Tomorrow is the big day: the official opening of Caputo's new Old World Butcher Shop.
I stopped by yesterday to chat with Frody Volgger, the man in charge.
You know Frody. He's been a hero of Salt Lake's culinary scene for decades, most recently as chef/owner of Vienna Bistro. Illness forced him to close the beloved Main Street eatery, but now he and Matt Caputo have joined forces to make a joint dream come true.
A dream of meat. The way it used to be: up close and personal.
The Old World Butcher Shop is just a small case in the corner of Caputo's market on Broadway, but look closely: its contents represent a revolution. This is the only meat market in the state stocking exclusively locally sustainably raised meat, cut by hand. Pork from Christiansen Farms. Beef from Pleasant Creek Ranch. Lamb from Snowy Mountain. Frody gets a whole pig every Friday, and whole lambs when he can from Stiig Larsen at Snowy Mountain, and breaks them down himself into steaks, chops and roasts. (Beef comes in in primal cuts.)
But that's not all. Volgger, who grew up with a heritage of German and Italian-style sausage-making, also stocks the case with handmade chorizo, piccante, dolce and a myriad of other fresh sausages. He makes speck, ham, guanciale. He cold smokes and he hot smokes. When he gets something unusual, like lamb's liver, he makes pate. He laments that he can't get pigs' feet so he can make the best gelatin for his headcheese.
He has more ideas for filling the little meat case than it can possibly hold. Fortunately, he has an apprentice because, he says, "Someone else needs to know what I know."
And he's right.
Organic fruits, vegetables and eggs are relatively easy to wrap your head around and backyard farms and gardens are sprouting everywhere. Meat is another, more problematic matter. Americans are generally squeamish about the whole butchering process as it relates to cute little animals (that's why we don't eat more rabbit) and we're used to paying absurdly low prices for animal protein. So meat production has been left to the agribusinesses for the most part. Kind of ridiculous, when Americans eat an enormous amount of meat by world standards, sided with organic vegetables or not.
Here's the thing: you can hardly comparison shop these products. Volgger pays more for his beef per pound than you pay for conventional beef in a regular grocery store, then he cuts it by hand.
Raising animals humanely and sustainably is more expensive. But it's better, for the planet and, actually, the palate. So don't flinch. Adapt your wine philosophy to your protein: eat less, but better meat.
Enough preaching. Start eating.
And read Les Roka's piece about Caputo's butcher shop on Selective Echo.