Heritage breed turkeys include the Bourbon Red. Photo courtesy of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the November issue of our print magazine.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely Anglo-American holiday. We celebrate the early English colonists’ accumulation of enough food to make it through a Yankee winter by gathering the family and overeating, often while watching our homespun bastardization of rugby on television. Mythology surrounding the day even suggests a chummy relationship between the heathen savages and the witch-burning fundamentalists bringing civilization to them. Rule, Britannia!
Of course the specifics of what we’re eating while counting our blessings are pure New World: cranberries, yams, winter squash and of course, turkey – the bird Ben Franklin unsuccessfully proposed for our national symbol. Franklin would hardly recognize the birds that end up on our Thanksgiving tables. They bear little resemblance to their gunmetal-blue cousins running around our Northeast woods.
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.
Photo by Cynthia Lamb
I’m no stranger to goat meat; been eating and cooking the stuff for years. A Trini friend showed me how to marinate the meat in green spice and burn sugar on the bottom of the pot for curry goat. Later, I spent a year reverse-engineering the excellent (and sadly no longer on the menu) sofrito-based cabrito guisado served at El Castillo de Jagua. I’ve proudly served goat to family and friends, including a few rock stars.
The goat meat available in supermarkets sometimes bears a suspicious resemblance to mutton (tough and fatty). It couldn’t be a bait and switch, could it? (Butcher friends hinted it might be in some cases). Those who want to be sure of getting goat instead of mutton labeled as goat are wise to buy from a butcher.
Renovations continue at New Roma Pizza at Delancey and Essex.
Starting off the week’s local restaurant and food news:
- NY1 visited the new Heritage Meats in Essex Street Market last week.
- Hester Street Fair co-founder SuChin Pak talks to Grub Street about her cravings for Pho and her new day job at DailyCandy, just as Uniqlo plasters her face on buses.
- Sauce restaurant, the Italian eatery scheduled to open at 78 Rivington this fall, is hiring an experienced butcher, according to CraigsList.
- Fork in the Road introduces a new peel noodle joint at 28 Forsyth St.
Heritage Meats, Essex Street Market. Photo by Cynthia Lamb.
I was among those gutted when Jeffrey Ruhalter closed his iconic Essex Street Market butcher shop. The market lost one of its colorful characters that day, not to mention the most direct link with its history, aside from the building itself. The market was left with a gaping big space (not to mention some big empty shoes) to fill. Big enough that it took two businesses to do it: Brooklyn Taco and Heritage Foods. Both are now open, and both should be on your list of places to visit soon.
Shoppers at the Essex Street Market are discovering some exciting new options. The most conspicuous addition is the Heritage Meat Market, which is just now setting up in a portion of the space once occupied by longtime Essex Market vendor Jeffrey’s Meats.
The new market is run by Heritage Foods, the 10-year Brooklyn company set up to support family farms producing high quality, humanely raised meat products. Heritage Meats doesn’t officially open until next week, but they were passing out some delicious ham sandwiches earlier today. There are even some former employees of Jeffrey’s behind the counter.
Also open now, right next to the meat market, is Brooklyn Taco (see our previous coverage). While they’ve soft opened, an official grand opening is still a few weeks away. And finally, a Japanese deli is coming to a tiny space across from Batista Market. Yesterday, there were free samples of various soy-based drinks. We’re told there will be a selection of fresh meats, fish and vegetables sold here once all of the city permits are approved.
We’ll have more on all of these new businesses soon.