Here’s a link to an article that features ramp hunting with Allan Benton:
The NYT seems to have liberalized their pay wall policies recently, but if this link doesn’t work, you could try Googling the article yourself.
His store is about two hours from Blue Ridge, between Madisonville and Vonore. Given his reputation with the celebrity chefs, you might expect an fancy, high-end establishment. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is that the facility is extremely functional. They do retail, however, from a small counter up front. Everybody loves their bacon, and if you are into country hams, his are among the best. As the article notes, he’s attained some celebrity for his “heritage-breed hind quarters aged for two years and longer, until the meat’s depth of flavor is comparable to jamón Ibérico and prosciutto.”
It’s been a while, but I’ve done some business with him in the past. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and extremely down to earth. He’s also said to have an outstanding palate, at least by John T. Edge, who took him to Spain to talk to his counterparts there and wrote it up for Garden & Gun.
He once spent about 20 minutes on the phone with me to make sure I was making his country ham slice with coffee recipe the way he wanted. Interestingly, given that it’s his main product, he told me he didn’t like whole country ham cooked in the oven – “I really don’t like it that way” – which was what I called to ask him a question about. He talked me out of it. He ended that call by saying, “I’m really glad you called.”
One day when I was buying Boston butts from him, explained that he felt Midwest pork was far superior to Virginia pork. As someone who has lived in Indiana in years past, I certainly agree with him.
You might take a drive up there one day, if you are interested in his products. You’d take Hwy 68 to Madisonville, and then go east toward Vonore. You could come back by way of the Tail of the Dragon to Robbinsville, and perhaps stop at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, just northwest of Robbinsville. From there, you could take the Cherohala Skyway back to Highway 68.