Archive for October, 2011

Who says you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? At Fleisher’s we are proving that old adage WRONG!

Fleisher’s own brand of suds, “Salvage Soap” is produced using beef tallow (generally a waste product)—rendered tallow has been traditionally been used in soap making and is still used today in creating commercial soap products.

On average a steer weighs 850lbs—10-15% or 100lbs of that is fat or tallow. Most of this fat is thrown away but we decided to make use of another old adage (we are just full of them), “waste not, want not” and thus, Salvage Soaps was born.

Our soapmaker uses this centuries old process, adds vegetable oils and luscious essential oils to the rendered tallow and even goes so far as to enhance some of the soaps with organic coffee grounds, bay leaves, lavender and poppy seeds.

This month we are featuring Urban Bright (“soapiate for the masses”) a lush, absinthe-scented bar and Calmpost, a country cousin to the more citified Urban Bright, scented with vetiver, orange and cedar.

Salvage Soaps—making the most from what we’ve got . . .

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Some folks go to Maine, some the Berkshires and Martha’s Vineyard, there’s always a huge contingent that visits the Cape and then, there’s us. We visit farms and butcher shops whenever and wherever we are.

This summer we got lucky, we went out to the San Francisco Bay Area and visited butcher shops (check out Avedano’s if you are in San Francisco anytime soon) and then spent some time with Bill and Nicolette Niman on their ranch in Bolinas. Their ranch studded with gorgeous grass-fed steer is perhaps the most beautiful farm we have ever seen. The land runs right down into the Pacific Ocean and at certain spots you can see the Golden Gate Bridge peeking through the ever-present fog.

Bill Niman is a cattle and turkey rancher in Northern California, proprietor of BN Ranch, and Founder of the natural meat company Niman Ranch, Inc. He has been providing naturally raised beef, pork, and lamb to fine restaurants and retailers for more than thirty years.   In contrast to the conventional meat industry, Niman’s animals are always raised using traditional husbandry methods, eschewing hormones, antibiotics, and slaughterhouse feed additives.

Niman has been named “Food Artisan of the Year” by Bon Appetit magazine, the “Master of Meat” by Wine Spectator, the “Guru of Happy Cows” by the Los Angeles Times, “a pioneer of the good meat movement” by the New York Times, “the Steve Jobs of Meat” by Men’s Journal, and a “Pork Pioneer” by Food & Wine.  He has also won numerous awards, including the “best bacon….hands down winner” by Cook’s Illustrated. You get the point.

We’ve long been fans of Bill Niman and his philosophy and so this was as much a trip to pay homage as it was to check out his turkey operation. This year we are fortunate enough to be offering BN Ranch’s pastured turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday and so we wanted to see “our” birds in action.

Bill and Nicolette are raising a number of different breeds, each more striking than the next. They are the direct descendants of five distinct old breeds (Standard Bronze, Narragansett, Bourbon Red, White Holland, and Spanish Black). On the Nimans’ ranch the flock is allowed to roam freely on grassy pastures most of the year, grazing and foraging to supplement their all-natural grain and soy vegetarian diet.  They are never fed antibiotics or other chemicals to promote growth or replace good animal husbandry.

Right now they are busy roaming, getting fat and waiting for the inevitable to come. So you should get busy as well and order yours today.

Our turkeys are $8.99/lb., (Heritage Turkey Label) order forms can be picked up at either location or orders may be called in. A $20 deposit is required for every order, which will be returned in case of cancellation. All sizes are approximate. Since these are FRESH not frozen turkeys we cannot be sure of exact weights until the last moment. We will try to fulfill your requirements as closely as we can though we do retain the right to offer a turkey within a four pound margin. We suggest you place your order based on ½ to ¾ lb. per person. A pound per person will give you ample leftovers.

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There’s so much to love about this old card: the typography, the period after “Poultry,” the reference to “Hides,” and of course the phrase “veal calves, etc. Makes you kinda woder what that “etc.” might mean. Interestingly, there’s no street address, perhaps because Milford is a town of only 1257 people. Granted, that’s the current population figure, but it was probably a pretty small town back when Mr. Smith was running his poultry operation too, so anyone passing through Milford probably knew where to find his shop.

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So, as many of you know our Park Slope store opened last week and Brooklyn was there to welcome us with open arms. From the moment the doors opened there has a line of people standing in front of our cases oogling our meat.

It has been thrilling to see the response from our neighbors and, now, new friends and customers. We had one guy knock on our door well past our open hours. Oh God, we thought, someone who doesn’t know closed means closed. “Please,” he begged, “just open the door.”

We hate to see a grown man grovel so we opened the door just a hair (not even enough for him to stick his foot in if he wanted to gain some traction) and raised one eyebrow.

“I just wanted to tell you how excited I am to have you in the neighborhood. I have been eagerly anticipating your opening. Thank you so much for coming to Park Slope!” And then he trotted away leaving all of us astonished and feeling just a little more blessed than before.

So, no. Thank YOU, Brooklyn, for your warm welcome, great questions, intrepid foodiness and your kids who seem to love writing on the walls of our kid’s corner.


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Photo by Flickr user CarbZombie

Bryan Mayer is the head butcher at Fleisher’s flagship shop in Kingston, New York, nowdays he’ll be splitting his time between Kingston and Brooklyn.

The Butcher’s Case: You were formerly a professional musician. How did you end up becoming a butcher? Do you see any similarities between the two gigs?

Bryan Mayer: Becoming a butcher was cheaper than going to therapy (and you don’t have to talk about your relationship with your mother). Seriously, between touring taking its toll mentally/physically and studio session work becoming more difficult to find, I needed to find something I could dump all that creativity and passion into. I started reading a lot of food memoirs and cooking obsessively. I was reading Bill Bufford’s Heat, and when I got to the section where he gets back to New York and hauls that pig into his apartment, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Minus the singing opera and quoting Dante.

There are lots of similarities between the two gigs. Personally, I find them both to be cathartic. We’re a team at Fleisher’s, but everyone has to be dedicated to his or her own part, much in the same way a band operates. I was primarily a bass player, which is a very supportive role in the group dynamic, and i feel like that’s exactly how we work at the shop. We’re a support network — for farmers, for each other, and for our customers and community.

TBC: You used to live in Brooklyn, until Fleisher’s enticed you upstate. Do you find it a little ironic that you now are going to be spending half your week in Park Slope? And when exactly will we see you behind the counter in Brooklyn?

BM: Once I trained with Fleisher’s, I couldn’t stay away. On my days off from my old shop, I would hop on the bus and head back up! Brooklyn holds a special place in my heart — my family is from there, I have relatives who still live in Park Slope, and I spent many years in the neighborhood, so I’m very excited to be in the neighborhood again. I’ll be down in the shop fairly often. Oh to posses the ability to clone!

TBC: What is your favorite type of meat/muscle to break down and why?

BM: I love to work with lamb, because you’re working on the whole animal, not a part, not a section. Head to tail. You can really get in there and attack a side of beef, but with lamb I feel that’s there a bit more precision needed. I worked with fish before meat and really enjoyed the art of butterflying and perfectly filleting. It all speaks to my somewhat obsessive-compulsive nature.

TBC: If you could say one thing (and only one) about why people should buy better meat what would it be?

BM: We all know it’s better for our health to eat food that’s been raised properly — that’s all been covered. I try to focus on the bigger picture, how the food decisions we make affect everything around us. The environment, our communities, everything.

TBC: How does being a father affect your view of the food industry and the role you feel you can play in changing or challenging the way we (and our kids) eat?

BM: Food played a central role in my upbringing, as it probably does in most large Italian families. Everyone was cooking together, houses had multiple kitchens, everyone had “their” dish. I want my little one to experience that same thing, with one major difference: the ingredients. I also understand there’s a need for moderation. Change the way kids eat and they’ll change the way you eat. They change everything else!

I look at it like a little science experiment — what’s going to happen to this little person if she consumes half of the garbage I ate while growing up, especially during her formative years? Maybe nothing, but I take the Mark Bittman approach to the whole thing. There may be no conclusive evidence that eating a diet with more veggies and grains is going to make you a healthier person, but we certainly do know that a diet full of sugar and empty calories is going to impact your health negatively.

TBC: Okay, quick questions: Favorite pairing of beer and type of burger?

BM: I really love a Hennepin paired with any — I mean any — cheese, especially from Consider Bardwell. As for burgers it’s got to be lamb. I mix in some brined capers, white wine vinegar, and some Dijon mustard. Done!

TBC: Favorite ingredient?

BM: Salt. Simple but true.

TBC: Favorite food or meat web site?

BM: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a great web site devoted to myology (the study of arrangements, structures, and actions of muscles), complete with instructional videos showing how to break down various cuts of beef. It’s a great teaching resource.

TBC: Favorite music to listen to while working?

BM: That’s a hard one. i guess it depends on what needs to get done and how fast. At the shop there’s always a steady stream of Wu-Tang, Dragonforce, Marvin Gaye, Wilco, etc.

TBC: A knife should …

BM: … never used as a screwdriver substitute. (I mean the tool, not the drink. But you shouldn’t use a knife for that either.)

TBC: Customers should be …

BM: I think customers should be open to suggestions. Trust us — we cook everything, in a lot of different ways. Let us help you move beyond the realm of boneless/skinless chicken breasts. How boring life must be if you’re not open to learning new things.

TBC: A butcher should be …

BM: Humble. It’s about community. The attention that the craft has received over the last few years is exciting, but I’d like to see it grow and become even more popular. Move outside the “trend” zone. I think one of the ways you do that is to focus on the butcher as a part of a much larger community. Necessary within that dynamic, useless on his own.

Photo by Flickr user CarbZombie

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    Watch Josh teach Martha how to break down an entire pig!

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