JP’s Food Adventures: Mixing Bargains With A Mission

Heritage Meats, Essex Street Market. Photo by Cynthia Lamb

Heritage Meats is on a mission in the Essex Street Market: to sell meat like your great-grandmother ate, from animals raised on humane, small farms, who were bred for flavor and texture, not just to plump up quickly without getting sick in a feedlot. The folks who run Heritage Meats partner with more than 40 small farms dedicated to bringing healthier meat to market while also preserving breeds endangered by a lack of compatibility with modern agribusiness. The staff can tell you the provenance of everything in the store, down to who raised the animals.

My wife Cynthia has seen one too many documentaries on how most meat is raised, and no longer wants to eat meat from the supermarket. As a result, Heritage has become a regular stop for me. When I’m feeling like a splurge, it offers excellent choices of artisan cured meats and charcuterie. It’s high-end stuff at high-end prices, but I can’t resist a little lamb prosciutto every now and then.

Day-to-day shopping at Heritage is another matter. Prices there are generally much higher than the supermarket, and not everyone in the neighborhood is willing — or able — to drop that kind of dough. But there are options for price-sensitive customers.

Each week, Heritage offers a weekly special at $3.99/pound, so that something is always within reach of  budget-minded shoppers. It varies; sometimes it is pork loin, shank, or chops, and sometimes it’s beef stewing meat, which is excellent. Coarse ground pork is something I regularly buy, and a good deal at $5.50/pound. A little ground pork goes a long way in my wok.

They make creative sandwiches on Pain d’Avignon bread ($3-$12). The butcher Silva (formerly of Jeffrey’s) displays his creative side with his excellent store-made sausages featuring pork, lamb, turkey and duck. At $14/pound (and more for the duck) they’re not an everyday thing for me, but who eats sausages every day? When you’re going to eat one, it may as well be a good one.

Other great stuff I’ve had from Heritage includes the best goat meat I’ve found in the city. It’s real goat — pink, tender and flavorful — not mutton unscrupulously passed off as goat. It’s only available occasionally, so take advantage when it appears. Paradise Locker ham (the best lunch meat I’ve had for $10/pound), chicken, rabbit, dry-aged steaks and turkey are also available.

Top quality meat isn’t cheap. Ethically raised meat isn’t cheap. Heritage walks a fine line, offering splurges and a handful of deals that keep me coming back. New products are always coming in, and shopping there is a pleasure. The extra bucks I spend help keep Cynthia from leaning toward vegetarianism. To me, that’s money well-spent.

JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well,  consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.

The Monte Velho white wine from Portugal is flying out of Seward Park Liquors for good reason. For $12 you get a medium bodied white that strikes a good balance between fruit and floral notes, with just enough acidity to pair well with food, but not so much as to invalidate it as a “by the glass” option. Delicious, inexpensive and satisfying. One more example of the good wine making coming out of Portugal these days.