MEAT ME IN NEW YORK

GUEST COLUM­NIST RICK JAIME-BET­TAN TAKES A LOOK AT THE LAT­EST CARNIVOROUS TRENDS FROM HIS HOME­TOWN

Gourmet (South Africa) - - COLUMN -

I’m over the old-fash­ioned steak house. Even leg­endary favourites like Peter Luger’s in Brook­lyn – a des­ti­na­tion for din­ers world­wide – bore me. Any­one with a de­cently ten­der porter­house can grill it, drown it in but­ter and serve it on a heated plate with stan­dard sides. And the clubby at­mos­phere – banker bros in blue but­ton-downs, ex­pense ac­counts, rich guys in cheesy suits show­ing off Rolexes to their face-lifted fi­ancées – makes me shud­der.

So what’s a car­ni­vore to do? For­tu­nately, here in New York, trends are my friends. I’m thank­ful that the prac­tice of sourc­ing grass-fed meat from lo­cal, sus­tain­able farms seems here to stay. It’s bet­ter for the an­i­mals, and means more flavour­ful meat for me.

But be­yond that, my favourite newly pop­u­lar idea is the butcher shop-cum­restau­rant, where butch­ers daily cleave whole an­i­mals in full view of pa­trons. This set-up is like mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion for the con­scious diner: it forces one to re­spect the sac­ri­fice the an­i­mal has made for the sake of nu­tri­tion and en­joy­ment. The nose-to­tail em­pha­sis also yields less waste, and guar­an­tees more in­ter­est­ing cuts than you’d get at your av­er­age steak house. This trend is ex­em­pli­fied by White Gold Butch­ers, a buzzy lo­cale from renowned April Bloom­field, cel­e­brated chef of the West Vil­lage’s iconic Spot­ted Pig. The open butcher shop boasts over 80 dif­fer­ent cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poul­try, and the restau­rant turns out de­lec­ta­ble dishes like black-pep­per chicken hearts with spicy may­on­naise, and lamb belly bright­ened by pea shoots and pump­kin purée. This ex­cit­ing eat­ing is a far cry from your ba­sic New York strip steak.

Some brave chefs are even in­cor­po­rat­ing meat into dessert. The ad­di­tion of bone mar­row to crème brûlée makes an al­ready rich and deca­dent dessert even deeper, al­most pri­mal. I can thank Angie Mar, the April Bloom­field pro­tégé who re­cently re­opened and re­vamped The Beatrice Inn, for this stun­ning rev­e­la­tion.

Go­ing a step fur­ther, chefs are es­chew­ing old norms and get­ting cre­ative with their chop­ping blocks. A good ex­am­ple of both the lo­ca­vore ethos and the hunger for new and in­ter­est­ing cuts of meat is Ja­cob Had­ji­ge­or­gis’s Mai­son Pickle, sis­ter restau­rant to his peren­ni­ally pop­u­lar Ja­cob’s Pick­les and Beer. Aside from their sig­na­ture French Dip sand­wiches, Mai­son Pickle serves a deca­dent half pig’s head con­fit, fea­tur­ing silky, fatty in­ner meat con­trast­ing with crack­ling skin, all served with co­conut rice, kim­chi, Bibb let­tuce, beet sam­bal, tikka masala and hot mayo.

Leave the stan­dard filet mignon to the less ad­ven­tur­ous. Rick Jaime-bet­tan is a com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tor at a New York law firm by day; most evenings and hol­i­days he’s eat­ing out, either in his home­town or some­where ad­ven­tur­ous around the globe.

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