Friday, March 18, 2011

Meet The Butcher's Friday Feast!

It's a whopper of a combo! A Friday Feast post that introduces a Butcher's Guild charter member!

Today is all about Chef Brad Farmerie of Public here in NYC. Tonight, I have the pleasure of repeating what was one of the most daring, sumptuous, fantastically executed meals I’ve ever enjoyed. I see flavor profiles as shapes and textures, sometimes even colors and every restaurant as a window into a chef’s palate. A mastery of many shapes, sharp angles and rounded corners, smooth rounds and rolling waves is what many chefs hope to master. Flat with predictable peaks, full of shimmering gold rounds, or a of nearly psychedelic trapezoids and ovals. Many chefs and menus, however, even the best of the best, end up with a range that isn’t quite as wide as one would assume. All of these have their value, but I am most in awe when each dish says something very different. I want to be surprised at every turn, to remark upon the pairings, be enticed by the new flavor combinations being introduced to me. Old favorites are always good, but a kick in the pants is more my style. Anyone who has seen my list of now nearly 80 bacon flavors or attended my dinners knows I put some very unexpected ingredients together and like to keep people on their toes a bit. This tendency toward culinary alchemy is what I look for in chefs that inspire me.

Butcher’s Guild charter member Chef Brad Farmerie’s Nolita restaurant, Public, is my new mecca. The night I spent there with BG founders Tia Harrison and Marissa Guggiana was off the charts food fun. We started with a selection of appetizers. A sweet, earthy lentil salad and shiso-wrapped fried oysters with yuzu wasabi, lusciously rare kangaroo atop a crispy falafel, see where I’m going here? Grabbing from the best shapes from around the world, Public’s menu is all spontaneity and skill. As we finished our cocktails after the plates were cleared, we were presented with a unexpected little snippet of Brad’s work, a deceptively diminutive duck creme with bacon and a savory caramel. Every bite rang with deep, full wells of flavor accented by bright flashes. Our wines appeared in the hands of our server for the night, the icing on the cake, she was super friendly and warm, knowledgeable, genuinely open and engaging, everything that makes a dining experience like this as close to perfect as can be. Our entrees continued to amaze, I was so into my Venison and cabrales (a beloved Spanish blue cheese) dumplings, I frankly don’t recall what the others ate. I do remember a lot of mmm’s and not much talking. To push us over the edge, our meal was punctuated with an ellipsis before a last round of drinks. A line of mini pork’s blood chocolate cupcakes with foie gras frosting. I forgot to mention, an 8-course blood tasting was happening in the other room. Yes, you can swear now because we all did!

The winner of this year's Cochon 555 NYC and Iron Chef contestant, this guy has it and I am going to soak in a little more of his mojo tonight. I am actually counting down the hours!

While I am basking in the afterglow tomorrow, I’ll be catching Brad’s Iron Chef Battle on the Food Network! If you need a little Brad in your life, check out the Meet The Butcher’s Guild interview below and then watch him work some maple syrup on March 19, 2011 at 5:00 PM EST.

Brad Farmerie
Executive chef, Public and Double Crown, NYC

How long have you been a butcher and where did you get your start? Have you been working with “sustainable” meats the whole time and if not, what precipitated your shift in practices?

I have been a cook/chef for about 16 years + or -, but didn’t really get into butchering whole animals and larger cuts until about 10 years ago. Up until that time, most of the restaurants that I worked in used prefabricated portions, but at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons , Chef Raymond Blanc had a vision that included vegetables grown right on the property and whole animals (for everything except beef and veal) from local farms that raised animals specifically for Le Manoir. It was a serious change of operation watching the sous chefs leaving vegetable requests with the folks in charge of the garden and calling farms directly to get the meat order. It dealt with building relationships with people that you know are working just as hard as you are to produce amazing items, and supporting those people to make sure that those animals are looked after from paddock to plate.

Later on I went back to work with the iconic New Zealand chef Peter Gordon. The sheer size of the kitchen at his restaurant (or lack thereof) didn’t allow for whole animals but definitely taught me respect for the more unusual cuts and offal. His philosophy and support of farms across the UK, along with farms (and the personalities) in Australia and New Zealand gave me a better insight into trying to work with great people doing great things with food instead of painting yourself into a corner of hard core “local” product. Many of the operations I work with may not be local, but they have a small scale and sustainable outlook that is amazing and should be supported.

What do you think about the current media hype and attention on butchery, butchers and meat in general?

It means I can finally give up the hard hours and retire, right?

It’s definitely a good thing, and anyone that says otherwise is a loca enchilada. There is a chance to change the slippery slope of American nepotism towards the shrink wrapped boneless, skinless, and flavorless flesh. The media almost has to be a part of it to make it work.

What do you believe is the role of butchers in the movement for a sustainable food system and what do you see as the biggest impediment to a truly sustainable meat industry?

I think the ideal role of a butcher in a sustainable movement is to be able to desensitize their customers to the cut of an animal on offer and to celebrate the flesh itself. The insight that a meat professional can offer on guidance to meat selection and cooking technique is invaluable. This would use a seriously suggestive sell (with tons of advice) on how to use the cut.

The biggest impediment is preconceived notions, personal history, lack of information, and anything else that keeps folks from buying the whole beast.

What does being a member of The Butcher's Guild mean to you?

Hopefully it means that many of the decisions I made way back when were good ones. Its an honor to be amongst the best in the business and I’m just looking forward to helping in any way possible.

Your absolute favorite cut and preparation method/recipe:

That’s like asking me to pick my favorite family member! There are too many great choices, each with their own cool and quirky reason for being chosen. I’ll narrow it just a little, but don’t tell anyone I’m playing favorites…

Deboned pork neck “steak”-simply lubed up with EVO and seasoned with Maldon salt and a quick grind of pepper- thrown on the grill till medium, rested, and passed across the line while we are in the middle of a busy service at the restaurant. It helps to make the whole night look a whole lot better. No shit- I am literally eating a super delicious one (post service) as I type this. I always hear folks recommending to cook this bit of deliciousness in a braise or slow and long roast, but I think that just squeezes the personality right out of it.

Wagyu tongue- I’m a huge fan of this. It takes all of the (ridiculously slim) willpower that I have to resist the temptation of sampling the goodness while prepping it between the poach and grill phase - some of those succulent back slices may never make it. We usually cook this one in a slow poach (super aromatic and acidic broth) till tender, peeled, portioned, and grilled.


Thanks to Brad Farmerie! Have a great weekend, and if you are in NYC, head to Public for Brunch!

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