[CAVEAT: The following post may appear to be an ad for a particular butcher, but I can assure it is not. We decided to write this review -something that we don't ordinarily do - because it covers a very important topic - meat. When buying meat, you have to get to know your butcher. So we are sharing one of our favorites with you and hopefully leaving you with a few things to think about or perhaps some questions to ask the next time you shop for meat - like do you know the where your meat comes from? Do you know the farmers ?].
Service like no other – that’s what you will find when you go to Greens Organic & Natural Market and talk to their local butcher. Finding a great butcher is more than just finding someone that sells you meat. Finding a good butcher actually makes cooking as a whole more of an experience. There is just something about buying ingredients from people that really know what they are doing and what they are talking about.
Let me introduce you to David (on the right in the picture below) and his apprentice Nick. Can you tell which one of them was happy to have his picture taken and which one wasn’t :-)
I met David a while back while I was shopping for some meat for our Prime Rib Lesson. I was instantly impressed by how open he was to chatting with his customers about what they were looking for and how he could help them. One of the biggest things I noticed about David was his demeanor. He was very open and not at all pretentious. I noticed this because it seems that nowadays many people in the “food world” can be a bit snooty. Like they are part of this elite group of people that are more into talking about what they know and who they know rather then just cooking and sharing their knowledge…sorry I digress…back to the meat!
Recently, I spoke with David and asked him a few questions. Here is what he had to say:
Q: What inspired you to become a butcher? A: With all the cooking I do I really wanted to get in touch with where my food/meat was coming from. True butchery is a lost art – the way a real butcher handles a carcass, a knife, and the knowledge he has to share with the customer about his animals. What farm they come from, what they were fed, the overall quality of life is very important. I want to show people that I’m here to help them in any way I can in order to get them cooking.
Q: How does one become a butcher? You would need to find a real butcher, which is difficult these days. Once found, hope they are willing to teach you. Then do whatever you can to spend as much time as possible in the shop, doing any- and everything, from learning the proper way to maintain your knives, mopping the floor, breaking down a chicken, etc…
Q: What would you say to someone that says “oh it’s way too expensive”? A: In my opinion, price should not be the first and only reason to buy something. People will spend $75k + on a car, but when it comes to the food they put in their body, the cheaper the better. I don’t get it.
Q: How is buying meat at a store like this different than in a large grocery store? Isn’t all meat the same? All meat is not the same. Some of the biggest differences are quality, sustainability and service. I only bring in a few animals a week from a very few select farms in B.C. I know what they ate, where they go and who their parents are, which gives me and the customer a better understanding of the quality of the meat. Also, I don’t support the killing of hundreds of animals to fill boxes with only cretin cuts. Once I sell the loin of one animal, that’s it till next week. Finally, service. I am here because I love cooking, and I love meat. I want to provide the customer with anything they need, and, if I don’t have it, I give them some different options about what they could substitute.
Q: Do you plan on offering butchery classes and when? A: Yes, hopefully soon.
Q: What is your best piece of advice for a cook or someone that is just learning to cook? A: Cook, join Rouxbe, ask questions, buy lots of cookbooks, and then cook more.
The fish above I watched Nick skillfully clean and package right in front of me…all in about 3 minutes. I also bought some of their fresh Qualicum Scallops while I was there. They were absolutely fantastic. In fact, we are still talking about them.
This Spatchcock chicken (which means butterflied but lets face it, Spatchcock sounds way cooler) is made with fresh pesto that they make in house. Now, normally, I would say never buy pre-marinated meats, as often the meat that is used for this is meat that is older. The new, fresh meat that comes in is kept plain and the stuff that did not sell becomes the meat that gets marinated. However, this is not always the case, but it’s a good thing to keep this in mind when buying marinated meat. In this case, I would feel quite comfortable buying this from David, as the marinade is not full of preservatives, it’s just basil, garlic, pinenuts, parmesan…and fresh chicken.
Just walking through the store, one feels inspired to eat well (and maybe to be more organized because the vegetables are all so perfectly placed and lined up…but that could have just been me).
To read more about David and how passionate he is about butchery, here is an article that he wrote. Let me warn you though, some could be offended or take issue with some of the things that he says, but I have to say, I would rather my butcher be super passionate and proud of what he is doing, than to have no opinion and treat butchery just like a job. To David, butchery is so much more than just a job, which you can tell the moment you talk to him.
Feel free to email David with any questions: dritzer at greensmarket dot ca
If you want to go into the store, it’s located at 1978 West Broadway in Vancouver B.C. You may also want to mention that you heard about him from Dawn at Rouxbe…who knows maybe he will throw in a piece of free bacon or something…just kidding…but, he will definitely take care of you (even if you don’t mention me or Rouxbe).
Ciao for now and remember “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding.”