When Lady Gaga donned her meat dress for the MTV Video Music Awards the week before we shipped this magazine to the printer, it wasn’t quite what we had in mind to bring attention to meat. (But seriously, didn’t that dress drape nicely? And butcher string to lace up the “shoes”? Brilliant. Note to self: Add a “creative use of materials” category to our Seamless in Seattle fashion design competition.)
Her dress certainly thrust meat into the spotlight, as did the flurry of stories on the new neighborhood butcher shop trend that circulated our office confirming what we report in this issue: Meat is in. But not just any hunk of meat—we’re talking about thoughtfully and humanely raised, environmentally correct, organic meat. Just as with their veggies and fruit, Seattleites now want to know where their main dish comes from, preferably from not too far away, especially after watching movies like Food, Inc. Discussions surrounding red meat in a foodie town like Seattle aren’t so much about whether we should eat less of it for health reasons as they’re about whether the animal about to be consumed was fed on grass, and for how long.
Right in step with this trend, old-fashioned meat markets are the new darlings of foodie shops. This past summer, at a coworker’s house, I had some amazing Wagyu flank steak from the new Bill the Butcher shop in Magnolia. It was as buttery and tender as beef tenderloin, but half the price. The next day, I went to the shop to buy some. You would have thought I was in a girly boutique. Accessorized with gorgeous jars of locally made specialty foods, pickled items, peppers, salts and sauces (see page 100), the shop was brimming with activity.
On Capitol Hill, Melrose Market is an absolute jewel of an assembly of specialty food shops and restaurants in the spirit of San Francisco’s Ferry Terminal Building. It’s also home to our cover subject, Rain Shadow Meats, the kind of new “old” place where novices like me can go in and get great advice on what cut to buy and how to cook it and where ultra-foodies can rhapsodize over coveted local brand-name beef and pork.
Some people, like my husband, just want to eat a good piece of meat. So if you felt you didn’t already have it (which can be the case in veggie-friendly Seattle), consider this issue permission to unabashedly celebrate your carnivorous nature. The truth is, I hated eating meat growing up—a big slice of ham with that blood vessel cross section staring up at me…gristly, overcooked steaks…boingy chicken fat (bleh). It wasn’t until I was a teenager and went to a real steakhouse that I knew the tasty goodness that high-quality beef can impart. Even today, I mostly stick with lean chicken, pork tenderloin and ground turkey when we cook (mainly because we’re a heart-healthy house) and, on special occasions, beef tenderloin (or, now, that Wagyu). And I admit I’ve bought my share of supermarket chicken in the interest of convenience and affordability—and probably will continue to do so. I imagine I’m not alone in my conflict with wanting to buy local and organic and needing to balance our grocery budget.
Right around the corner are the holidays, when meat tends to be at the center of our tables. Paying a bit more for a locally raised heritage turkey is one way I’m thinking of being more thoughtful about meat consumption. I bet I’ll use more of the bird because I know I’m paying more for it. Indeed, everything old is new again.
Published November 2010