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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Better Beef: Certified Angus Beef Brand

We all know what a good steak is when we taste it. But what factors into that perfect bite? The beef experts at Certified Angus Beef brand know exactly what makes the best beef the best.  And they’re spreading their message and their meat to as many retailers and restaurants as they can. 

Their efforts seem to be working, as 95% of consumers recognize their brand on labels and menus, and 84% are willing to pay 10% more for CAB steaks and burgers. Their popularity seems to be growing, too.  There was more than 1 billion pounds of Certified Angus Beef sold last year, for the first time ever.  On average, Certified Angus Beef end meats (from the chuck, round) tend to get $0.50-$1.00/pound over low choice.  Middle meats (rib, strip and tenderloin) can see premiums around $2-3 over choice price.

 
Until recently I had no idea that CAB was headquartered in Wooster. But it’s an incredible resource to restaurants and chefs who are eager to learn more about this high quality meat, how to highlight it, and how many different cuts that can be made restaurant quality, beyond your ribeye and filet.


I was invited along with five local chefs, to spend the day at CAB HQ. We were given the run of their Education and Culinary Center. The day started with a history of the 40 year old non-profit brand, who they are and who they serve.  Owned by the American Angus Association, the brand was born out of the desire to identify the best of angus beef being raised across the country.  Only 3 in 10 angus cattle meet the 10 standards required to be labeled Certified Angus Beef.  The brand deals with ranchers, feeders, packers, chefs, vendors and consumers.  It was amazing to discover just how big the organization is (130 staff members) and to hear about its global reach.


In terms of categories, they have their standard Certified Angus Beef, their Natural option (animals are fed a vegetarian diet, free of hormones and antibiotics) and their Prime options, which only make up 2-5% of the industry. Many have interest and questions about what these cattle are fed.  CAB reps say they work with feeders to ensure that the animals start with grass, then are introduced to corn and carbs, alfalfa and hay.  But most of the CAB influence starts at the packing plant.  Inspectors look for black hides, which are then inspected for safety, chilled then graded.


After our quick study on the organization, it was was time to put the butchers’ coats on and get the knives out.  Meat Scientist, Diana Clark gave us an extensive lesson on the 10 quality specs the sides of beef must meet to get the CAB stamp of approval.

USDA uses the ribeye to evaluate the quality, because it is the most conservative and the most indicative of the rest of the animal. Inspectors check out the marbling and intramuscular fat.  Since CAB reps can’t be present for grading, the only way for them to influence the supply of beef that meets their standards is to work directly with the ranchers to improve product.


So what sets Certified Angus Beef apart? It’s fine marbling, according to Clark. The first three standards deal with consistency of taste. (modest or high marbling, plus medium or fine marbling texture and “A” maturity).   The next three ensure consistency in product (10-16 square inch ribeye area, size of carcass and less than 1 inch fat thickness), and the last four consider appearance (muscling and other aesthetic details).


For the next several hours I watched in awe as Clark broke down a 440 pound side of beef, with ease, and showed 5 male chefs how it’s done. What boy’s club?!!  It was fascinating to see how each cut took shape with every slice, saw or cut she made.  Several of the chefs on site with me were preparing for an event, which brought in a whole cow to be served in its entirety day of.  So it was great to see light bulbs go off and inspiration ignited as they saw how to make restaurant quality dishes with more economical cuts.


When we broke for lunch we were served an incredible meal, prepared by in house chef, Ashley Brenemen. To my surprise, we started the hearty meal with beef charcuterie.  It’s not widely made…but it should be.  Chefs Brett Oliver Sawyer and Mike Schoen couldn’t stop themselves from reaching for seconds, thirds and fourths.  


Next came a dry aged short rib.  Which, admittedly, Chef Breneman said she wouldn’t do again, as it was quite labor intensive and didn’t yield enough to make the process worthwhile in a restaurant.  But for this special occasion, her time was not wasted. Wonderful. 


Next she rolled out bucatini from Flour Pasta Company, a gift from Chef Matt Mytro, and a 65 day dry aged strip steak.  Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to try a dry aged steak.  Why??!!  First impression?  Tender and funky.  But as Chef Matt Mytro put it…it’s the best kind of funk there is. 


It was a crying shame not to finish it, but I was getting full, and a little birdie told me that even in a beef-centric place like CAB HQ, they have a house pastry chef.


After lunch Diana and the chefs put a couple of the new cuts they’d been introduced to (like a culotte, tri tip and the Denver steak from the chuck roll) onto the grill to get an idea of the texture and mouth feel. As if we had any room left!  
We also got a look around the rest of the facility, including the photography studio and the printing room where they can help clients print everything from table ads to menus and other marketing literature. Then there was the last of the animal to break down.  We started talking more about applications and preparation, as Clark gave the chefs and me a few different cuts to experiment with.

I left CAB with so much more knowledge about beef, and what makes their brand superior. I can honestly say I look at menus, meat counters and butcher shops far differently now.

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.

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?