Katherine, Eckhouse is a former Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. employee who has lived in Italy.

Reporter Tom Perry can be reached at (515) 284-8224 or tperry@dmreg.com.