This is not directly cheese related, but the sad fact is that not every calf (or kid or lamb) is able to grow up to be a dairy animal. That doesn’t mean they can’t live happy and productive lives, however, and I tend to like my meat like I like my cheese: from an animal that was humanely-cared for, grass-fed and all that. So I was intrigued when I was invited to a “Best Butcher” competition at DC’s P Street Whole Foods. Not unlike the Cheesemonger Invitational, professionals took to the stage to demonstrate their craft before a cheering (and possibly slightly inebriated) crowd. I was a little relieved that it wasn’t a whole-animal break down, but rather the competitors were presented with two large sections (shoulder and leg, I believe) and were then judged on their ability to accurately cut and “merchandise” their meat. It was fascinating to see some competitors who furiously hacked away, working up a sweat, and others who quietly and methodically portioned their meat.
At the end, Armand “The Arm” Ferrante of Middletown, NJ, was declared champion. (Pictured above working away while Miyun Park, executive director of Global Animal Partnership, spoke about the new Whole Foods animal welfare rating system.) Elsewhere, Jon “Kalabi” Kalabolas of Lafeyette, CA, and Andy “The Animal” Alcorn, Ft. Collins, CO, won their respective regionals.
In between rounds, attendees were able to sample different meat products carried by Whole Foods — Creminelli and Olli Salumeri, surely no strangers to cheese plates, for example — and local brews from DC Brau, Port City and Flying Dog. Chefs from Ris, Restaurant 701, DC Central Kitchen and an Icelandic master chef, Siggi Hall, prepared small plates — though Whole Food’s own chefs prepared bacon pepper almond brittle and a stacked watermelon, feta and serrano bite that were quite popular. Ris’s corn “marrow” was pretty spectacular as well (pictured above, bottom right, with pork belly). Sticky Fingers provided vegan cupcakes … for all those vegans who enjoy a good butchering event? But the best part — over $13,000 in ticket proceeds and matching funds were donated to DC Central Kitchen.
If you missed out on the regional competitions, get to New York this weekend when the semi-finalists face off at Meatopia. It’s sure to be a delicious time — and again, benefits worthy causes in the Armed Forces Foundation and NYC’s City Harvest.