Monday, June 10, 2013, is the grand opening of Duba & Company. You’ll be able to come to our website, peruse our inventory, and place an order. In anticipation of that event, here are five reasons to celebrate heritage meats.

FLAVOR. Two ideas here: fuller flavor and distinctive terroir. You’ll notice that, unlike conventional meat, heritage meats have fuller flavor. You’ll also notice a difference in flavor profiles from one farm to the next as you’re able to taste the geography of each region (the terroir), including the diet of the animals. Other factors that influence the flavor profile of the meats Duba & Company purveys include: the craft of the farmer or rancher; the breed of animal from which the meat comes (e.g. Scottish Highland beef versus Red Poll beef); the aging the meat undergoes; and the age of the animal at harvest.

NUTRIENT-DENSE. Heritage meats are raised primarily on pasture without growth hormones or prophylactic antibiotics. Further, they are higher in omega-3 fatty acids (“good fat”) and lower in omega-6 fatty acids (“bad fat”). In truth, the human body needs both kinds of fatty-acids, but it’s about ingesting them in the proper ratio. Conventional beef has a significantly higher ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s compared with heritage beef.

ETHICS. These meats are raised in small batches by dedicated farmers and ranchers in a humane fashion. In keeping with the natural order, these animals are not treated as if they were inanimate objects which—we fear—can be a tendency in the factory farm model.

CONSERVATION. Think of heritage meats (and heirloom vegetables and fruits) as the National Parks System of food. Eating them ensures the preservation of rare breeds and rare varieties of vegetables and fruits. Sadly, many animal breeds and vegetative varieties have become extinct in the 20th Century, an era that witnessed the rise of the factory food system which largely ignored the diversity of our food supply. Eating heritage meats, therefore, is an investment in biodiversity.

ROMANCE. Tangibly, heritage meats capture the historic flavor of meats enjoyed by our ancestors. Intangibly, they are potent embodiments of the mystique and ethos of the Old World, the West, and the Shire…

We zoomed down the expressway, returning from the opening of Two Sparrows Farm in Lowell, MI. It was an afternoon filled with farm-raised pulled pork sandwiches, homemade barbeque sauce, and fresh lemonade (and swarms of mosquitoes), all served off the bed of a truck (except the mosquitoes: they were everywhere). My wife observed on our commute home that I was sort of lost in conversation the whole time with some good friends, not even making it to one of the farm tours that were being offered. What were we taking about under the shade of the great oak? Well, among other very good things, let me tell you. We were discussing a merit of heritage meats that has–to date–remained unspoken.

For those who have spent time on the Duba & Company website or who have been following our blog posts, the discussion so far has centered on the fuller, richer flavors offered by heritage meats: this, and the flavor variety offered by the breeds and terroir of these distinctive meats. And yet, we’ve completely missed sharing another–even more noble–reason to enjoy what we’ve dubbed the “microbrew of meats.” It’s the reason why, in 1977, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy was formed: to protect and promote rare breeds of animals. Paradoxically, it is through eating these rare breeds that they are conserved. Consumption creates demand, and demand creates supply. That’s why heritage meats have been referred to as an “ark of taste,” a reference to the legendary vessel that preserved the species from a universal deluge.

Eating heritage meats is to adopt that very Rooseveltian spirit of conserving our national natural treasures which are not only found in Yellowstone Park or–closer to home–Pictured Rocks or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshores, but in the breeds of livestock that our forebears found here or brought with them from the Old World. And yet, these natural resources are far more vulnerable. The 20th Century witnessed the extinction of numerous breeds of livestock (as well as numerous varieties of fruits and vegetables). While man can do much to mare the landscape, it can (over time) recover its grandeur. Not so with the passing of a species from this world.

Yes, with every bite of heritage meats one not only tastes historic flavor but helps preserve that unique flavor. The sharing this feels like unearthing a treasure, and so it is…

American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

Tonight, Duba & Company publicly presented at Start Garden to a team of venture capitalists who had given us some initial seed money. In lieu of the presentation’s video (which will be shared if I can figure out a way to do it), here’s the script I was working from:

“The meat industry today is where the beer industry was in the 1980s. Conventional meat is the carnivore’s PBR. It is best characterized by two descriptors: uniform and lacking in flavor. Duba & Company are merchants of heritage meats, the meat equivalent of microbrew beers. They offer the consumer fuller flavor and flavor diversity. Our hypothesis is that in a market whose palates have been primed by the microbrew movement, the consumer is ready for the advent of heritage meats. To test the hypothesis, we built a website through which to sell heritage meat.

And here’s what we found in the process. Ultimately, the greatest challenge is one of supply. We’ve made, however, some significant strides in this area in the past 90 days. We’ve attracted the interest of the Midwest Highland Cattle Association and the American Highland Cattle Association. Duba & Company will be featured in the national association’s quarterly The Bagpipe. This attention positions us for a greater share of the current supply. We are, further, in the process of acquiring one ton of heritage Pineywoods beef from the nation’s largest herd. We’re planning to partner with a heritage beef co-op in Virginia who have built Alleghany Meats, a $2,000,000 processing facility. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the organization that created the definition for heritage meats, is promoting Duba & Company amongst its partners and members.

Aside from these positive strides in securing a greater share of the existing and emerging supply, we looking to create our own apprenticeship program that pairs veteran farmers with younger farmers who’d like to produce these unique meats for us.

Besides the supply-side challenge, there are the challenges of transportation and warehousing. Transportation: how do we move meat outside of Michigan to Michigan for processing in a cost-effective way? As a start-up, we do not own our own processing facility with walk-in freezer. After exploring more than a dozen storage options for our existing inventory, we have just secured the ideal space. This allows us to pursing licensing from the State so that we can commence with sales.

In an attempt to demonstrate desirability to Start Garden, we explored the option of pre-selling our inventory; legal counsel advised against it. So, we created an insiders club, The Pioneers, and sold memberships that entitles members to a first swipe at our inventory. In two weeks we’ve sold all but 19 of the 50 memberships.

In conclusion, we believe that heritage meats represent the next microbrew movement. We’d love to think that Grand Rapids, already a major player in that revolution, would also be a major player in the heritage ‘micro’ meat movement.”

Start Garden Update Night2

Last week, Duba & Company began offering a limited number of Pioneer Memberships, so named because in the world of heritage meats it’s all frontier (please also see “The Pioneers”, last week’s blog post dedicated to our first members). And, as exhilarating as the wide-open expanse of frontier territory is, it’s certainly comforting–and encouraging–when you come across an outpost in the form of others out there who have be creating settlements in the territory. This post introduces you to two such “outposts”: two individuals making inroads “out there…”

Meet Chuck Neely of Riven Rock Farm in Virginia with whom I was able to get acquainted yesterday over the telephone. It was lunch hour, and Chuck was taking a break between farm chores. Here’s a guy who speaks the language of a “terroir of beef” (for more on the subject, please see “The Terroir of Beef”) and who further affirmed our experience of the enhanced flavors that come from cattle harvested later in life, say cattle 30 months old or more, beef as rare–and every bit as good as–a 25 Year Old Scotch (for more on this topic, please see “Scotch Beef”). Down in the Highlands of Virgina he’s raising Galloway beef, a heritage breed and one that we intend to make part of our core beef product life. He’s part of a grass-fed and heritage meat co-operative. Backed by community support–and government grants–the farms that make up this co-op have been able to build a small, $2,000,000 USDA-inspected facility to process their animals. With the processing facility within 20 minutes of most–if not all–of the farms, one can be further assured of a higher quality meat. The greater the distance an animal needs to travel to slaughter, you see,  the greater the chance of stressing animals, and stress certainly has an effect on the quality of meat.

While Duba & Company has a tasting panel, Neely spoke of another–one Carrie Oliver, a self-proclaimed “beef geek”–who has developed tasting notes and grades beef based on “texture”, “personality,” and “impression” (for more on the philosophy of tasting, please see “Two Schools of Tasting”). Oliver is of The Artisan Beef Institute, whose website proclaims “Psst! It’s Not About the Marbling,” a reference to the fact that the flavor of beef comes not primarily from fat, but from the diet of the animals.

I just thought you’d like to know that there are others out there who share the same convictions as we do about what makes for great meat.

He was pulled from the sinking ship through a hole too small for his body, literally losing his skin in the process; it was the only way to save him, and he knew it: the desperate deed was done at his own behest. Once safe from the stranded vessel which had been making its way down the Mighty Mississippi (mighty indeed!), the rescuers were caught completely off-guard when the survivor, dripping with blood and water, began to laugh. This was maybe the third time he had escaped from death by the skin of his teeth, and the dawning realization was to be born again; laughter was the only appropriate response. When examining their prospect further, deep scars on his back from prior life traumas were discovered. How had they been inflicted? He somewhat causally explained to them that he had hunted bear. Who was this Greek god before men, this Hercules? In a three part television series about the man, airing in the 1950s, Walt Disney had him don a coon skin hat, even though in reality David Crockett wore one infrequently. Crockett was solider, statesman, hunter, and…pioneer.

When living out West, on the front range of the Colorado Rockies, I would drive home for the summer to Western Michigan under the hot, dry sun. These endless days of driving afforded me the tremendous opportunity of listening to the adventures of Lewis and Clark and of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. These stories left an indelible mark on me in the form of the haunting sense that we were once more than we are now…

This restless feeling returns when thinking of the pioneers who settled the American frontier, brave souls like Crockett and Daniel Boone, himself captured by Shawnee natives, but who was later adopted as part of their tribe. These brave souls possessed a spirit of adventure and a willingness to risk all. They carved out of the forests, homesteads; out of the rolling hills and plains, farmsteads; out of the mountainous valleys, ranches. Each brought with them some craft or skill, some knowledge or expertise that formed the basis of these local and self-contained economies. They hunted, fished, farmed, and (sometimes) fought. They made their own candles, wool, and weapons. Their lives were hard, but it expanded the spirit. Our lives are—by comparison—easy, but decidedly hard on the spirit.

Heritage meats represent Frontier: new ground which is really the reclamation of ancient ground. They represent the recovery of a lost way of life, a way of life known to the pioneers. Heritage meats somehow embody all that was good and noble about the Old World, Colonial America, and the West—the “something more” that we once were. For these reasons, when yesterday Duba & Company announced open enrollment to its insiders’ club, its only seemed natural to name it in honor of the pioneers, the “first settlers” of new territory.

True, Pioneer members will be the first to taste the historic flavor of heritage meats by getting a first pass at our inventory (available this Spring). And they will also receive discounts on every purchase. Much more than this, though, I believe that Pioneer members are those who resonate with all that heritage meats represent: frontier territory.

There are a limited number of memberships being offered—only fifty, in fact—and about 20% of the memberships were sold in the first three hours of their offering. If you’re interested in becoming a Pioneer, please click here to learn more.

 This post has been dedicated to Duba & Company’s first Pioneers.

pioneers

 

Brewery Vivant is nestled in the very eclectic, very vibrant Cherry Hills business district where an ensemble of local merchants and restaurants line the brick-laden Cherry Street. Many of Vivant’s patrons bike or walk to the brewpub’s monastic environs or outdoor patio for its Belgian-inspired draft beers or to down its famous burger, ground fresh with bacon, and which is served up on a pretzel bun. (Even though many locals claim it’s the best burger in the city–notwithstanding Grand Rapids is home to Stella’s Lounge, whose burger was named best in America by GQ Magazine–it’s French and Belgian dishes are the brasserie’s best-kept secret; and a brasserie is a French word for “brewpub”, and not–as you may have guessed–a woman’s undergarment.) It was here that I spent two days manning the grill, cooking up (mainly) burgers and steaks under the supervision of now-head chef Chris Weimer, all in an attempt to buttress my budding grill skills. As this coming weekend might be the first really good grilling weekend–one of our favorite past times in Michigan–here are the trade secrets I’ve gleaned over time for bringing out the very best in burgers and steaks, some of which I picked up during those two unforgettable days on a professional grill.

First I want to share my conviction that heritage burger can be nearly–or just–as edifying and delectable as a heritage steak. This should be encouraging news for those who want a more affordable way to experience the delicious, fuller flavors that heritage meats offer. Beef which is primarily pasture-raised, as has been mentioned in prior posts, tastes of the land on which it is raised. The cattle transform the herbs, grasses, and minerals present in the soil into flavorful beef–provided, as well, that you have a rancher or farmer well-versed in the art of pasture-raised beef. The particular breed of cattle, too, plays a significant part in the beef’s flavor. Therefore, I strongly recommend if you are cooking with heritage meats that you use minimal spices and sauces. They should only be used to heighten or compliment the flavor of the beef, not to mask its flavor. It’s the flavor of the meat, after all, that you’re paying for (there’s, of course, the health benefits, too). If you need further convincing, please read this post from late last year which shares the account of one my life’s best beef experiences. It involved a burger of Scottish Highland beef, burger so good that not only did I dispense of any condiments, but also of the bun.

Cooking Heritage Burgers and Steaks in Seven Steps

1. Allow the meat, if frozen, to thaw slowly in the refrigerator. This usually takes a day or two.

2. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking. Again, depending on the size of the cut, this can take anywhere from 1/2 hour to an hour.

3. Slather steaks with olive oil just prior to cooking (not necessary with burger) and sprinkle with salt and pepper: generously for thicker cuts of steak and bigger burgers, moderately for thinner steaks and smaller burgers.

4. If cooking steaks or burgers in a pan, lightly coat the bottom of the pan with some olive oil and allow the oil to heat over a medium-high heat. The oil’s ready when it just starts to smoke. If cooking steaks or burgers on a grill, use the “Four Second Test”: the grill’s hot enough if you can hold your hand an inch above the grill for four seconds before the heat gets too intense.

5. Cook the meat to the desired level of doneness: I’d discourage a well-done steak or burger (conventional wisdom says you’ll lose some of the coveted flavor of really good beef). But, as always, it’s up to you. CAUTION: It’s easy to overcook pasture-raised meat (there’s less insulation in terms of fat in these meats–more flavor but less fat). It’s better to err on the side of caution and under cook the meat–you can always finish the meat off in a hot oven (475 to 500 F).

6. Allow the steak or burger to “rest” before serving. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll let the meat rest for a little less time than it took to cook. This allows the meat to finish cooking, among other things. If cooking a steak, it is at this point that you might consider allowing a pat of butter to melt atop the steak as it rests.

7. If cooking a steak, just prior to serving you might consider seasoning it with sea salt–or other gourmet salt. If cooking a burger, be careful with toppings and condiments. You don’t want to cover or hide the wonderful flavor of heritage meats which represent a terroir (the ability to taste the geography in the food: the earth, minerals, and herbage of the region).

I’ve never claimed to have the mind of a scientist, but of course have read up on the nutritional benefits of eating grass-fed beef. Whenever, though, the terminology of “terpenes,” “alpha-tocopherol,” and “conjugated linoleic acids” gets bandied about, it’s all “blah, blah, blah” (which, in addition to the above cartoon, also brings to mind Bob Loblaw from Arrested Development. It might help to say “Bob Loblaw” aloud, to yourself. Good stuff, that.) Nevertheless, despite all the technical jargon I think I’m able to get the gist of it. No, this post isn’t waxing eloquent the nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef. Rather, there’s this one idea–one concept–that I’d like to explore concerning grass-fed beef which has become for me something of a metaphor for how to better navigate this life.

The solitary idea that has become a metaphor for life is the relationship in grass-fed beef between Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6s, generally considered a “bad” fatty acid and Omega-3s, generally considered a “good” fatty acid (more on that later). The relationship between the presence of the two fatty acids in beef that is considered good is 4 (or lower) to 1. Conventional grain-fed beef has a ratio of 14 to 1 while grass-fed beef has a ratio of 2 to 1. (Higher ratios have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and auto-immune disorders.) But here’s the the rub, lest one gets down on fatty acids: they’re essential to human body. It seems I’ve read somewhere that they’re considered essential for brain growth, development, and functioning. It’s not about eliminating them from the diet, but finding them in the right ratios. And it seems that nature provides them in the proper proportions. In other words, it’s about the Golden Mean. It’s about the right relationship between things. And therein lies the metaphor: life is, in part, about finding the right relationship with every good thing.

One of those relationships that has become a theme lately is that between work and leisure. (I will quickly add that it’s been a theme because of the nagging sense that I gravitate toward an unhealthy relationship with work which, it seems to me, busyness is the symptom.) Two opposite errors, in fact, seem to have taken root in contemporary culture: laziness and busyness. Reading now a refreshing philosophical treatise on Leisure as the basis of culture, it makes the case that a solitary and fundamental error lies at the root of both laziness and busyness (busyness defined as “work for the sake of work”) and raises a provocative question: Do we work so that we might have leisure or do we have leisure in order that we might work? Of course both work and leisure are necessary, but they are not mutually exclusive: there can be an aspect of work present in leisure, say that of planting a garden or playing a musical instrument. Conversely, there can be an element of relaxation brought to our daily activities and in our place of work.

Our first date was at the Farmer’s Market. Of course, we didn’t call our rendezvous a “date” at the time, but that’s what it was. I called it “shopping.” And it’s true, I was there to shop. Grocery list in hand, it was a mission to buy exactly what was needed and in the precise amounts for the recipe I was making. Before I met my wife, you see, I approached cooking (and the requisite purchasing of ingredients) something like a German approaches bridge-building: namely, as an exercise in precision. I was a good cook, but an exacting cook. If a recipe called for Gorgonzola, bleu cheese would not do. On those occasions when I cooked with my father, a chef, I was horrified when he would suggest that I dispense with the measuring devise and “estimate a teaspoon.”

Why this comes to mind now may have something to do with the meeting this morning with a business consultant. I had brought with me the work I’ve been doing these past couple of weeks on retail pricing charts for Duba & Company’s inventory (it’s one of the last things that needs to be in place before we can open our online storefront). His concern was over there being too much time and attention given to computing costs, weights, and measurements (“estimate”, was his advice). A case of analysis paralysis. Unless you’re dealing with pharmaceuticals, building an airplane, or space travel, close is close enough. In other words, “simplify!”

Rocket

Somewhere in the past couple of years I’m happy to say that–in at least one area of my life–I have (my wife takes credit for it). I’ve discovered the joy of showing up at the market without much by way of a shopping list. I’ll take a walk around to see what’s in season, what’s being offered, and to look for inspiration, waiting for something to present itself. And it does! There was the time last August that I walked away from the Rockford Market with the ingredients of a fresh, simple, but brightly flavorful lunch of blackberries, smoked white fish, rustic bread, and a smoked onion marmalade. Later that same month, after visiting the Fulton Street Farmers Market, my wife and I left with a picnic basket of mealy crackers, farm fresh cheese, chutney, and–after one more stop–beer. We toted the makings of our lunch to the top of Pyramid Point where, on the bluff of this sand dune, we enjoyed the contents of our basket while looking out over the lake that lends Michigan its name (or maybe it’s the other way round).

Maybe in these recollections I’m looking for a kinder, gentler approach to accounting. Maybe I can’t wait for the warmer weather that brings with it a bustling Farmers’ Market. Or maybe it’s time to start laying plans for a summer vacation (but not, of course, laying holiday plans in the manner of that infamous German-American vacation planner, Clark Griswold).

Vacation

We sat around the dinner table, next to the wood burning stove, in the farmhouse at Two Sparrows Farm (Lowell, Michigan). This was last month, in the month of March, and it was still very much winter here. My wife and I were with Dan and Whitney, friends of ours and the founders of Two Sparrows. As the wind buffeted the old house, our conversation turned at one point on the very real challenges faced by those looking to start a sustainable farm in 21st Century America.

Our hosts grabbed my attention by observing that, traditionally, Americans spent 25% of their income on food; we now spend 10%. On the surface, this seems like a very good thing. But the cause of the lower food costs is, presumably, the direct result of factory farming: Model-T industrial structures applied to produce and livestock (economies of scale and the like). There is a tradeoff for lower prices. For one, there’s a compromise in flavor (the produce and meats produced in such a way, frankly, lack taste). For another, one could argue (and I do) that it lacks nutritional value. Then there are the ethical questions that arise when we treat animate objects (vegetation and animals) as if they were inanimate objects.

The real obstacle to starting a small, family farm–our hosts helped us realize–is the great difficulty of affording farmland. Unless one inherits farmland, one must buy it. Easier said than done. The new farmers, looking to purchase land, must  compete not only against large agribusinesses who’d like to acquire more farmland but large agribusinesses backed by federal subsidies. Such entities can pay as much as three times as much as the individual family.

I believe that we are seeing things beginning to shift, gradually, in the direction of sourcing our foods from small, sustainable farms. It starts, appropriately enough, at the grass roots level: by making small–but incremental–changes to the way we buy and eat. We take steps in the right direction by spending our hard-earned dollars on the more nutrient-dense and often more flavorful food provided at our local farmers’ markets.

The meeting with Chef Angus Campbell took place last Thursday at the Secchia Culinary Institute in downtown Grand Rapids. I had come to gauge his interest in appearing in Duba & Company’s pilot video cooking tutorial. For a number of reasons, he’d fit perfectly in a film which demonstrates the nuances of working with Scottish Highland beef, beef which comes–of course–from a heritage breed of cattle. For one, he is a teacher with his own cooking show (Cooking with Angus). His engaging personality, ease in front of the camera, passion for food, and gift of teaching has won him the respect and admiration of audiences, chefs, and students. Best of all, his Scottish roots run deep: he hails from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, speaks Gaelic, and his English rolls of the tongue in a thick, Scottish brogue. Originally, our meeting was to take place over a casual lunch at the Institute’s student-run Heritage Restaurant, plans which had to be changed. I remember thinking to myself what a nice coincidence it was that the restaurant’s name is also the descriptor of the very meats that our company purveys (the restaurant was thus named, presumably, because of its being located in or near the historic Heritage Hill district of Grand Rapids were Victorian houses dot the once brick or cobblestone streets). While this coincidence is a quaint one, nothing was to prepare me for the incredible way in which Angus’ life and mine were entwined.

Upon arrival at the Institute, the secretary at the front desk ushered me back to Chef’s office. On his desk was a photo of him with Chef Gordon Ramsey (of Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares fame). Both were younger in the framed picture, but what struck me was just how much younger Angus appears in real life as compared to television. Now, I wasn’t about to say anything about his more youthful appearance, owing to a “learning experience” some twenty years before. Visiting a high school friend of mine at his northeast side home, we found his parents playing host to a local celebrity. After having been re-introduced, I intended to compliment him by saying, “You look thinner in person than on television. I guess it’s true what they say, ‘Television adds twenty pounds.'” The atmosphere in the room grew suddenly tense, tension that was finally broke by his retort, “No, actually it’s eating that adds twenty pounds.” I’d like to say that I learned my lesson that day, but it’s still one of my idiosyncrasies: the absent-minded, good-intentioned, albeit inappropriate remark. My idiosyncratic nature is further exhibited by a fetish for smelling things–anything, really, but especially books.

Scottish Castle

The revered Scottish chef took me into the board room where we sat on either side of the conference table. We discovered that both of us had spent time on the remote Isle of Arran, an island off of Scotland’s western shore. He was there in ’89 and I in ’98. It was on the Isle of Arran, incidentally, that I took a bike ride along the coastline, stopping to talk to a pair of Scottish lasses who–it was discovered–had attended school just an hour south of Grand Rapids in Kalamazoo, Michigan (what are the chances?). Now here is where things get really interesting. Angus suddenly stops me with what seems an innocuous question about the tweed jacket I was wearing, “Is that Harris Tweed?” I’ll confess I didn’t understand at first that the query concerned my favorite sports jacket (it’s the same coat I’ve donned in the 2013 Duba & Company Promotional Video). Picking up on this, he tried again, “Where did you get your jacket?” Quite frankly, I had bought this jacket maybe ten years ago at a Goodwill store in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and said as much. He asked me to pull open my jacket, reveling the labeling inside. Humoring him, I held my coat open like some watch salesman (something I’ve only seen in the picture books, by the way: I can’t definitely say that people pin watches inside their coats and hawk them). Harris Tweed, indeed! “My father,” says Angus, “made the wool of that jacket.” (His father, apparently, just recently hung up the loom.) And what of the label stitched inside bearing the official emblem of Harris Tweed? Sewed on my jacket by his best friend, all in the Highlands of Scotland, in Newtonmore. (That label appears at the bottom of this post.) Who knew the coat had such a noble heritage?

That setting the tone for our time together, I freely shared that about an award-winning chili recipe that I created using ground of Highland beef: a recipe inspired by the national dish of Scotland, haggis (please read the account of that recipe here). Having raised his own cattle in the past, he told me of just what could be done to make the flavor of, for instance, Highland beef even more fascinating (why not have them graze on heather?), and that of heritage pigs and sheep (you could feed them chocolate husks or allspice berries). What would that do to the flavor of the meat? The atmosphere in the room crackled with inspiration and one’s imagination could begin to taste what was being envisioned.

Walking into the board room at the Secchia Institute that day, I had been principally concerned with finding and providing our customers the best in heritage meats (no easy task, believe me: not, though, so much because there is so little great heritage meat; there’s just precious little heritage meat, period). This quest remains an obsession. But sitting at the feet of this master, I realized something more was beginning to emerge: a passion for an undertaking–years though it may be–of partnering with artisanal farmers who can help us raise a mythical product perceived in my mind last Thursday, meats perhaps the world has never tasted. As we stood up to leave, Chef and I shook hands. Then, he did something truly amazing–something only I could have appreciated. He took the hem of my jacket–my Harris Tweed jacket–lifted it to his nose, and drew a deep breath.

Harris Tweed