As so many things do during the wintertime, this blog lay dormant, with not a word written. It wasn’t for the lack of ideas, but the lack of going outside, exploring around, seeing things related to food, and just making a big to-do about what I make and eat.
However, today happened. With my bright, shiny new bicycle, I took to the streets, inspired to see things, go to the market (as opposed to every other day of my life) and invest my thoughts in creating something new and different with the burgeoning bounty of the Spring Harvest soon to be upon us.
I stopped at Publican Quality Meats, scoping out their sausage and cured meats case. It was a recent decision to start curing my own meats. I’ve done fish many times, and have kept meat mostly separate from my main diet for the last couple of years, but as an activity that I want to pursue with other interested parties (fun summertime activities), making a super moldy piece of dried pork or beef is high up on my list.
They had the usual selection. I saw some boudin, some coppas and lonzas, and long links of ‘ndujas hanging in the case. In the back, by the lunch tables, they had some snack sticks, some smoked string cheese, a few bunches of ramps (we’ll get to those later), and tiny packages of caul fat for wrapping sausage crepinettes.
Although the ramps were tempting, I didn’t have any plans within the next few days, and admittedly, I was hoping that the price had dropped since my last visit. Still unjustifiable, I moved on to my next destination.
I peddled down Fulton Market, past the open doors of abbatoirs flushed out for the afternoon, past the city’s most expensive and fancy restaurants on the next block, and continued West. Today, my journey took me at a leisurely pace through the warehouse district, past the coffee roasters, craft breweries and artists’ lofts, to Ukranian Village, where I stopped at a place I hadn’t ever heard of before.
It was called Sprout Home, and it was a Garden Center full of flowering trees, tiny succulents and cacti. I spent a few minutes in there, scoping out their terrariums filled with ideas and whimsy. Over the Winter, I’ve taken a shine to smaller plants, ones that we keep around the house, and as succulents and cacti are the only ones that I know I don’t run the risk of failing with, they’ve become the most appealing to me. I’ve looked at the Green Wall concepts, self watering installations that are popping up all over the place. I even found a guy who made this his mission project, creating a Living Building in India.
My dreams aren’t that big. I just want to make a small terrarium with a few of those cool looking things.
As I peddled on, I stopped at another meat shop, The Butcher and Larder. I’ve been there a few times, and it has taken me a while to warm up to the place. They offer sausage making classes, and they do whole animal butchery, yet every time I go in, the case seems rocked. As opposed to my shop, with 60 feet of meat, their case offers about five feet of visuals, the rest cut to order from the back. One lone customer came in as I ate a house made salami sandwich washed down with a Sprecher root beer, and he ordered some pork to “rotisse”.
From the back, they brought out a massive untrimmed 15 pound pork shoulder with a two inch rim of fat. It had all the signs that it was in fact a shoulder, with the visible blade, but curiously, it offered two extra ribs on the end. From doing the butcher’s apprentice training this Winter, I learned how to break down whole animals for maximum utilization. When I saw the giant piece of pork, it kind of made me think that they were losing money where they could be selling two more expensive pork loin chops alongside their remaining ten pounds of pork shoulder.
They’ve got a giant chalkboard which, by 3 p.m. on a Friday was covered in red Xs denoting all the cuts of meat that they were out of. I feel fortunate and also slightly disheartened that we rarely run out of beef tenderloin at work. Out of a 1200 lb. animal, the tenderloin yields less than 8 lbs. As we don’t break down whole cows ourselves, we are not force to deal with the creative marketing it takes to push other cuts of meat to ensure proper utilization.
Left on the board were ‘Flatiron of beef’, ‘Top Round’, ‘Tri Tip’, and of the cuts that were out of stock, there were a few that I don’t hear very often, ‘Vacio’, ‘Bavette’, ‘Paleron’, ‘Baseball Steak’. Looking them up when I got home, I realized that Paleron is another cut of Flatiron, just a top blade roast, Vacio is from under the sirloin resembling a skirt steak, and Bavette is also of the skirt/flank variety. As for the baseball steak, the best answer I can glean from the internet is that it’s a thick piece of top sirloin steak that puffs up like a baseball when cooked. Curious.
I finished my sandwich and made my way back down south.

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I’m going to get out more, riding my bike because it’s Spring. Fresh vegetables are coming soon, along with the Pilsen Community Farmer’s Market, meaning Sundays will be the day to stock up on things for culinary projects throughout the week. I’m pretty excited to start with the curing of meats, as well as pickling anything and everything I can get my hands on. Our neighbor gave us a bread starter the other day, so there will be fresh bread in our future, and that is something to be excited about.

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