By Lorrie Baumann
A colleague of mine at Oser Communications Group has asked me to review a recipe for Pasta with Jam Sauce concocted by Mr. West Collins and demonstrated in a YouTube video that can be seen at http://youtu.be/90tZUltzRBc. She asked me to respond to the video as a professional writer on matters of culinaria, based on my experience as editorial director of Gourmet News, the business newspaper of the specialty food industry, and Kitchenware News & Housewares Review magazine, as part of her participation in GISHWHES as a member of Team CommorientLoves6RMartial Arts.
Collins’ recipe calls for canned pasta sauce, carrot juice, Goldfish crackers and a whole apple with several bites out of it, which of course does not adhere to our traditional notions of how to make a great pasta sauce. It must be said, though, that there are certainly more recipes for pasta sauce out there than there have ever been pasta cooks to concoct them, so we must not accept without question the notion that Collins’ recipe is entirely new to the world.
We recreated the recipe in our editorial office with Hunt’s all-natural tomato sauce, which does not include added sugar; Polaner strawberry spreadable fruit, which is sweetened only with fruit juice; Bolthouse Farms carrot juice; Pepperidge Farm’s Baked Goldfish crackers, flavor blasted with “Xplosive Pizza + Parmesan” for a little bit of Italian flavoring; and a Red Delicious apple, which was removed when the pasta was served on elbow macaroni from a carton of Kraft macaroni and cheese.
The results admittedly fall short of our expectations for a fine Italian pasta sauce, due primarily to the ingredient choices, which could have been improved. However, ingredients are just one element in a successful culinary experience. Other necessary elements include technique and tools. Collins’ video demonstrates that he had available to him the essential tools of a modern American home kitchen, although it is also apparent that his technique with them is not expert. Clearly, that will benefit from future experiments in the kitchen and additional instruction from a knowledgeable cook with more culinary experience than he.
With quality ingredients, adequate tools and a firm grasp of basic technique, any cook can put an edible meal on the table. But putting an exceptional meal on the table calls for something else: the creativity born of imagination and a willingness to experiment. And that, Collins brings in abundance.
That being the case, the actual taste of the dish that results from Collins’ recipe is almost irrelevant. In any case, the sauce made from his recipe is not all that different from a nationally distributed brand that has certainly turned a profit over the years. What Collins is really serving up here, along with his Pasta with Jam Sauce, is fun. That the adults around him encouraged his experiment fostered his creativity and culinary courage. That they recorded it and shared it with us allows us also to have a taste of the fun.
However, if you are looking for your own opportunity to cook up a playful take on an Italian classic, I would suggest some experiments with the Maple Bacon Aioli recently released by Stonewall Kitchen, a premium product that you’ll find in a specialty grocery or gourmet store. Stonewall Kitchen sent me a couple of jars to sample and review, and I recently tried it out as a pizza sauce with good results. I used a prepared pizza crust from Trader Joe’s, rolled it out and spread it with the aioli, then topped it with chopped roast chicken and mozzarella cheese and baked it. Delicious!
On July 18, 2014, MauiGrown Coffee reaffirmed its coveted place in the coffee world by capturing first place for its Maui Mokka® – Natural at Hawaii Coffee Association’s 6th Statewide Coffee Cupping Competition held in Kealakekua on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The 2014 field included 77 total entries. The Commercial Division included 22 entries, 12 of which came from the District of Maui. In the Commercial Division, MauiGrown Coffee’s Maui Mokka – Natural and Aloha Hills Kona Coffee tied for first place with a score of 87.3 out of 100. MauiGrown Coffee also took second place in the Maui District Division for Maui Mokka – Natural.
According to the Maui Coffee Association’s 2014 Cupping Committee, the quality of coffees entered in this year’s competition was of the highest level, and they commended the winners for being an accomplished group of farmers who raise great Hawaiian coffee.
“Great coffee doesn’t just happen,” said Kimo Falconer, President of MauiGrown Coffee. “It takes a dedicated team of farm workers to produce award-winning coffee, and I couldn’t be prouder of our Maui Mokka team.”
The Maui Mokka variety of coffee originated in Yemen and was planted on the Kaanapali Estate by Pioneer Mill 25 years ago. Today, it is one of four exceptional coffee varietals grown and harvested in West Maui.
Maui Mokka’s small, roundish chubby beans produce a cup delightfully fused with a range of subtle chocolate flavors. During this year’s cupping competition, judges described the Maui Mokka varietal as “a winey, sparkly coffee with good acidity, nice body and hints of a fruit and nut bar. It has notes of boysenberry and blackberry and tones of cocoa and bittersweet chocolate and finishes like a good port and a cigar.”
According to Falconer, the soil and nutrition, the water cycle and the sun are just part of the process of producing a sweet coffee cherry.
“We allow the coffee cherries to stay on the tree until they turn purple which produces the maximum amount of sugars concentrated into the fruit,” said Falconer. “After harvesting we let the coffee age for almost six months in the coffee pulp to bring out the various fruit flavors. The coffee bean is then milled, bagged and sent off to our customers worldwide.”
“Roasting is also critical to bringing out the maximum flavor of the coffee,” said Jeff Ferguson, Co-owner and Manager of the MauiGrown Coffee Company Store. “We invite the public to taste the fruits of our labor at our store in Lahaina. We offer a medium roast and a dark roast to please all palates.”
For information, visit www.MauiGrownGreenCoffee.com or contact Kimo Falconer at email@example.com or 808-357-1204. The MauiGrown Coffee Company Store is located at 277 Lahainaluna Road in Lahaina, Maui adjacent to the historic Pioneer Mill smokestack, call 808-661-2728 or visit www.MauiGrownCoffee.com for information and/or store hours or to order online.
JBS USA has launched SwiftBeef.com, an interactive website highlighting Swift’s history of excellence while serving as a resource for retail and foodservice operators, as well as an easy-to-use source of information for today’s discerning consumer.
“SwiftBeef.com is an influential source of knowledge, from product information to recipes,” said John Flynn, JBS USA Beef Sales and Marketing team lead. “It is essential that our customers are able to easily navigate brand information and selling tools that can help strengthen their operations.”
Consumers are increasingly inquisitive about their food purchases and beef is no exception. The Swift website provides information about how the Swift brand first developed, and details the brand’s history of excellence since 1855. From boxed beef to value-added items, the Swift website presents the brand’s comprehensive product offering, which has strengthened through the years to accommodate the needs of customers. SwiftBeef.com also serves as a resource for delicious and convenient meals with its user-friendly recipe page.
“Research shows that consumers want more information about how to select or prepare beef and that they rely heavily on digital resources for guidance,” said Alexandria Tyre, Marketing Manager at JBS USA. “In addition to appetizing recipes, SwiftBeef.com features frequently asked questions, covering topics from cooking temperatures to where specific beef cuts come from.”
SwiftBeef.com gives consumers easy access to the information they desire and creates an open doorway of connectivity. The website is compatible with all portable devices, making it a convenient resource for retail and foodservice customers, as well as consumers who want to access the site on-the-go.
Swift Beef is a product of JBS USA, an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of JBS S.A., the world’s leading animal protein processor. JBS USA is a leading processor of beef, pork and lamb in the U.S., a leading processor of beef in Canada and a leading processor of beef and lamb in Australia. JBS USA processes, prepares, packages and delivers fresh, further-processed and value-added beef and pork products for sale to customers in more than 100 countries on five continents. JBS USA is also a majority shareholder of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the second largest poultry company in the U.S. For more information, visit www.jbssa.com.
Jarlsberg® Cheese, a nationally recognized premium quality brand, is now in a mini snack size. Available in a 30 count UPC barcode for individual sale—in a display ready case for immediate placement in the refrigerated case—Jarlsberg Cheese Minis offer convenience stores, drugstores, retail, institutional and hospitality foodservice channels profit opportunity that taps directly into current consumer demand for all-natural and fresh, ready-to-eat formats of favorite brands.
Each 20g portion-sized Jarlsberg Cheese Mini is just 70 calories and a good source of calcium and protein. Dipped in wax and wrapped in cellophane to replicate the popular Jarlsberg wheel, it’s mild, mellow and nutty flavor makes it a delicious grab-and-go alternative choice to sugary snacks. Jarlsberg Cheese Minis are also available in a 50 count bulk case, with or without UPC, offering a wide range of foodservice channel applications.
For more information, contact Deborah Seife, General Manager – Marketing,firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emmi Roth USA received four awards at the 2014 American Cheese Society Competition in Sacramento, California, including a first place award for its GranQueso® Original in the Hispanic & Portuguese Style Ripened Cheese category.
GranQueso, a Roth® Original inspired by the cheeses of Spain, is cellar aged for six to eight months to create a distinctive bite and sweet finish with hints of citrus, spice and hazelnut. This award is the 11th consecutive award for this cheese in the category. Earlier this year, GranQueso was also awarded Best of Class in the Hard Hispanic Cheese category at the World Championship Cheese Contest.
Roth GranQueso Reserve took second place in the Hispanic & Portuguese Style Ripened Cheese category, continuing Emmi Roth USA’s tradition of success with this style of cheese. GranQueso Reserve, which is carefully cured for more than 15 months, bears a dense texture and sweet flavors of candied pineapple and browned butter. It was also awarded second place in the Hard Hispanic Cheese category at this year’s World Championship Cheese Contest.
Additional Emmi Roth USA award winners included Roth’s Private Reserve, which placed third in the Washed Rind Cow’s Milk Cheese category, and Roth Rofumo®, which received third place in the Smoked Cow’s Milk Cheese category.
“We are proud to be part of the growing and thriving American cheese industry,” said Linda Duwve, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Emmi Roth USA. “Our team is dedicated and passionate about crafting and curing outstanding, high-quality products and wins like these help showcase everyone’s hard work. Our congratulations go out to all of the award winners.”
This year, 248 companies entered 1,685 different products in the competition. A full list of award winners is available online.
Vanda Asapahu, founder of Ayara Thai Sauces, is the winner of the Specialty Food Association’s second annual advertising contest for specialty food professionals to tell a compelling story about their passion for specialty food.
Asapahu’s story was selected from 142 inspiring entries about family businesses, culinary breakthroughs, childhood memories, career changes, and more. The prize is a professional ad that will be part of the Association’s national advertising and marketing campaign. The ad will be featured in leading specialty food trade magazines, online, and at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. The show takes place Jan. 11-13, 2015.
More than 12,000 votes were cast in the not-for-profit trade association’s second annual “My Story, My Ad” contest. The 10 entries with the most votes went on to a final round of judging by a panel of advertising and specialty food professionals. The contest was open to members of the Specialty Food Association.
Ayara Thai Sauces was born out of requests from loyal fans of Asapahu’s family-owned restaurant, Ayara Thai Cuisine in Los Angeles, for takeout containers of its distinctive sauces. This company’s Ayara Thai Peanut Sauce was a finalist in the Specialty Food Association’s sofi™ Awards contest for the outstanding products of 2014.
“As our restaurant grew, visitors came to love not only the food we prepared, but also the sauces served with them,” says Asapahu. She adds that customers would return with “amazing stories of how they creatively used our sauces to impress their friends and share in the joy of cooking.”
The contest also included a People’s Choice Winner, based on a popular vote. The trio of women behind Simply Panache, maker of Mango Mango mango preserves, emerged as winners. They are Tanecia Willis, Lakesha Brown-Renfro, a military spouse, and Nzinga Teule-Hekima, a family physician. The company is based in Hampton, Virginia. The prize is an iPad.
For the winning entries, click here.
The contest spotlights the Association’s brand for the industry, “Specialty Food. Craft. Care. Joy.” It is designed to highlight the people behind the small businesses that fuel the $88.3 billion specialty food industry and the innovative foods and beverages they create and bring to market.
“This year’s entries showed how much passion and care our members bring to their work,” says Association President Ann Daw.
The panel of judges included Katherine Alford, Senior Vice President, Culinary Productions, Food Network; Tom Cook, Executive Creative Director, York & Chapel; Tracy Nieporent, Partner and Director of Marketing, Myriad Restaurant Group; Beth Snyder Bulik, freelance writer for Advertising Age; and Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food Media.
“We are extremely excited to launch our new organic product line,” said Jim Gordon, President and CEO of Robert Rothschild Farm. “During our extensive research, we determined that great-tasting organic sauces are challenging to find. Consumers are seeking healthy choices, and we felt compelled to create outstanding sauces with on-trend flavors. Our sauces are an easy way to add distinct flavor to organic proteins or vegetables.”
The Robert Rothschild Farm product line now includes several new organic sauces, including Blueberry Balsamic Sauce, Citrus Chardonnay Sauce, Pineapple Habanero BBQ Sauce, Sriracha Teriyaki Sauce, Whiskey Pepper Cream Sauce and White Wine Creole Sauce.
In Robert Rothschild Farm’s Blueberry Balsamic Sauce, sweet blueberries are complemented by balsamic vinegar with flavorful notes from shallots, basil and black pepper. The organic Citrus Chardonnay Sauce pairs fennel with the sweetness of honey and bursts of flavor from oranges and chardonnay. The popular Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Dip inspired the company’s organic Pineapple Habanero BBQ Sauce. Sweet pineapples, honey, spicy habanero peppers and ginger make this sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. Classic teriyaki sauce with sriracha and a hint of orange are blended to create the company’s new organic Sriracha Teriyaki Sauce. The company’s organic Whiskey Pepper Cream Sauce has a medley of flavors, including Dijon mustard, rich cream, garlic and black pepper – all accented by a touch of whiskey and white miso to create a creamy sauce with a kick of heat. Finally, the organic White Wine Creole Sauce is started with a spicy tomato base, adding a splash of white wine to the classic trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions to create a Southern-inspired sauce.
All of Robert Rothschild Farm’s new sauces are packaged in bottles that resemble old-timey milk bottles for a retro look that underscores the tradition behind them.
Chef Steve Constantine showcased the company’s new Citrus Chardonnay Sauce during the Summer Fancy Food Show by incorporating it into a citrus slaw that he used to top shrimp tacos. The tacos were served to an eager crowd at the Robert Rothschild Farm booth.
Robert Rothschild Farm is also reintroducing its Raspberry Thunder Sauce, back by popular demand. “Our consumers continually asked if we could make the Raspberry Thunder Sauce,” said Jim Gordon. “We listened to our consumers and are relaunching the spicy hot sauce with a new look but the same great taste.”
You may feel like you have stepped back in time when you park your car next to a horse and buggy and step into a store that offers many of the same foods that your great-grandparents might have purchased, but that is the experience visitors have when they step into Walnut Creek Cheese, a unique fresh food market tucked away in the idyllic landscape of Central Ohio’s Amish country. Catering to the area’s abundant Amish and Mennonite communities, Walnut Creek Cheese has become a destination retail store for those looking to taste a little bit of the simple life.
Walnut Creek Cheese was founded in 1977 by 21-year-old entrepreneur (and current company President) Mark Coblentz. The company had decidedly humble beginnings as little more than a pickup truck from which Coblentz dispensed deli meats and cheeses to no more than 60 clients on his delivery route. Over time, however, Coblentz managed to grow the business, eventually building a warehouse, as well as the Walnut Creek Cheese retail store itself in 1984. Today, Walnut Creek Cheese operates two stores, the original location in Walnut Creek and a newer store in nearby Berlin, as well as a 60,000-square-foot wholesale distribution center. The company currently employs 220 associates.
Today, the original Walnut Creek Cheese is an Ohio institution, a store that operates both as a destination retail experience and an everyday grocery store to those in the local community. The 55,000-square-foot store offers bakery items, whole foods, meats, cheeses, canned goods, bulk foods, kitchenwares, home décor items and more. In terms of population, Ohio’s Holmes County (where Walnut Creek is located) is home to the single largest Amish population in the world, and as such, Walnut Creek Cheese has made it its business to cater to this particular clientele. However, in serving the Amish and Mennonite communities, the store has developed a unique identity with broad appeal among food-conscious shoppers more generally.
“Our philosophy is that we take care of our local customers first. Everything we do is centered on our local customers, and we do have a large customer base here that are Amish or Mennonite,” said Jeff Conn, Marketing Director for Walnut Creek Cheese. “Our philosophy is if we take care of our local customer, others are going to benefit from that as well.” Walnut Creek Cheese has developed its loyal consumer following in part because of its extensive selection of Amish-made delicacies. For those looking for a taste of Amish cuisine, there is perhaps no better place to shop than Walnut Creek.
“Pretty much everything we manufacture is considered a homemade Amish-manufactured product – all of our jams and jellies, homestyle old fashioned fudge, pickles, all of our baked goods (including) cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, bread, cupcakes, and ice cream,” said Conn. “The majority of the meats and cheeses are manufactured locally [as well].”
According to Conn, tourists travel hours from Cleveland, Pittsburgh and even further afield to visit Walnut Creek Cheese and partake in its singular product selection. For those who do not have the ability to make the trip to Amish Country, the company distributes its meats, cheeses and other branded products throughout the eastern United States, from Illinois to the Carolinas. In addition, online shoppers can have Walnut Creek products shipped nationwide.
The team at Walnut Creek Cheese organizes promotions and in-store events throughout the year to bring new customers in and delight existing ones. From in-store events with door prizes and giveaways to weekend product sampling, there is always something going on at Walnut Creek. The store’s test kitchen is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, cooking up Walnut Creek products and sharing the recipes with shoppers. And the in-store Mudd Valley Café & Creamery serves house-made frozen custards, sandwiches, wraps, salads and more.
One particularly special way that Walnut Creek Cheese chooses to reach out to its customers is with its weekly ad. Unlike most retailers’ ads, which include little more than store specials for the week, Walnut Creek emails its ad subscribers a selection of seasonal, often Amish-inspired recipes that can be made from the store’s products. A recent ad featured recipes for easy summertime treats, including homemade frozen pops, fresh fruit milkshakes and “Like Wendy’s Frosties.”
“We want to provide something to customers that is of value,” said Conn. “[With the recipes,] we want to match the promotions that we’re running in store.” Although perhaps best known for its private label cheeses and deli meats, Walnut Creek Cheese prides itself on being a go-to store, fulfilling all the shopping needs of its customers. Planning to entertain friends and family at a summer barbecue? Stop into Walnut Creek to pick up everything you will need – all without leaving the store. According to Conn, the team at Walnut Creek proudly proclaims, “We have everything from the dinner to the dinner bell!” The original Walnut Creek Cheese is located at 2641 State Route 39 in Walnut Creek, Ohio.
For more information, call 877.852.2888, or email email@example.com. Visit the company’s website www.walnutcreekcheese.com to subscribe to the company’s weekly ad.
By Lorrie Baumann
American consumers are putting a more diverse array of products into their market baskets than ever before, including ethnic foods, gourmet food products and natural foods, and today’s independent grocery retailers are racing to catch up with the mainstreaming of what used to be considered specialty products. This is according to Joe Falvey, President of Market Centre, the specialty subsidiary of Unified Grocers, a cooperative distributor owned by about 400 independent grocers with more than 1,300 stores in the western United States.
Market Centre is Unified Grocers’ banner for a separate operating company, formed a decade ago by combining four smaller distribution companies into a subsidiary of the distributor. It is now focused on sourcing and distributing natural, gourmet, ethnic and health-beauty-wellness products, as well as confections to Unified’s member stores. Market Centre also serves more than 1,600 smaller, non-member stores through its Neighborhood Markets program.
In addition to serving as President of Market Centre, Joe Falvey is also the Senior Vice President of Unified Grocers. Falvey is currently spearheading the expansion of the company’s natural products offerings into California from its base in the Pacific Northwest, where Market Centre has offered a full range of natural products since 2011. Market Centre currently offers its retailers about 59,000 SKUs in its five product categories, not including those products that are carried in the center store freezer and deli cases.
Along the way, Market Centre is finding ways to expand independent grocers’ wellness centers by integrating natural homeopathic medicines and dietary supplements alongside over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. That requires some care to create displays that will accommodate these new products without making it harder for consumers to find the products they are accustomed to buying or causing them a mild degree of culture shock when they notice products on the shelf with which they are not familiar. “We’re introducing it without alienating some of the customers who still want to buy mainstream products,” Falvey says.
Market Centre is encouraging the Unified Grocers retailers in California to replace some of the gondolas in their health-beauty-wellness stores with custom-built islands and four-foot refrigeration units in which to display probiotic products. That careful merchandising helps to create an atmosphere that is less intimidating to customers who do not like change. It also eschews a model that is perhaps a little too similar to that employed by Whole Foods and which may be discomforting to more conservative consumers.
Falvey noted that grocers today have a unique opportunity to reach out to millennial generation customers who are gravitating to the wellness centers in their independent grocery stores as they ignore the brands that appealed to their parents in favor of products they find more interesting. “They’re looking for something different than the standard grocery item,” Falvey says. “They think, ‘I don’t want to buy what Mom bought. I want to try something different.’”
Along with reaching out to millenials, Falvey also sees opportunities for retailers to expand their ethnic food offerings, pointing out that although the grocery retailers traditionally saw Asian foods as products desired primarily by consumers of Asian ancestry and Latin foods as products purchased exclusively by Hispanic consumers, that is no longer the case. “Asian food’s become a behavioral change, not necessarily a demographic change,” he says. “Everybody eats sriracha sauce now … Everyone’s buying Asian. Everyone’s buying Hispanic foods … I don’t know anybody who doesn’t go to a Mexican restaurant.”
More Americans are reading nutrition labels on the products they are buying in their grocery stores as well, and, according to Falvey, consumers are increasingly seeking out products that contain fewer ingredients. “We see it in the data, but more importantly, we’re hearing it from our retailers, and they’re hearing it from their customers,” he said. “If you’re ahead of the curve, you probably learned it by talking to people.”
As specialty products become part of the mainstream, and curious customers venture out of their accustomed pathways in their neighborhood stores, there are opportunities for retailers to drive sales if they find ways to engage consumers, keeping them in the store longer. Falvey points out that retailers can create a “treasure hunt” experience that keeps shoppers interested and having fun. Falvey noted that millenial generation shoppers in particular are more curious about a lot more things than their parents were, and catering to curiosity is something that independent retailers can do well, particularly in these specialty categories where Falvey feels that it is easier for a retailer to be creative than it is with more mainstream product categories. “There’s a lot of opportunity to provide impulse buy opportunities that have been walked away from,” he said. “The retailers and the consumers are starving for it.”
By Lucas Witman
When a guest walks into Urban Butcher, a co-located restaurant and specialty meats shop in Silver Springs, Md., he or she is greeted by a giant glass wall revealing the store’s expansive meat cellar. Customers marvel at loins of pork, sides of beef, salamis and more, all hanging prominently, begging to be admired. It is immediately clear that the owners of any shop where aging meat is displayed as if it were fine art are deeply passionate about the craft of butchery. And listening to Head Butcher Matt Levere discuss his love of the craft, it is impossible not to become infected with a similar appreciation for the skill and creativity that go into producing gourmet specialty meats.
“It’s so much fun as a butcher and as a chef – learning and creating,” said Levere. “When you’re putting these things out to customers and coming up with brand new items, it’s an experience for them as well.”
Started just a few short months ago in December 2013, Urban Butcher has quickly made a name for itself as the place to go in the Washington, D.C.-area for expertly crafted raw meat and charcuterie. However, it is the fact that Urban Butcher operates simultaneously as a butcher shop, a retail space and a full-service restaurant, that makes this space particularly unique.
In terms of drawing in customers, Urban Butcher benefits from the fact that it brings in both restaurant guests and grocery shoppers. However, very often, guests who come in to eat at the restaurant end up leaving with a filled grocery bag. And those who come in to pick up a steak end up sticking around for a gourmet meal. This is because, as the restaurant utilizes the meats directly from the butcher case, impressed dinner guests are encouraged to take the product home to experiment with in their own kitchens. And for shoppers seen marveling at the butcher shop offerings, the store offers to take the product into the restaurant’s kitchen where it can be immediately cooked up and served for dinner.
From a logistical standpoint, Levere argues that there is a unique benefit to operating a retail shop in conjunction with a restaurant. At Urban Butcher, product moves fast and is continually replenished. “It’s awesome, because we can sell our products in the retail case and also in the restaurant. Everything we butcher goes right into the menu,” Levere said. “Everything is always fresh … It’s nice to see that aspect of it. It helps move product.”
For Levere, who has worked in restaurant kitchens and grocery store meat departments, he finds his work at Urban Butcher, which combines elements of both positions, as particularly rewarding. This is because, for him, when a chef and a butcher work together, they can create magic. “I think it’s a great relationship between the chef and I, because I know how to butcher so well. I know meat like the back of my hand and that’s what I specialize in. Here’s a guy that has been cooking for his entire life. And he knows that like the back of his hand,” he said. For Levere, butchery is truly an artform. And by combining his technical expertise with the chef’s creative vision, Urban Butcher is able to offer its customers something they would never find anywhere else.
The specialty meats offered at Urban Butcher are endless, and the store is constantly adding innovative new products to its meat cases. There is hickory-smoked bacon, handmade salami, pâté, prosciutto, sausage and marinated chicken. The store produces a broad selection of authentic European charcuterie, including lomo, bresola, filleto and more. And the shop’s 30-day aged beef short loin and aged ribeyes are cut to order, allowing the customer to choose the precise thickness that best meets his or her needs.
One standout among Urban Butcher’s offerings is a unique Greek sausage called loukanika. Levere argues that if one is to try only a single product from the store’s meat case, it is that one. “The loukanika is outstanding,” he said. “It’s a spicy lamb salami with flavors of fennel and orange zest. You get the fennel and then you get the orange immediately. And then right at the end the cayenne pepper hits your tongue. It’s a really nice experience.”
Urban Butcher focuses on sourcing all of its meat from local farms, including Autumn Olive Farms in Virginia, Creek View Farms in West Virginia, Piemonte Farms in Maryland and Shenandoah Meat Co-op in the Shenandoah Valley. For Levere, the quality of the animals is immediately apparent in the butchered product. “The quality is incredibly better than anything we can get anywhere else. The supermarket does not compare. The flavor is so much better. The customer can really tell the difference between the massively bred animals compared to the small batch animals,” he said. In addition, because the animals are all pasture-raised by small farmers, customers can feel confident that the salamis they are snacking on are made from animals that led stress-free lives.
Although currently enjoying its first year in operation, Urban Butcher has big plans for its future life. The store is currently expanding into local farmers markets, bringing its products to shoppers all over the D.C. area. In addition, Levere said the store also has plans to expand physically, eventually opening up a new, larger butcher production area.
For those who think a steak is a steak and a salami is a salami, Urban Butcher works to show its customers that a great deal of craft is involved in producing these items. When a skilled butcher and a skilled chef are involved, an animal can be transformed in any number of ways. According to Levere, “If you really understand the animal and what it has to offer, the possibilities are endless.”