Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cleaver & Co.

My dream store has opened... and it's a butcher shop.

I first met the folks behind Cleaver & Co., Simone Reggie and and Seth Hamstead, during the Eat Local event at the Zeitgeist Center back in June. They had all sorts of pork cuts and we talked a while about what they were planning to do- find and build relationship with local, small meat farmers, get whole cows and pigs, and break them down inhouse and sell everything, nose to tail. I can't remember if they already had their location on Baronne Street finalized (right around the corner from Brewstock) at that time, but I was already in love with this idea and hoped like hell it wouldn't be derailed from lack of capital or bureaucracy or whatever roadblocks exist to stomp the dreams of budding entrepreneurs these days.

Five months later, their shop opened, and we were there! There were long strips of butcher's paper hung on the wall with masking tape, listing the cuts available, with a strikethrough when sold out. Simone recognized us from our conversation at the Zeitgeist and Seth was friendly and incredibly helpful, traits that have continued every single time we see him.

We bought some chicken thighs and a pork shoulder, to be roasted and braised in the slow cooker, respectively. They weren't cheap, but it's good to have the opportunity to pay the true cost of the meat, not factory farmed meat subsidized by the government and wreaking havoc on the environment. It means we cook and eat less meat at home, but I think it's worth it.

They started making sausage, boudin, meatballs, meat pies, and bacon. Plus a bunch of other stuff. We went back a second time and got some hangar steak, duck legs, and garlic sausage. We used the duck legs and sausage to make cassoulet. We also put a deposit down on a heritage turkey for a Thanksgiving, which we just picked up the other day (along with more chicken thighs, more garlic sausage, meatballs, meat pies, and a gorgeous NY strip steak.) We asked if they could butterfly the turkey, and they said, "well, let's find out!" It took some doing with poultry shears and a cleaver, but the butcher got it done with good humor and professionalism (I don't know if you've ever tried to butterfly a turkey in a home kitchen, but I can assure you it is Not Fun.)

Our NY strip, right off the grill.

What I like about Cleaver & Co is not just the high quality of their locally raised meats and friendly service. It's also the fact that you can go in there and just talk about meat and food and all the stuff that makes the world an awesome place. It's not quick; everything's cut to order. But you stop your rushing around and watch the butchers ply their highly skilled trade and think about the various cuts of the various animals, and talk to Seth and Simone about their hopes and dreams, what they want to do with their shop, in their community. Somehow it all adds up to amazing meat that I'm proud to eat. Hey, that rhymes!

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