Butcher Class at Urban Famer

I won’t shop, cook or cut meat quite the same from now on.  I had the pleasure of attending a Butcher Class at Urban Farmer recently.  They went above and beyond to teach, answer questions and arm attendees with the information and know-how they’d need to select the best cuts of meat, and best utilize less popular, yet more economical cuts.  

Head Butcher and Urban Farmer Sous Chef, Vincent Delagrange, lead the class.  He’s been professionally cutting meat since 2011.  He knows his stuff.  He whizzed through the prepared Beef 101 slides, covering the basics, like “What is a steak?” (2″ thick or under with a quick cooking method) and “what makes it tender?” (It’s inversely related to the amount of work a muscle has to during the life of the animal).  Fat is flavor, and the fattier the beef, the beefier the flavor.  This is an equation I can study. 

Here’s what I learned: 

Delagrange also touched on U.S.D.A. grading, explaining that most meat we see in a butcher shop of the meat counter is Prime (highest designation, less than 2% of cattle) or Choice (less marbling, but widely available), occasionally Select (lean and less available, potentially tough).

And then there’s is Wagyu.  It’s the Cadillac of cows, people.  It has a high percentage of marbling which far exceeds that of USDA Prime. Yes, please. And get this: “Kobe” beef isn’t really Kobe beef unless it is from Tajima breed cows raised in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, and you’re eating it in Japan.  They don’t export it.  So all those times you THINK you’ve purchased or been served Kobe beef…you were duped. How about that?!


We did a blind taste teste comparing the Prime cuts they source at the restaurant, versus a Choice cut offered at a large (unnamed) grocery chain.  Not a tough call.  

Delegrange was happy to answer all kinds of questions the group had about shopping for beef too.  Like “What day is best to shop for meat?”  Answer: find out which day of the week your local butcher or grocer gets their shipments.  And that’s the day!  Likely Friday morning is good.  For large chains, Delegrange suggests checking their ads.  The first day sales take effect you’re sure to find the freshest product.  And for markdowns…try Sunday evening, or Monday.  What I was surprised to hear was those markdowns haven’t been sitting there for days…only a couple of hours.  So scoop them up, check the freshness or sell-by date and save!

I learned that you can identify high quality meat by look and touch. There should be exterior fat (remember, fat=flavor!).  Press on the side of that fat.  You’ll want it spongey, or to bounce back, not firm.  And you’re looking for a good balance or ratio of interior or marbelized fat to exterior fat.  


Delegrange also suggests secondary cuts to satisfy your beef craving and your budget.  Swap Ribeye for Chuckeye, Tenderloin for Sirloin and Strip Steak for Coulotte.  The idea is to buy a piece of meat that can be grilled and sliced to serve a larger number of people.  The guy has four kids at home.  I trust his advice!  He also favors the flat iron, tri tip, Babette and ribeye cap.     


The group also got a first hand look at how dry aging is achieved and how animals are broken down at Urban Farmer’s in house butcher shop.  And get a lot of their charcuterie program! Meat me, please! 


We were given a handful of great recipes from Delegrange, plus some helpful handouts to help decider between corn-fed, grass-fed and dry-aged beef for the purposes of shopping and ordering at our favorite restaurants.  And BONUS: there were swag bags with “Beefy” t shirts (which I admittedly had my eye on at the hostess stand) plus some seeds to start our garden this season.  


If you’d like to sign up for one of these comprehensive classes, their next butcher class is Saturday, June 17th from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This one is a showdown between the Carolina’s versus Texas BBQ.  Event details here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/urban-farmer-butcher-class-carolina-versus-texas-bbq-tickets-31904464111?aff=erelpanelorg

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Koji: Bring on the funk

What the funk is Koji?  Delicious, magical mold, according to Gastronomist Jeremy Umansky. It’s sure to be a buzz word in the food world in 2017, thanks to the fungi-obsessed forager.
koji-close-up
He’s been a mad scientist this year experimenting, creating, curing and cooking with the fungus that’s been around for centuries.  But he’s doing things with it that have never been done before.  Upon extensively researching it, Umansky discovered that, historically, growing koji is a laborious process.  However he found methods to turn that traditional process on its head.
koji-on-beef-purge-2
You have likely eaten koji before, but just didn’t know it.  It’s utilized in Chinese and other East Asian cuisines to ferment soybeans and make bean paste.  It’s the same fungus that is responsible for sake, soy sauce and miso.  And it goes through various life phases like other forms of fungi.
Umansky calls his universe “an ever-deepening gastronomic rabbit hole.” With that in mind, it’s no surprise why he thought he needed to try something unconventional.  After a glance around the walk-in at Trentina, Umansky decided to use scallops (something that is usually quick to spoil) as a limit test.  He dusted them with rice flour and grew koji in two days.  Pleased with its fragrant appealing scent, he cooked it up with foraged cherries and loved the outcome.
Umansky said the koji essentially cured to scallops, changing the taste and texture to almost chicken like.  But who was going to eat this experiment?
The culinary team at Trentina used themselves as guinea pigs.  And they liked what they were tasting.  Umansky then progressed to an eye of round in an attempt to cut down dry aged steak process from 30 days to 3.  In his Ted Talk on the subject, Umansky says it was so successful and succulent that they were immediately added it to Trentina’s famed tasting menu, Menu Bianco.
From there, Umansky says he went “Koji Krazy” trying to cut down on the 60 day process of bresaola. He got it down to 10 days.  He used koji to make a casing-less sausage.  And all you GF folks are gonna be pumped about this…he calls Koji fried chicken the most exciting development, replacing the buttermilk, flour, egg and breading process and just coating it in koji.  Mind.Blown.
koji-charcuterie
With these ground breaking developments Umansky is hoping butchers will be able to rapidly age meats (and be able to charge less for it) provide an outlet for food desserts (using off-cuts of meat for charcuterie) to make for shelf stable, nutrient dense proteins for people in those areas.  He says he’d also love to see experimentation with Koji expanded into the farming, and medical industries.
Are you as curious as I am about this?  I have got to smell this, and taste this.  A more in depth look at the process is outlined in a recent article in Cook Science.  But you can hear and learn about it in person, in Umansky’s upcoming lecture series at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Monday, 26 December at 11am & 1:30pm -“An Introduction to Koji: Where It’s Been & Where It’s Going.”  This will cover the evolution of koji from a wild mold to an industrially cultivated organism. Umansky will talk about its gastronomic applications. Koji is a very complex gastronomic tool with many different expressions. He will outline how to grow koji and reference its other expressions. He’ll be giving attendees little packets of spores to take home if they wish to grow their own. 
Tuesday, 27 at 11am & 1:30pm -“Shio Koji: The Cosmic Cure & Amazing Amazake.” This lecture & demonstration will cover Shio koji (salted koji) and amazake (sweet rice koji). He’ll cover traditional uses,  how to make them, use it to cure meat and fish, use it as a seasoning, baking bread, making ice cream, protein incubation, and pickling. And he’ll be premiering samples of a new technique/food that we’re calling Smokeless Fish and the Larder amazake rye bread. 
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 at 11am and 4pm-“Koji Culturing: The New Frontier.” This lecture and demonstration will cover the new techniques he’s developed for using koji as a curing agent and aging accelerant for fresh cuts of meat and charcuterie.  Bonus: he will serve a koji aged pork tenderloin and koji cultured bresaola.
“The fun thing about this lecture, for me, is that I’ll get to serve people foods that have only been enjoyed by a few handfuls people. These are new and exciting foods.” -Jeremy Umansky.  
Note: the photos in this post come from Jeremy Umansky’s Instagram and Facebook accounts where he has been documenting and sharing his adventures in koji for nearly two years.

The Lady Butchers get a home

If you haven’t yet heard of Cleveland’s glamorous “Lady Butchers” let me be the first to e-introduce you.  Penny Barend and Melissa Khoury have been making waves in the form of sausages, in the traditionally male-dominated world.  And these ladies kill it.  They are well-respected, skilled artisans.  And they’re ready to take their business, Saucisson, to the next level.  The pair recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them fund the renovation of their long-awaited brick and mortar shop.  Let’s talk meat!

Cheftovers: For those unfamiliar with your “body of work” tell me about your specialties, and skill sets.

Saucisson: “Penny and I both are classically trained chefs, attending rivaling culinary schools. I am a graduate of Johnson & Wales and she is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. We both traveled the country working in restaurants that had whole animal butchery programs, allowing us the opportunity to hone our skills and develop our passion for butchery and charcuterie. Our product line is all made of locally raised animals from small family farms. We don’t add any nitrates or preservatives and are very transparent in our labeling, telling you literally everything that is in the charcuterie items we make. The flavor profiles that we typically stick with are very Mediterranean and we are constantly testing new recipes. We choose to make things you are more likely to find in a restaurant, but because we are Chefs we can help the average home cook come up with a fun new recipe with our products.”

saucisson logo

Cheftovers: Where have you been selling your product and where can people find it this summer?

Saucisson: “We have been selling at local farmers markets and to a few local restaurants since we began.  Please check our website calendar for pop up events and farmers markets.”

Cheftovers: Why make the move to open a brick and mortar place?

Saucisson: “We finally made the leap on a brick and mortar for several reasons, most importantly to change our licensing with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, from Division of Food Safety to Division of Meat. This will allow us to expand our wholesale business, without limitation from the State. The space will also be a lot larger than any of our previous temporary homes, allowing us to increase production. We also need to have a home base for our retail reach, it has been a huge challenge over the past 2 and a half years when explaining our business to new customers. Most people don’t understand how we can be butchers without a butcher shop.”

Cheftovers: Why launch a Kickstarter campaign and what are the challenges associated with that?

Saucisson: “Deciding to do a Kickstarter was a challenge in itself, because it is difficult for both of us to ask people for money. Running the campaign is a full-time job, on top of our already packed schedules. We asked our current regular customer base if they would be interested in pledging to a Kickstarter if we launched a campaign. The resounding answer was Yes! We have a very loyal group of customers, knowing that they would be behind us helping fill the gap in funding was a huge push to actually getting the campaign up and running. The first day we launched the response was huge, we are very grateful for everyone’s interest in pledging and reposting about our Kickstarter on social media.”

saucisson space

 

Cheftovers: Why the Fleet neighborhood and this particular space?

Saucisson: “It was really important for us to find a neighborhood we could be a part of, one that needs some rejuvenation. One that wasn’t over saturated and provided us with easy access to the highway for restaurant deliveries. It’s a very romantic idea for us that we are taking over a space that used to be a butcher shop. The neighborhood was once filled with butcher shops. Slavic Village is a neighborhood that so many Clevelanders have fond memories of, it’s a place so many people want to see come back. Also the City is in the process of finishing a $9 million streetscape. It will be the first certified Green Street in the City of Cleveland, with lots of green space to act as sponges to pull water from Lake Erie.”

saucisson rendering

Cheftovers: What needs to be done to the space?

Saucisson: “Unfortunately over the last 10 years it operated as a transient retail space so upkeep was minimal. We are basically building out a full meat cutting facility equipped with a full commercial kitchen and a small retail front. Power had to be beefed up, bathrooms needed to be brought to code, and quite a bit of wallpaper has to come down. The hardwood floors have to be refinished. Obviously quite a bit of equipment has to be purchased including a very large exhaust hood.”

Cheftovers: Besides your choice cuts of meat, what else will you prepare and sell in the space?

Saucisson: “We have a full line of sausages, lunch meats, and all the charcuterie items we currently produce. We try to stay seasonal with our offerings which will be available on a rotation. We will also offer soups, stocks, sandwiches & charcuterie boards. We will work into fresh cuts as well. Eventually we want to add sausage making equipment and different casings for sale for the home sausage maker. Finding these things is quite a challenge in smaller amounts for the home charcuterie enthusiast.”

Cheftovers: What other plans do you have?

Saucisson: Our plan is to keep that space as active as possible. Classes for adults & children, workshops, wine tastings, beer tastings, pop up dinners, and community cookouts.

saucisson incentives

Source: Facebook

As of the publishing date for this post, with 24 days left in their Kickstarter campaign, The Lady Butchers were nearly 50% funded by 124 backers.  If you’d like to contribute to their cause, they’re offering a variety of incentives, including lower level rewards like t-shirts and bumper stickers, and larger ones, like several pounds of sausage and even charcuterie items and a meat of the month club.  The project won’t be funded unless $25,000 is pledged by May 1, 2016.  Click here to support them.

Ohio City Provisions: a new, and true Farm to Fork concept

The term “Rise and Shine” was made for people like Trevor Clatterbuck and Adam Lambert.  They have been getting up before sunrise for months, working long hours readying their new project.  And it’s pretty exciting.  Both are heavy weights in Cleveland’s local food scene independently, (Trevor is the man behind Fresh Fork Market, a very popular CSA business (community supported agriculture) in Cleveland.  Adam is a well-established local chef, who’s logged hours in the kitchens of Bar Cento, and The Black Pig, to name just a couple) but together they’re doing something that isn’t being done anywhere else in town.

OCP Rise and Shine

The plans are to open up a market and butcher shop in the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, near St. Ignatius High School.  The two plan to grow or raise everything they’ll sell there.  Fans of Fresh Fork will find all the good quality produce they’re used to (sourced from farms within 75-100 miles of Cleveland, organic when possible, and picked at the peak of freshness).

OCP produce

But what’s new, innovative and mouth-watering…is what they’re doing with hogs.  The pair have been experimenting with animal husbandry and feed to develop meat that you can’t get anywhere else in the state.

OCP hogs

I got a tour of the property in Holmes County where they have about 150 hogs on site.  Mangalitsa, Berkshire, Mulefoot, Red Wattle…all new vocabulary to me.  But what they have planned is not…charcuterie.  Yes, please!

OCP jen and a hog

They’ve got a supply chain in place, thanks to their “adventures in hog sourcing.”  The details of which the pair chuckle about, but don’t care to share.  After all, learning about heritage breeds is new territory for them too.  Clatterbuck has a background in business and political science.  Lambert is a self-taught chef.  But the two both seem right at home on the 200 acre property where they plan to get a lot of their product.

OCP Wholesome Valley Farm

They’re promising the best pork in the state.  The red wattles are said to be more tender.  The mangalitsas, used for things like Jamon Iberico.

OCP mangalitsa

What takes time, but will be worth the wait, I’m told…is controlling the product…all of it…from start to finish.  They are playing with breeds and what they feed the animals to get optimal product.  These hogs are given specific ratios of barley and grass from the fields.  Lambert says they have marbled loins, and even appear more red than pink when you cut into them.

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Red Wattle Pig at Wholesome Valley Farm in Holmes County, Ohio

Plus, they’re also raising other animals.  They have laying chickens, meat birds and heritage birds, whose pens and coops are moved weekly to insure exposure to fresh grass and soil for them to feed on, not to mention fresh air.

OCP mobile coop

They’re also working on ways to make heritage poultry more affordable. (which currently takes 18 wks.)

OCP heritage birds

The Hereford beef they are raising will be grass-fed, sustainable and have better flavor, according to Clatterbuck.  Those with smaller frames, he says, are easier to finish without incorporating high energy corn and grain.  Their plans also include growing non-GMO (and eventually, organic) corn and soy beans on site so the animals can feed off that.

OCP beef

There is so much in the works it’ll make your head spin.  The infrastructure is already in place for maple syrup production.  There are hives on site, for bees to pollinate the produce and generate honey.

OCP maple syrup infrastructure

They have secured their cannery, bakery, frozen foods and ferments permits.  OCP has acquired heavy machinery like bean snippers and corn huskers to handle the volume when fresh produce “comes in like a hurricane,” as Clatturbuck says.

OCP canned goods

When the store is up and running you can expect incredible products.  Believe me, I’ve had some of Chef Lambert’s charcuterie and it is unbelievable.  A true art.  But he’s even upped his game.  Clatterbuck and Lambert are fresh off a 2 day charcuterie workshop in Gascony, France.

forage with strangers charcuterie

And since it costs more (time and money) to raise these kinds of hogs, you can bet they won’t be selling them as pork chops.  You’ll see smoked and cured meats, specialty sausage and charcuterie.

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Rendering of the Ohio City Provisions storefront

Clatterbuck and Lambert are aiming to open Ohio City Provisions in January.  Can’t wait to see what will fill their cases, and the bellies of Clevelanders once they open their doors.

Forage with Strangers

I had the distinct honor of attending (in all honesty, crashing) a truly spectacular event, the inaugural “Forage with Strangers.”  It brought together influencers, connectors and innovators in Cleveland.  And we strangers bonded over a universal language: GOOD FOOD.

Let’s start with a little “behind the scenes” insight to how I came to be a part of this experience.  Over the course of the last year, I have been trying to immerse myself in the local culinary scene.  I’ve come to know some incredible people and eaten some spectacular food.  Social networking, no doubt, is a huge component of this.  So on Monday night, I started to see posts on Facebook and Twitter about this “Forage with Strangers” concept.  I was intrigued.  Being the intrepid reporter that I am, I started making some inquires.  And by mid afternoon, I was invited to join in.

I love people in the food world.  They just want everyone to have a good time and be well fed. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a microphone, or a a blog.  But I sincerely appreciated the willingness to include me in such a cool and intimate experience.

Here’s what the day was all about:  A creative thinker from The Adcom Group teamed up with Kalman & Pabst Photo Group to orchestrate a networking event connecting local food brand reps, with local farmers and producers.  The idea was to drum up business for everyone involved.  But for as long as I was around, no one mentioned dollars and cents.  Everyone was just talking about food and ideas.  So refreshing and so delicious.  Yet still so productive…and in the end, probably profitable.

The group started the event with a five course “pre-foraging” meal dreamed up by Dante Bocuzzi.  In my year as my station’s designated “food reporter” his name has come up more than anyone’s in the city as the guy you’ve got to work with, and whose food you have to eat.

forage with strangers van

The next morning, the group ventured out in a van to half a dozen locations to “forage” for ingredients that would be used for a catered feast that night.

forage with strangers bounty

Photos Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

The 150 mile trek included Yellow House CheeseRittman OrchardsSpice AcresTrapp Family FarmOhio City Farm and Heinen’s.  The group gathered gorgeous fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, artisan cheeses and savory proteins.  In all, 40 bags were hauled back to the host site of the “Forage with Strangers” dinner.

forage with strangers happy hour

When I joined the party it was already time for happy hour.  Chef Bocuzzi and Chef Douglas Katz of Fire Food & Drink worked feverishly with a team of helpers to turn the day’s haul into tonight’s feast.

forage with strangers chefs working

Beer Master Sam McNulty of Bier MarktBar CentoMarket Garden Brewery and Nano Brew among the participants…as was Chef Adam Lambert, of The Black Pig and the upcoming Ohio City Provisions (a partnership with Fresh Fork Market).

forage with strangers table

The space was fantastic…full of natural light, props, and working kitchens for the commercial photographers at Kalman & Pabst to work their magic.

Forage with strangers cheese tray

We started with an impressive array of cheeses from Yellow House and Mackenzie Creamery and a charcuterie display to die for, courtesy of Chef Lambert.  I couldn’t stop myself from seconds and thirds of his chicken liver parfait, topped with Guernsey butter (from his own cows, and flavored with thyme and orange zest)

forage with strangers charcuterie

Wine was poured and conversation flowed among movers and shakers in the food world. I was eager to devour the details, and jealous that I missed all the foraging.

 forage with strangers diners

The inviting communal table set for 30 was soon filled with an incredible bounty.  Everything brought out family style, as you might imagine large farmers’ families do.  Even though the table stretched the length of the large space, there was barely enough room to set all the large platters full of farm fresh food.

tempura fried heirloom tomatoesforage with strangers walleye

Tempura fried heirloom tomatoes and Lake Erie Walleye with miso and radishes.

roaste beet-plum-goat cheese-salad  corn tomoato and cucumber salad

Plum and roasted beet salad with goat cheese.  Corn, cucumber and tomato salad.

Chef Doug Katzforage with strangers roasted chicken

Buttermilk fried chicken livers and Harissa roasted chickens by Chef Katz.  Plus hand made gnocchi ratatouille from the pasta master himself, Chef Dante.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

Photo Courtesy Cristina Carosielli, Orlando Baking Co.

We ate and talked and shared ideas, and ate and listened and shared seconds, and ate and laughed and shared inspirations.  The meal ended with everyone reflecting on their favorite part of the day.

forage with strangers dessert

There was dessert…oh yes, there was dessert.  Dante made an apple tarte tatin, and Doug crafted a couple of spectacular ice creams with fresh fruit toppings.

I left the dinner table buzzing with ideas and tingling with inspiration.  There are immensely talented people in my city who believe they can change their world and yours with food and shared experiences.  I want in.  How about you?