© The Butcher Shop
The Butcher Shop chef de cuisine Robert Grant.
Boston chef Barbara Lynch has paired the current butcher obsession with the growing CSA trend and is now running a very cool new meat CSA from her awesome South End restaurant, the Butcher Shop. CSA members can buy a pig or even a share of a flock of lambs. The first weekend of each month, Lynch's talented butchers break down an animal, say a 90-pound pig or a lamb from Vermont Family Farms, during a butchering demo, and participants go home with various cuts. Terrines, sausages, racks of lamb and ready-to-cook cuts are packaged and available for pick up by members the next two weekends of each month. Prices change month the month, but full shares cost around $190; half shares are around $95.
It seems that this year, the popularity of ramps is at an all-time high. But it saddens me to see ramps on every menu and in huge bunches at farmer's markets. The Canadian Biodiversity Project states that over harvesting is the number one cause of ramp-growth decline. And according to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, ramps are “a species of conservation concern.” (Canada even has harvesting restrictions on the slow-growing plant—a sign of how serious they consider the issue to be.) When I forage, whether it’s for wild boletus mushrooms (also known as porcini), fiddleheads or ramps, I only pick a few and leave most behind. I'd like everyone to please do the same. Don’t be ramp hogs.
The first thing to say about the Food Bank for New York City Can-Do Awards is that the problem of hunger in the city is heartbreaking. The Food Bank does the great job of providing some 300,000 free meals a day to hungry New Yorkers. The next thing to say is that a lot of unbelievable people show up at the Can-Do Awards to support the cause. Here are highlights of the night, which featured Mario Batali as co-chair, Emeril Lagasse as an honoree and Stanley Tucci as Master of Ceremonies.
* Having seats right near the money table: U2’s The Edge, who was sitting between Salman Rushdie and Helena Christensen. (Some people might have thought the money table was the one with Batali, Lagasse, Tony Bourdain, Nancy Silverton and actor Josh Charles. Others might, more accurately, have said the money table was the one with Goldman Sachs’s CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.)
* Having people’s texted donations projected on a huge screen. Tucci kicked it off with a $5,000 donation (that he pretended to make from a toy phone). Soon pledges were flooding the screen, including one from as far away as Newfoundland and another in exchange for a kiss from Colicchio. (There's still an opportunity to pledge! at 646-853-2277.)
* Having someone—referred to by the Christie’s auctioneer only as “the lady in red”—bid an astonishing $100,000 for a dinner for 20 cooked by Batali, Colicchio and David Chang. “That’s a lot of pressure, man,” Chang told Feast’s Ben Leventhal before going, with Batali and Colicchio, to kiss the winner.
* Having tickets to the last night of U2’s 360 tour in Rome go twice for $50,000. And having The Edge give the winners a standing ovation. And then he went to the Spotted Pig to have a second dinner with his friends.
This week, my favorite New Yorker
writer, Dana Goodyear
, profiles F&W Best New Chefs 2009 Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo
, the chefs/owners of Los Angeles’s Animal restaurant
, and—no surprise—says it’s a place where “meat is the main event.” Not the week of May 17 it won’t be. That’s when F&W Best New Chef 2008 Jeremy Fox
, formerly of the vegetarian restaurant Ubuntu
in Napa Valley, will collaborate with the Animal chefs to do seven days of five-course, all-vegetable tasting menus. Shook confirms it: “There will be no meat at Animal for one week.” He says he’s not worried about it, although he has no doubt that he, Dotolo and Fox will be eating meat after service. There’s a rumor that Fox isn’t there to push a permanent meat-ban at Animal; he is apparently testing the waters for a potential Ubuntu-style restaurant in L.A.
Tonight* is the finale of Jamie Oliver’s "Food Revolution," and it’s been fascinating to see how challenging it is to change the American food system. I recently chatted with Michel Nischan about the show. He's the chef at Dressing Room, the late Paul Newman’s restaurant in Connecticut, and founder of Wholesome Wave, an organization that helps bring local foods to underserved neighborhoods. He said that while he loves Jamie, he thinks that Jamie's goal of getting schools to make fresh food from scratch every day is unrealistic. “If what he is doing triples the school lunch budget, it’s not sustainable. Schools have even deeper problems than food, and they all require more funds.”
Nischan’s proposed solution lies somewhere in between the current situation—in which schools get highly processed foods from big centralized companies—and Jamie’s ideal. He says that right now, there is a dearth of mid-size food-processing centers, which could turn local ingredients into preservative-free sauces, soups and other foods for school cafeterias. (It’s actually quite like the shortage of slaughterhouses, which has been a setback for the burgeoning local meat industry.) Nischan’s solution would benefit small farmers, who could sell their “field seconds”—the perfectly edible fruits and vegetables that don’t look good enough to take to market. (“You don’t need a pristine heirloom tomato to make a good sauce,” he says.) It would also be great for schools because they could buy better food within their budget that would come to them in an easy-to-prepare format. And of course, it would be a boon for the students, who would eat healthier, most likely tastier food.
*CORRECTION: This Friday, April 23, is the finale of Jamie's show. Can't wait!