Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Meat

Dinner tonight!: Nancy's burgers

Nancy's burgers
Looking to do a little outdoor cooking tonight, or sometime this weekend? Have we got a burger for you, courtesy of Nancy Silverton. Best of all, you can make the toppings ahead of time, then just grill up the burgers to order. You can find the recipe here.

For more quick-fix dinner ideas, check out our video recipe gallery here. Food Editor Russ Parsons and Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter show you how to whip up a dozen dishes in an hour or less.

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-- Noelle Carter
twitter.com/noellecarter

Photo: Crumbled blue cheese and cheddar top Nancy's burgers. Credit: Beatrice De Gea / Los Angeles Times

Rock star butcher Dario Cecchini blows his horn at Valentino

Rock star butcher Dario Cecchini hosted a raucous dinner at ValentinoPity the poor soul who ventured into Valentino on Thursday night hoping for the usual display of elegant, quiet and refined alta cucina. Who was that guy in the bright red pants wandering around blowing that danged horn?

When rock star butcher Dario Cecchini is in the house, it's always his party. And Valentino's Piero Selvaggio -- who invited Cecchini to teach a butchering class and then host the dinner -- seemed like he couldn't have been happier about that. It was, after all, the kickoff to the restaurant's 40th birthday celebration, which is scheduled to stretch into fall.

Cecchini is the Tuscan who rocketed to culinary stardom based on his wondrous ways with pork and beef at his Panzano butcher shop Antica Macelleria Cecchini. Well, that and his penchant for standing up in the middle of any dinner and declaiming Dante's "Inferno" in loud and impeccably Tuscan-accented Italian.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
Che la diritta via era smarrita.

There was no Dante on Thursday night, but there was a four-throated horn called a tromba that had all the pleasant melodiousness of a Brazilian vuvuzuela or a demented Fiat. And Cecchini played it as long and as loud and as often as he could.

Not that anyone minded. After all, the packed house was there to see him. Among the crowd were Italian food expert Faith Willinger, who had flown in from Florence with Cecchini and his wife Kim, and their hosts Marvin and Judy Zeidler. Also in from Panzano was top Chianti producer Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi, whose wines were poured at the dinner (the 2008 "Flaccianello" in magnum was superb).

What did we eat? Though the menu was billed as "Non-Solociccia" (not meat only), there was indeed a lot of it -- crostini with a puree of ragu and lardo; a spectacular crudo of beef thinly sliced and dressed with great olive oil; spaghetti with wild boar ragu; roasted pork loin, and bistecca Fiorentina (or as Cecchini called it, "beef cooked on a wood-burning grill as 'God's Order'"). There was a salad, but it was a little arugula and a lot of pork, first braised in white wine and then shredded.

Tonight, calm and serenity will return to the restaurant. But what a heckuva party it was while it lasted. Even at 40, Valentino can still kick up its heels.

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Photo: Dario Cecchini, left, and Piero Selvaggio. Credit: Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times

5 Questions for Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura

Amelia and Erika 600

Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura are owners and operators of Lindy & Grundy Meats, a new old-fashioned butcher shop on Fairfax Avenue. Pasadena native Amelia met Erika, who's from Tokyo, while in New York. Soon after, a romantic relationship developed and their culinary adventures began. After attending the French Culinary Institute, Erika worked at an array of fine dining establishments but found her calling in the art of Old World butchering. The couple apprenticed at Fleisher's Grass-Fed & Organic Meats in Kingston, N.Y., and the two decided it was time to bring sustainable, nose-to-tail butchering to L.A.

What’s coming up next on your menu?

Amelia: Turkeys galore! This will be our first holiday season, we're really excited. Our poultry ranchers, Rainbow Ranch Farms, have been raising pastured heritage-breed turkeys for us in anticipation of Thanksgiving. Some of the breeds include Bourbon Reds, Narragansett, Spanish Blacks, Royal Palms, Eastern Wilds and White Midgets.

Erika: I'm working on a couple of farmers market-driven seasonal sausages right now. The most recent being a Tuscan lamb sausage with Sweet 100 tomato raisins that we dehydrate at the shop, olives and thyme. The one that I am really excited about, which is still a work in progress, is a chicken sausage with shiso leaves, chives, sansho, ginger and white pepper. Starting to think more and more about the harvest season...

Latest ingredient obsession?

Amelia: Lamb bacon. We take the lamb belly, cure it and smoke it at the shop ... it's amazing. Lamb BLT's or lamb burgers topped off with lamb bacon. It's lovely.

Erika: Smoked pig trotters!

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?

Amelia: Anybody who knows me, including all of my customers, knows that I'm a huge fan of Animal. I live around the corner from there, it's my neighborhood spot. I am obsessed with the poutine, the chicken liver toast, the calves' brains and the hamachi tostada.

Erika: I wait for special occasion-excuses to indulge in a visit to Mozza, one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. We always get an assortment of fresh selections from the mozzarella bar, the squid ink pasta with uni and jalapeno, and the braised veal breast.

The last cookbook you read -– and what inspired you to pick it up?

Amelia: "The Blackberry Farms Cookbook." I'm a huge fan of Michael Sullivan, a friend of ours who also goes by the "Reverend Of Fat"! He is an amazing chef, butcher and salumist at Blackberry Farms. He inspires me to push harder and learn more.

Erika: "Charcuteries des Chefs." It's a Japanese charcuterie book that a friend picked up for me in Tokyo. It's written entirely in Japanese and has the most detailed photographs and straightforward recipes. It's incredible.

What chef has most influenced you?

Amelia: Since I am not a professional chef or cook, I've never been influenced by any chef other than my own mother, Jan, who is one of the most talented, innovative chefs I know. My mother and Erika are my favorite chefs, and they have both given me the courage to cook in my own kitchen!

Erika: April Bloomfield [of New York's the Spotted Pig]. There are not very many women like this that throw down in the kitchen. Her menus are creatively inspired by whole-animal cooking, which inspired me to pursue a culinary career, which eventually lead me to learn to butcher.

Lindy & Grundy Meats, 801 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 951-0804, lindyandgrundy.com.

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Photo: Amelia Posada, left, and Erika Nakamura. Credit: Jennifer May

Follow the Butchers

LindyandGrundy

I’ve recently started following L.A.’s artisanal butcher shops on Twitter, a brilliant use of the social media for the home cook.

If I open my Twitter account, between tweets on the developing Syria crisis, José Andres’ travels in Spain, Scrivener and iA Writer updates, and our own Food section's tweets, McCall’s Meat & Fish Co. notes they've got in “Wild Black Grouper, Skate Wing, Black Cod, Salmon, Tuna, Scallops, Halibut, Black Bass, Branzino, Clams, Mussels." Not to mention Berkshire pork and fresh calves’ liver. I read the post and my mind instantly switches over to planning the weekend's menu. 

Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, the two women behind Lindy & Grundy Meats have used social media to churn up a frenzy of anticipation for their new Fairfax Avenue butcher shop. Via Twitter, they might report that the butcher case is now stocked with “beef & bacon grind, rack of lamb, lamb loin chops, pork chops, fresh chickens, bone marrow, sirloin tip steaks, london broil, rancher steaks” or “fresh Mexican chorizo and have just made a batch of espresso chili with marrow.”

Then comes a flash from Grindhaus, the little sausage shop that could, trumpeting “Spicy Beef w/Garlic, Bratwurst, Kielbasa, Pork w/Grn Chilis, Spicy Italian, Wild Boar, Chkn Chorizo."

By the time I get to the farmers market, I’ve already got a main course in mind and can build my shopping around it. Sweet.

To note: Both butcher shops and sausage shop are open Sundays.

McCall’s Meat & Fish Co., 2117 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles; (323) 667-0674; www.mccallsmeatandfish.com. Twitter handle @mccallsmandf 

Lindy & Grundy, 801 N. Fairfax Avenue (at Waring), Los Angeles; (323) 951-0804; www.lindyandgrundy.com. Twitter handle @LindyGrundy

Grindhaus, 5634 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (610) 906-2677; www.GrindhausLA.com. Twitter handle @GrindhausLA.

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Photo: Butchers Amelia Posada, left, and Erika Nakamura of "Lindy & Grundy's" on Fairfax Avenue. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila finds a painting that needs a buyer, preferably a carnivore (she's on a money diet)

Il_570xN.239698964
I just discovered illustrator Giselle Potter has a site on Etsy where she sells some of her paintings and illustrations. She's illustrated a number of children's books, including "The Boy Who Loved Words," "The Brave Little Seamstress" and "The Littlest Grape Stomper," with her wondrous and whimsical work. Her latest is "To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays," written in 1940 by Gertrude Stein (Yale University Press, 2011, $25).

I want this painting of a butcher in his shop. But since I'm on a money diet, I'm not buying it. Somebody else should -- maybe a butcher or a baker? $400 (plus $5 shipping) at Potter's Etsy store. It's not big, just 7.5 x 11.5 inches, but beautiful. Check out those knives!

Let me know where it lands.

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Cooking pork

 -- S. Irene Virbila

Illustration: Giselle Potter

Times Food editor Russ Parsons asks: Are the new meat temperature recommendations really on target?

Pork

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has finally recognized what a lot of cooks and food scientists have been arguing for some time –- that previously recommended doneness temperatures for meat were wrong. But before you leap to your feet to applaud let's think for a minute about those revised recommendations.

Essentially, the USDA is now calling for three doneness temperatures. The old recommendations of 160 degrees for ground meat and 165 for poultry remain (the poultry was revised down from 180 several years ago), while calling for 145 degrees for "whole cuts of meat," including roasts, chops and steaks, whether they are from pork, beef or lamb. Previously, they recommended 145 for beef and lamb and 160 for pork.

The department is also recognizing the benefit of a "rest" period, though their recommended three minutes is not enough to make much of a difference culinarily (admittedly, their purview is guaranteeing food safety, not deliciousness).

But here's the rub, albeit from the standpoint of flavor: Though some really good cooks do recommend cooking pork to less than 160 degrees, I think there is a good reason not to, and it has nothing to do with food safety — it just doesn't taste as good. Granted, the meat will be moister (particularly if you're talking about lean cuts from the loin and tenderloin). But as repeated taste tests have shown, pork cooked to lower temperatures has what is generally called a "serumy" or "metallic" flavor. Probably better to brine the meat for moisture, then cook it to at least 155 for flavor.

The recommendations err in the other direction when it comes to cooking other whole cuts to 145 degrees. That's not a bad recommendation for something like a leg of lamb, which has a lot of sinew and connective tissue that needs to be softened. But cooking lamb chops, racks or an expensive cut of beef to 145 degrees puts it squarely in the "medium" doneness range -- a culinary crime against good meat.

Of course, the sheer willingness to reconsider previous positions is something to be praised. I remember years ago trying to track down the source of the recommendation of 180 degrees for poultry (which has probably resulted in more bad Thanksgiving turkeys than any other single factor). I worked my way up the phone chain at the USDA until finally somebody admitted that they had, essentially, plucked the number from thin air, but that they were going to stick with it because, essentially, most home cooks didn't know how to use a meat thermometer correctly anyway.

-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Despite a new, lower USDA standard, boneless pork chops may taste better when cooked to 155 degrees. Credit: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

Gross! Widespread meat contamination detected

Meat 
Sorry to ruin your appetite this morning, but we'd be remiss if we did not bring Friday's breaking news to your attention. Will this news change your eating habits? Are you ready to go vegetarian? Do you already have a source for meat that is outside the mainstream chain? (If so, please share.)

Let's hear your thoughts on Friday's news:

Meat in the U.S. may be widely contaminated with strains of drug-resistant bacteria, researchers reported Friday.

Nearly half of all meat and poultry sampled in a new study contained drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, the type of bacteria that most commonly causes staph infections. Such infections can take many forms, from a minor rash to pneumonia or sepsis. But the findings are less about direct threats to humans than they are about the risks of using antibiotics in agriculture. Read more -- if you can stomach it -- over at our Health blog:

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Brendan Smialowski / Bloomberg

Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila ponders the case of the vexing vinegar spout. Can you help?

VINEGAR (1 of 1) This past weekend, I went to Marconda's Meats, the butcher shop in the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. On the way back to the car, I took a spin around World Market (which I still can't help calling Cost Plus) and spotted this 6-quart glass beverage dispenser for $14.95. I'd been looking for something bigger than a French liter canning jar to expand my red wine vinegar production.

When I was up in Berkeley, I'd investigated buying a wood vinegar barrel at Oak Barrel Winecraft but the prices were more than I was willing to spend. A 1-gallon American oak barrel, for example, is $135, the 2-gallon $145, while a 6-liter French oak barrel is $170, a 10-liter one $200. But they certainly have everything you'd need for making vinegar, even a vinegar-making kit.

For a vinegar-making primer, see food editor Russ Parsons' 1999 article "Mother, May I?" 

The beverage dispenser seemed just the right size and price. Plus, because of the spigot, I could easily remove vinegar without disturbing the precious mother. I transferred my red wine vinegar and mother to the new container and cut a square of cheesecloth to put on top. Perfect!

Three days later the jar started leaking around the spigot. I'm returning it Saturday.

Now what. Anybody have any ideas?

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Follow me on twitter.com/sirenevirbila

Photo by Fred Seidman

Exclusive, with photos: A sneak peek at Lindy & Grundy, opening Tuesday

IMG_3296 Back in January, we published our profile of Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, the cleaver-wielding butcherettes who have been setting up their sustainable meat store on Fairfax Avenue.  Since then the women have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their butcher shop, leaving the city in suspense for the opening. Some were so antsy, in fact, that they jumped the gun in announcing the opening.

The duo's thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers are likely privvy to the meticulous inspections and multiple bumps in the road that have pushed their opening more than a month behind schedule. But this afternoon we finally received word that Lindy & Grundy Local, Pastured, and Organic Meats is finally ready to peddle its first pork jowls.

Naturally, we wanted to give you an exclusive sneak peak of the shop in its final stages. A virtual tour with smellevision would be helpful, because upon walking through the front doors we were slammed with the scent of smoking cedarwood and roasting meat. Decked out in chain-mail aprons, Nakamura was meticulously breaking down pork parts for house-made sausages and Posada and their two  employees were busy loading the smoker, testing recipes and quartering chickens.

The store, which opens Tuesday, will offer sustainably raised beef, lamb, pork, sausage, poultry, cheese and aged meat. Sausages are being stuffed for opening day; varieties include kimchi pork, sweet and hot Italian and classic lamb. Nakamura's signature "gateway" sausage (part tofu, part chicken) will be available once they settle in. They will sell a house blend of ground beef in freezer cases, along with stocks and other prepared items. The store will also have a rub and spice station where customers can work with the butchers to create specific spice mixtures for the meats they're purchasing.

The doors will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, and they plan to have an official opening party within a few weeks. The celebration will be a welcome one, after the series of delays.

"Getting this place open has been our lives." Posada says. "We couldn't have done this without each other."

For photos of their nearly completed sustainable butcher shop, keep reading.

--Krista Simmons

Follow me on Twitter @kristasimmons

Continue reading »

4 Food Events You Should Know About: Meltdown Comics' meat-themed night; Corkbar celebrates its 2-year anniversary; Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery gives back; Melting Pot gives free fondue [Updated]

Meat Meat mania: Let's clink plastic cups and toast to meat. Thursday night from 7 to 10, Meltdown Comics in Hollywood will be hosting a night all about meat to kick off a new exhibition that will be on display through March 17. Alie and Georgia (of Drinks with Alie and Georgia) will be serving cocktails rimmed in barbeque sauce as guests walk through the warehouse-sized comic book emporium and feast their eyes on meat-themed artwork.

Meltdown Comics, 7522 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles.

Popping bottles: Raise your glasses and mark Saturday on your calendar, when Corkbar celebrates its two-year anniversary from 5 to 10 p.m. with a $2 tastes menu, happy hour pricing and a hefty dose of limited-edition beers.  Your stomach and wallet will thank you for filling up on the likes of “ball park sliders” with pork sausage and relish on a pretzel bun or mac ‘n’ cheese with pasilla chiles. On the big night, Stone Brewing will unveil its limited edition Lukcy Basartd Ale that commemorates the 13th year of the brewery’s Arrogant Bastard Ale. Although your memory may be hazy, it certainly has the makings of a night to remember. 

Corkbar, 403 West 12th St., Los Angeles; (213) 746-0050.

Beer for a good cause: Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery has announced its 15th annual partnership with local fire departments with the Fire Chief Ale limited-time-only promotion. From Tuesday through April 17, the restaurant will be featuring its popular seasonal beer along with an accompanying menu.  For every pint of Fire Chief Ale sold during the promotion, Rock Bottom will donate 25 cents to local fire departments and their related charities.

Rock Bottom Restaraunt, 8980 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla; (858) 450-9277.

National Cheese Fondue Day: Make your reservations now for The Melting Pot Restaurant's celebration of National Cheese Fondue Day on April 11, when they'll be serving free cheese fondue at all of their locations. For now you can visit their website and watch videos of their head chef talking about all things cheese, including Cheese Weight Lifting, Cheese Facial, Cheese Brain Freeze and Cheesy Pick Up Lines.

www.411iscoming.com

-- Emma Wartzman and Max Diamond

[Updated 1:16 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled the names of the beers being highlighted. Stone Brewing is serving up Lukcy Basartd Ale, which commemorates the brewery's Arrogant Bastard Ale.]

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.