all for a local butcher shop
While I have fallen hard for Brooklyn (as Jay-Z says, Brooklyn / We go hard, we go hard), I’ll confess I am seeing Great Barrington on the side.
About a month ago, I drove up to meet Emily and Jeremy Stanton of Barking Dog Farm,
had an incredible weekend learning about the strong network of local producers in the Berkshires they are part of,
and as we stood in the kitchen looking out over the chickens and orchard, they told me about the local butcher shop they plan to open in the spring—and an upcoming fund-raising dinner to that end.
So last Saturday afternoon, I pulled out a long dress with flowers as bright as those in Emily’s garden, adjusted the three strands of a vintage necklace from the Brooklyn Flea, and drove with determination through four hours of rain to the inaugural dinner of the Meat Market.
Upon entering the house, this charming bartender (I’m told he makes a mean cup of coffee at Rubiner’s, the local cheesemonger you should certainly visit) mixed a vodka cocktail for me with a homemade rhubarb concoction Chef Jeremy created from the large plants in their backyard,
and everyone clustered around a long table of charcuterie and then bread that Emily baked, sipping as the rain fell outside.
Then we all began to move down toward the tent, passing the fire pit and peach tree with branches hanging heavy with fruit.
Entering the tent, I met Emily and Jeremy’s neighbor Ken, who divides his year between the Berkshires and Miami—you will likely see him on kthread again, as we are old friends although we’ve just met. (Linked photos throughout this post are by Kit Latham, a photographer who shot for Martha Stewart, which explains their beauty.)
Finding my placecard at one of the three long tables, I sat quietly at first, knowing only the hosts.
As she sat down next to me, Kathleen, owner of a cloth-screening business in Southfield that made the beautiful tablecloths printed with chickens (image at the bottom of the post), began to illuminate the fabric of the group beginning to settle into chairs.
After that, it was all delight.
Orbs of yellow hovered above the tables until clipped, and mushrooms, scissored off, landed softly in soup bowls below; a beefy onion broth poured underneath lifted them. We all turned to each other and lifted our spoons.
Next, Jeremy’s famous ravioli filled with rooster (yes, rooster) on top of lettuces and baby rainbow chard dressed with a citrus – a clever combination of courses and unusual presentation appropriate for summer.
Jeremy thanked all the farmers sitting among us (there were many) and introduced the next course of sausage, pickled beets, more of Emily’s good bread, and braised cabbage.
We served each other, passing plates, the rain continuing as a part of the evening’s show,
and I remembered Master Chef Gerhard Schmidt, who carved a little later, asking me how I had stayed so dry with the rain,
as the table was prepared for the Murray Grey beef that had been turned for hours on a welded device of Jeremy’s fashioning,
and we marveled over the beef, the tomatoes, and incredible roasted corn as Dominic Palumbo stood and made an impassioned argument that a local butcher shop represents a significant step for this community of local producers. He tapped all dinner guests as co-producers:
Shortbread cookies in a basil crème anglaise with eggs from the chickens half a dozen yards away and a peach from the nearby tree accompanied by eau de vie and dandelion wine ended the meal, and guests lingered in the tent lit with tea candles between sunflower bouquets.
The next morning, the special tablecloths had withstood the night of revelry and looked ready for their next event,
as the flowers leaned from the rain,
the lilies heralded the evening’s success,
and all the way back to this borough I hold dear, I thought about how a community celebrates its own.
Heading to a neighborhood full of pizza places ranked competitively with long lines for tables, I sat down on the asphalt with other Flea Marketers to the finest white pie I’ve tasted, cooked at 900 degrees in an oven that travels on the back of the Pizza Moto truck.
The pepperoni made this pizza sing, but then so did the others sitting around me, crunching their crusts, breaking the slices apart—superior products still need serious, supportive demand.
Best of luck to Emily, Jeremy, all involved with the Meat Market, and all of the lovely people I met at the dinner. For more wonderful images of the night, see Kit Latham’s Flickr collection, and for a comprehensive, detailed review in a source I now read compulsively, bookmark Dan Shaw’s articles on Rural Intelligence (here’s the one on the dinner).