There are a lot of people around here who are passionate about meat, from Reid’s longtime butcher to a club that opens your mind (and stomach) to new cuts. This issue, we’re introducing you to the right people, places and dishes to satisfy any craving. Let’s meat!
By Nathan Alderman, Joanna Breault, Shea Gibbs, Erin O’Hare, and Erika Howsare
Meat your match
J.M. Stock’s Meat Club introduces adventurous carnivores to new cuts
By Erin O’Hare
By the end of cookout season, you might feel like you’ve consumed every type of meat there is to be eaten. Hamburgers. Hot dogs. Steaks. Steak tips. Kebabs. Chops. Tacos. Barbecue…sweet, vinegary, saucy barbecue that somehow tastes better when eaten at a picnic table when it’s 95 degrees out.
But join J.M. Stock’s Meat Club and you’ll find out that’s total baloney. Chances are you’re making the same thing over and over again, just in different shapes and sizes.
Meat Club members stop into the West Main Street butcher shop weekly to retrieve a bag of varied meats selected exclusively for the club by expert butchers. There are three different weekly order sizes depending on how many carnivores you’re cooking for ($43, $67, and $89), orders differ week to week, and the butchers will give you cooking ideas and instructions upon pickup.
J.M. Stock’s Ben Moore-Coll says that it’s fun to put together each week’s Meat Club orders, for a number of reasons. Part of the point of meat club is to get people to try cuts of meat that are just as, if not more, tasty than ubiquitous cuts like the New York strip and sirloin steaks. Instead, they’ll wrap up a teres major cut from the shoulder tendon of a cow, which Moore-Coll says is a tender, “crazy flavorful” cut; or merlot steak, a rich, tender and lean calf piece that’s easy to cook (“a unicorn steak,” says Moore-Coll).
The shop has somewhere in the ballpark of 70 different sausage recipes, and the butchers like thinking of all the different ways a customer can cook up their share of chorizo throughout the week—for tacos, in a pot of beans, or with eggs for breakfast. They’ll create custom burger grinds (yep, there’s more than one way to grind meat for burgers, combining different types and amounts of fat and muscle for different flavors and textures).
All of this might raise the stakes (steaks?) of your next cookout or dinner party, and it’s a guarantee that you won’t butcher the menu. But beware: Your guests might grill you on where you got the goods.
Hop on board
According to Daffy Duck, it’s “wabbit season,” and if he’s dining at The Alley Light, he would be correct. Charlottesville’s perennially popular speakeasy/gourmet restaurant is currently serving rabbit rillette, a French classic similar to a pâté in texture and served at room temp. Most commonly made of pork, rillette has been around since the mid-19th century.
In the Alley Light’s version, Rainbow’s End Farm rabbit is slow-cooked with vegetables and aromatics, then further enhanced with chopped olives, oven-dried tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. The rabbit rillette is served in a glass jar on a wooden board along with gingered carrots and ciabatta bread. Guests use a knife to spread the rillette on the ciabatta before eating.
“People have enjoyed the dish, especially if they are familiar with rillettes,” says chef Robin McDaniel. “Sometimes a little explaining is necessary if a guest is unfamiliar with the style of the dish. Rabbit is not found on many menus, so people seem to enjoy trying new dishes.”—JB
Angelo Vangelopoulos, acclaimed chef-owner of The Ivy Inn, has a history with the humble gyro.
“The gyros on our menu are paying homage to my family’s restaurant that I grew up in,” Vangelopoulos says. The elder Vangelopoulos and his coworkers at Ikaros, a late ’70s and early ’80s institution in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown, packed cones of ground lamb and spices to rotate and roast on a mechanical rotisserie. Vangelopoulos’s father “had the machine and his gyro chef ‘Mr. Nick’ in the front window of the restaurant facing M Street,” he says.
At the Ivy Inn, “we serve our gyro as a part of a lamb duet (sometimes a trio) for a playful match with a classically prepared lamb rack, because it’s fun and our customers seem to enjoy it,” Vangelopoulos says.
The Ivy Road restaurant seasons lamb trimmings, grinds them, and bakes in a terrine mold. They’re then chilled, sliced, and crisped to order. “We wrap it in pita bread with tzatziki, Greek feta, tomato, onion, and a red wine vinaigrette.”
The dish takes hours to prepare, but minutes to assemble for hungry diners, who order roughly 80 servings weekly. That’s about 100 pounds of lamb, some from Nelson County’s Double H Farms, and some from New Zealand—around 20 pounds of which go into the gyros.—NA
A specialty slice of meat is not so hard to find
By Shea Gibbs
Reid Super-Save Market, a one-time punchline in craft beer social media circles, is no joke. The low-cost leader, tucked behind the railroad tracks on Preston Avenue, these days has a standout craft beer selection.
But long before the market started trafficking in high end suds, it had established itself as C’ville’s best kept secret for hard-to-find cuts of meat.
Jean Norford has been working behind Reid’s butcher counter for 32 years and managing it for the last four. She says a lot of folks don’t know about her little counter, but those who do come in religiously for the meat they can’t get anywhere else at a price they can afford.
“We carry a lot of stuff that other places don’t,” she says. “We have always been known for the best prices, but within the last few years, we’ve become known for our selection.”
That selection includes beef liver, oxtail, hog maws, pig tails, pig ears, and pig feet, Norford says. She sells up to 60 pounds of offal per week. Ground beef is also popular, going out to consumers and restaurants at an 1,800 pound per week clip, as are pork chops and chicken. Chuck rolls are another big seller; Norford says her shop is the only place that slices the beef thin enough for carne asada.
And that’s not the only cut customers can order the way they want it. Norford says Reid Super-Save has been slicing everything on-site since before it was cool. “It’s time-consuming, but we’ll cut whatever customers want,” she says.
Norford says the younger generation is now coming to her for pricier meat, as well—filet mignon, ribeyes, other bone-in showstoppers cut to order. And that craft beer selection doesn’t hurt. Norford says people will grab their brews on aisle one and then cruise by the meat counter for a special cut of steak.
So just how did Reid Super-Save become a one-stop shop for carnivorous, thirsty hipsters? Only the most hipster way possible. Sometime around 2014, jerks on Facebook started making jokes about hard-to-find craft beer being available at the market. The rare bottles weren’t there at the time, but management was flooded with calls and decided to play along.
“We have an awesome craft beer selection,” Norford says.
Get in m’belly
Lucky for us, pork’s fatty cut is here to stay
Pork belly has been the darling of restaurant kitchens—from gastropubs to bistros to fine dining rooms—for more than a decade now, and the fatty cut doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
“It appeals to a lot of people,” says Parallel 38’s Justin Ross, whose pork belly gyro recently won top prize at the Cured Central Virginia Bacon Festival. “There are just so many things you can do with it—what kind of smoke you use, how you cook it, what you pair it with.”
Take that gyro. Parallel shaves roasted belly thin and pan fries it before layering it on grilled naan with Lebanese yogurt, pickled shallots, cucumber, and arugula. The multi-step preparation yields a pile of meat that’s mostly crisp, but with tender strands tangled throughout.
And that’s not the only place you’ll see pork belly on the Parallel 38 menu; whole chunks of roasted belly are also seared “a la plancha” for texture and served with a cherry gastrique.
Craig Hartman at The Barbeque Exchange agrees that pork belly—”one of the best cuts there is”—thrives on its versatility. At the Exchange, you can take away belly in bulk, in bites, on a platter with sauce and sides, or along with lettuce and tomato for a refined BLT.
Ross says pork belly’s popularity has only been heightened by the current bourbon craze. The smokiness of the barrel-aged spirit, whether sipping it neat or blending it into glazes and garnishes, pairs perfectly with bacon’s more authentic cousin.
And while pork belly might never be a standard in personal kitchens, Ross says it’s perfect for restaurants looking to get the biggest bang for their buck.
“For people at home, pork belly takes up more space, and most people just don’t want to work with it,” he says. “For a restaurant that’s going through it more quickly, you wouldn’t buy just bacon when you can buy the whole side of pig and break down the belly.”—SG
As the weather turns cooler, hearty, comforting fare becomes even more appetizing. Belmont’s The Local has you covered with its short rib plate, slow-cooking locally raised beef with veal stock, red wine, and the classic trio of potatoes, pearl onions, and carrots.
Beef stew traditionally involves boneless chuck, but executive chef Matthew Hart has good reason to stick to his ribs.
“When braising, I prefer to use a bone-in cut when possible,” Hart says. “It provides a little extra insurance against dryness and makes the sauce, which is made from the braising liquid, that much better.”
He prefers Lexington’s Buffalo Creek Beef. The purveyor primarily grass-feeds its cows, but finishes them with a mix of corn silage and spent grain from the nearby Devils Backbone brewery. (This grain is discarded well before the beer-producing fermenting process begins. Buffalo Creek’s cows seem happy, but they’re not that happy.) “However they are raising the cattle,” Hart says, “it has the perfect marbling.”
At roughly a pound per raw rib, bone included, hungry diners go through 120 pounds per week, Hart says. That’s about four cows’ worth of short ribs, according to Buffalo Creek head chef Patrick Flaherty.
What is halal?
Local resources for Muslim diners
By Erika Howsare
Although dietary restrictions are sometimes described as being “religiously” followed—gluten-free, say, or non-GMO—it’s worth remembering that many people adhere to actual religious laws regarding their food. In Charlottesville, observant Muslims have a few options for sourcing halal meat, which is meat that conforms to Islamic law as found in the Qu’ran.
The word halal means permissible, a contrast with haram—forbidden. The laws for halal meat require that the animal be slaughtered with a cut through the jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe; that all blood be drained from the meat; that the animal be alive and healthy before being killed; and that during the process a Muslim will recite a particular prayer.
Serhat Peker, co-owner and chef at Sultan Kebab, says that especially during Ramadan, local Muslim families will come to his restaurant to take advantage of a menu that offers only halal meat. After opening in 2012, he and his partner Gokhan Deniz Dikmen tried to source halal products from local butchers and farms, but found it difficult. “It was hard to get it all the time, and expensive,” Peker says. They now buy halal chicken, lamb, and beef from various suppliers in places like Northern Virginia and New Jersey, where there are larger Muslim communities. (Somewhat surprisingly, Sam’s Club supplies the lamb.)
“It costs more than the regular meat because of the process,” says Peker. “It affects the quality. If you use this, you can see the difference. [With] regular meat it’s a lot of water coming out; it’s so chewy.” Halal meat, he says, is “juicy and tender.”
Afghan Kabob is another local place to order halal dishes. Owner/chef Mirahmad Mirzai, born in Kabul, Afghanistan, cooks up kabob combinations, gyros, curries, and more, and advertises on his website that he serves halal and kosher food. (Most people agree, by the way, that while halal meat does not satisfy the more extensive requirements for kosher food, Muslims will be in compliance with Islamic law if they eat kosher—as long as no alcohol is used in the preparation of the food.)
For home cooking, locals can find what they need at Grand Market, which offers fresh halal meats. Whole Foods sometimes carries kosher meats, and offers a line of halal-certified frozen foods, from Saffron Road. Halal might imply a certain rigor in its production, but the cooking and eating don’t have to be hard.