Ah, Summer. For many of us, in the food biz, it’s just the best time of year. The growing season is in full swing, local produce is in abundance, and outdoor grilling becomes the norm. For all these reasons, we really love Summer at Marczyk Fine Foods, but it’s safe to say that the thing we love best about it is our annual trip to Iowa. We choose a few lucky staff members each year and load them up on a plane to Des Moines where they get to work on the pig farm and participate in the Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner put on by Niman Ranch in honor of all their hard-working farmers. It’s a weekend full of good feelings, good food, and good times to be sure.
The Iowa crew this year included Suzanne (she’s the boss lady), Jeff, Bryan, and Tony (some of our key players in the meat department), and the other Brian (that’s me… I’m the Meat & Seafood Manager). We took off for Des Moines on Thursday and spent most of that day screwing around in the city like a bunch of giddy teenagers. We had a remarkable meal at Django in Downtown Des Moines where we ate like kings and devoured the large Seafood platter fast enough for Suzanne to ask, in all seriousness, if we should get another one.
Friday we were up with the sun and off to Thornton, Iowa to “The Dream Farm” where Paul Willis, AKA Niman Ranch Hog farmer #1, holds a giant pig roast every year. The Marczyk crew goes out a day early to help set up the barn for the pig roast. We work (I use the term loosely) by setting the tables, picking wildflowers for the centerpieces (best part of the whole weekend), and generally tidying up and getting ready for the dinner. We spent a great hour shucking exactly 17 dozen ears of corn and then giving all the husks to the pigs, who were super excited and cheerfully grunted in what could only be interpreted as appreciation.
We, along with the rest of the folks who were there, shared a great selection of cheeses, salame, olives, cookies and chocolates that came from Marczyk’s. After that, we took off for Paul Brown’s pig farm, Alderland Farm. What a great place! There were lots of pigs running around outside, all without a care in the world. The thing that struck me the most was how incredibly peaceful it was. There were 150 people there wandering all over the farm and it was almost silent. I can only imagine what it is like when there are no guests. The fresh, sweet-smelling air and stress-free environment reminded me of why we sell Niman Ranch Pork in the first place. These animals are raised the right way, there’s just no doubt about it.
After that, it was back to the Dream Farm so we could help serve (and eat!) dinner. We cooked all of the corn we had shucked and sliced a bunch of Prairie Breeze Cheddar, which is locally made right in Iowa… in fact, the man who owns the creamery is also a Niman Ranch Hog Farmer! We also poured lots of wine and beer (because why not?) for all the weekend guests, who were a collection of retailers, chefs and distributers who all sell Niman Ranch products. The meal consisted of roasted pig, which was excellent, potato salad, heirloom tomato salad (Paul Willis grows 77 beautiful varieties of heirloom tomatoes!), corn on the cob, and homemade pies and chocolates. By the end of the meal, we were all very full and very tired. Bryan was the rookie of the group so we made him drive the 2 hours back to Des Moines (better luck next year, Bryan!).
Saturday morning we walked about 2 blocks from our hotel to one of the biggest farmers markets I have ever seen. Rows upon rows of fresh vegetables, frozen meats, tamales, jewelry, and so much more… it was massive! We were all quite impressed to see a farmers market of that caliber and size. The rest of the day was filled with seminars and meetings, which may not sound like a lot of fun but we actually found it to be incredibly interesting and informative and we learned a lot.
Finally, Saturday night arrived! That’s when we got all dressed up and went downstairs to the Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. The crew split up so we could sit and talk with different Farmers (I mean, we get to talk to each other almost every day!). We learned so much about the other side of the business that way. The meal was nothing short of amazing, with more pork than we ever thought we could eat in one sitting. The dinner included an awards ceremony where they announced the top 10 hog farmers being judged on flavor and consistency. It was such a great experience to see how much pride these famers take in their product and in the way they raise their animals.
This dinner is also when they announce the recipients of the Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship award. This unique scholarship program enables young farmers to further their education in environmental and sustainable practices so they can return to their family farm and apply their college education in a very meaningful way. It was so moving to see these kids get rewarded for all their hard work and know that they love their family business enough to dedicate their lives to making it better and more sustainable.
Overall, our trip to Iowa was pretty freakin’ incredible. We think it is really important, as a retailer of meat products, to get to know the other side of the business once in a while and that’s why we come back year after year… To be able to see these farms, these hogs and the people who raise them! When our customers wonder what the difference is between our pork and our competitors it is these pictures and stories we have to share.
They’re back in time for summer!
The famous, the one and only, Route 40 Roadkill Roosters!
Marczyk’s best-selling semi-boneless chickens will be in the stores Memorial weekend. Boulder Natural, the purveyors of our Colorado chickens, have spatchcocked fresh chicken, marinated them in spices and oil, and they’re ready for the grill.
- Korean Style BBQ
- Southwestern Style
- Garlic Rosemary
- Balsamic Herb
It was 9:30 in the morning on what promised to be a typically hot July day last summer in Denver. Marczyk was already sweating a bit in his white chef’s jacket and black-checked pants, instant-read thermometer hanging from his neck, dusted with flour from eyebrows to black shoes. He had started the dough for the day’s supply of baguettes; customers would begin demanding them for dinner about 4 p.m. The temperature in the kitchen was 77 degrees, a bit warmer than the 72 degrees Paul would have preferred for fermenting his dough, but the back sliding door was opened to accommodate the morning’s shipment of goods and a breeze was damping the heat. There was a long, hot day in the kitchen ahead.
Brothers Peter and Paul Marczyk run Marczyk Fine Foods, a gourmet grocery, delicatessen and, recently, bakery, that has been an institution in Denver’s Capital Hill neighborhood since 2002. The bakery operation, however, was brand-new last summer, so new that Paul himself was the baker. Since then, the operation has blossomed into four full-time bakers and one part-timer. Paul’s 70 hours a week have eased back to something less strenuous, at least in the bakery.
The brothers said in an interview that breadmaking for them grew initially out of a need to supply their popular Capital Hill delicatessen and the timeworn adage that, if you want something done right, you must do it yourself.
“Peter and I are very hands-on people,” Paul said. “I think we like to do things in a certain way to achieve quality.” It turned out, Peter said, that the market was spending a certain amount every week on bread from outside suppliers, “but we were really not getting the quality of product that we desired.” They they began brainstorming. Paul has a background in brewing, so he was familiar with the biological and gastronomic processes of fermentation. Peter and Paul took a few classes in baking, but they didn’t think they’d learned enough. Finally, the two signed up for the King Arthur Flour Company classes in Vermont, classes for professionals. The experience was eye-opening.
“It makes you realize how much time I wasted in school,” Paul said, explaining that the pace in the King Arthur classes was so brisk that there was no opportunity for dawdling. Peter described it as a “master class.”
“It was like being young Jedis and having Yoda hand you the light saber,” Peter said, grinning, adding that students were expected to already have solid kitchen skills.
Paul’s first batch of sticky, fragrant baguette dough was ready to come out of the big floor-standing mixer and transfer to several plastic bins where it would ferment for a few hours. This is how bread made in the French style attains its best flavor, so it’s a step that is not to be skimped upon. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait to making bread; this was the waiting part for the afternoon’s baguettes. But there was no rest for the baker - a batch of pan bread, oatmeal loaves and what the brothers call “Sonnenblumenbrot,” whole-wheat loaves stuffed with sunflower seeds, needed to be put up and baked.
“In all candor,” Peter said, “Paul and I are Polish New Englanders who grew up with an attitude that if you want something done, just go do it.” After the King Arthur classes, that’s precisely what they did. “The decision was made,” Peter said. “We got back Saturday night from class and Monday morning we were making bread.
They’ve been doing it at least five days a week since then.
The Marczyk brothers are dedicated food enthusiasts - they wouldn’t blush at the term “foodie” - and their markets reflect that attitude. Accordingly, their bread ingredients are all organic, locally sourced and they eschew any but the most traditional preservatives. Honey, for example, is what sweetens their whole-wheat pan loaves because, Peter said, it extends the fresh life of the bread. Paul said it’s all about following traditional, proven formulas. He draws on his experience as a brewer for this.
“There are no new beer formulas,” he said. The same is true of bread - both bread and beer have been made by following the same basic guidelines for thousands of years. “Within those broad guidelines, we tweak [the recipes] ourselves and adapt to our equipment.”
Such as it is. Paul and his crew make each loaf by hand; the only machine involved is the big standing mixer, ubiquitous in every bakery. “We’ve tried to apply some modern-ness, some production savvy, to the process,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s not my vision to have a machine bakery.”
It was time for Paul to dust himself with more flour. The baguette dough had been fermenting for three hours and it was ready to be shaped into loaves, proofed and baked. He floured his hands so the sticky dough could be manipulated into the characteristic skinny torpedo shape of a baguette. The loaves were carefully set aside to raise again for an hour before they were slid into the oven.
Even now, the baguette production alone can barely keep up with the demand. Paul started out making 16 baguettes every day, with 10 going to the delicatessen and six out to the market floor. The six were so hastily snapped up, and the unlucky customers who didn’t get one so vociferous in their complaints, that he was forced to increase production.
Now, they’re making 120 baguettes every day and sometimes running out of them in a couple of hours, between supplying the delis in the two stores and putting the rest out for sale.
The baguettes were proofed and carefully scored. They baked for about 30 minutes, then went straight, and hot, into white paper baguette bags stamped with the Marczyk’s “M.” Some of them were dropped into a basket next to the cash registers. It’s even harder to resist a fresh, hot baguette at the market checkout than it is to forgo a candy bar. Peter Marczyk says a baguette is an ephemeral thing.
“You gotta come back and get another one,” he said, smiling.Tags: fresh baguettes, Marczyk Fine Foods, market made bread | Post Your Comments »
So many ways to describe meat today, here are some answers:
The big thing about grass fed - we call it finished - is how the animal ends its life. All beef (well almost) starts on grass and roams the prairie munching away on clean green grass. Then about 3-6 months (at least in Niman’s case) before the animal is set to be slaughtered it is moved onto a feedlot where it it eats a mix of wheat, corn and soy (mostly corn). This grain mixture fattens the animal up and allows the marbling in the meat that is so sought after. However grain costs money, and grass on the prairie is virtually free. So why is grass finished as expensive as feedlot finished?
Grass finished beef never gets moved to a feedlot. The animals spend their entire lives eating grass on the prairie. This is great for the animal who lives a more peaceful life. What the consumer will find in grass finished is that the animals don’t get very big because they never eat grain. The other challenging part about grass finished is that the animals have to be moved quickly from prairie to slaughter because they can’t eat anything after they leave the ranch. This is an example why we prefer to call this beef grass finished since virually all beef is grass fed at some point in their lives.
Bison (or buffalo) is a great alternative to beef. Bison is super flavorful, slightly gamey and has less fat and calories with more protein and iron than beef or chicken. Bison is the preferred name to differentiate between the water buffalo and the American buffalo. Our Bison is raised in Wyoming and Nebraska and are finished on grain just like cattle for the last 100 days of their lives. There is still enough fat in Bison steaks to make them very flavorful.Tags: all natural meats | Post Your Comments »
Good luck giving these delicious things away!
For the breakfast lover, this marmalade is bitter and sweet. We were thinking it would be delicious on a roast duck too.
Honey from near and far. Honey is great for you, and each one is unique. Learn more about those busy bees with Rocky Mt. PBS Great Ingredients. http://www.rmpbs.org/greatingredients/. Try the Tamarisk Honey, it’s the stout of the honey world. Drizzle it over a sharp Italian cheese.
Look at all these olive oils! Do you think someone would love any one of these to cook with our pour over their winter salads? From mild to sharp, bitter to soft, we know Marczyk’s has an olive oil for you.
And last but not least, chocolate! We’ll let this picture speak for itself.
Tags: chocolate gifts, denver gifts, holiday gifts, honey, Marczyk Fine Foods, Marczyk gifts., olive oil gifts | Post Your Comments »
It’s the dawn of a new year, and with that comes more than just little-used fitness memberships and NFL playoffs. Each and every new year brings out the pundits. The predictors. The soothsayers. (Here’s a joke I just made up: Who does a soothsayer go to see when he has a sooth-ache? Answer: a Transcendentist.)
And who are we to miss this train? Herein lies (in no particular order) our picks for this years biggest, baddest, and most trendy food trends.
Healthier kid fare
As parents, and even kids, become more conscious of what they eat, more and more healthy choices aimed at the ten-and-under crowd will make their way to grocery shelves. We’re not saying it won’t still be frozen or convenience food, but don’t be surprised to see some healthier, more natural selections.
Portion diets rather than elimination diets (i.e. Atkins, South Beach)
Remember when the Atkins diet was all the craze? Well people know now apparently what they didn’t know then. Eliminating entire food groups from a diet is simply not healthy, and can even be dangerous. While still avoiding generally unhealthy foods, like foods high in saturated fat or high fructose corn syrup, smart and healthy dieters are embracing things like carbohydrates and fats. But they are tailoring their diets by eating smaller portions.
Traditional dishes with non-traditional ingredients (i.e. Shepherd’s Pie with pulled pork instead of ground beef)
We are becoming more creative and daring with our ingredients. Perhaps this is because of The Food Network, or maybe it’s due to a wider variety of fresh ingredients being more readily available. Regardless, today’s home chefs are more willing than ever to reinvent traditional recipes and to mess with tradition. And now that we think about it, it may have more to do with the desire to utilize the fresh ingredients home chefs have on hand.
Mixed ethnic offerings (i.e. Asian tacos)
Korean BBQ tacos, anyone? Food fusion is not just for trendy restaurants anymore. Savvy home chefs are painting with broader strokes by combining disparate ethnic favorites into savory selections.
Smaller portions at meal-time, with more snacks throughout the day
Many health and fitness experts are beginning to promote a diet where we eat carbohydrates and proteins every three hours, hungry or not, while forgoing traditional big meals. By doing so, the protein and fat (most proteins contains some fat) help keep the carbohydrates in the stomach longer, which increases gastric emptying time. We won’t get into all the gritty details here, but suffice to say that doing so helps burn your body’s fat stores, while helping you feel energized.
Plain old mashed potatoes are for the Cleavers (you remember June, Ward, Wally and the Beaver, right). Today’s home chefs are getting more and more creative with their potato companions. Prosciutto, brie, brown sugar, mustard, and artichoke bottoms are just some whacky (and by “whacky,” we mean “delicious”) suggestions. And when it comes to french fries, don’t be surprised to see some new twists in toppings, as well as enjoying them cooked in pure beef fat, pork fat, or duck fat.
Perhaps an outgrowth of the push towards buying locally grown or produced foods, itself a trend from recent years, small, local markets are gaining favor, especially in urban areas where city dwellers (”localvores”) are paying more attention (pun intended) to whose pockets their dollars line. Locally owned small businesses actually have the leg up over the big box stores in this case.
Here’s how it works: Invite some friends over for dinner, and when they ask you what they can bring, give them a list of ingredients for one or two of the side dishes. Then when the cooking begins, get them involved. Today’s homes have larger, open floor plans that play to the fact that the kitchen is always where the party ends up anyway, so you may as well start it there, too.
There you have it. Think you can play this game, too? Have some trends of your own that you think will show up in the months to come? Please share them with us in the comments section. We love to hear from you!
Posted by Kyle Durlam, MFFII meat dept. and wordsmith.Tags: all natural meats, colorado, marczyk, party, trends 2012 | 20 Comments »
Butcher and fun aren’t usually in the same sentence, but here at Marczyk’s they are! Marczyk butcher Jimmy Cross, aka Jimmy the Butcher, has been busy giving advice and showing off his skills. Last fall, The Museum of Contemporary Art hosted Art Meets Beast, a three day nose-to-tail event featuring butchering, then a feast of the beast. Jimmy did the cutting, and 10 of Denver’s top chefs did the cooking. Check out this fun video MCA put together!
This month, Jimmy is part of a beautiful new book from Williams Sonoma, The Cook and the Butcher, which features recipes and advice for preparing meat. It’s a beauty and would make a great gift.
Next month, an event called Couchon 555 is coming to Denver. Couchon 555 is a one-of-a-kind traveling culinary compition and tasting event - 5 chefs, 5 pigs, five winemakers - to promote sustainable farming of heritage breeds. Mike Anderson made a video for Jimmy’s entry, it is a riot so check it out!Tags: 50 Top, all natural meats, denver, Denver butchers, Marczyk Fine Foods, MCA, Williams Sonoma | 13 Comments »
What is dry-aging? In the past, beef was slaughtered in a central area with good proximity to railway (like Denver or Chicago) and then it was shipped, whole and hanging, around the country to skilled butchers closer to the final point of sale. Two technologies changed all this: Cryovacing (Cryovac is like Kleenex—a brand name for the process of removing all air from a plastic bag and sealing it) and refrigeration. Centralized slaughter became centralized meat packing. Now beef is packed in plastic bags and boxed very soon after slaughter (2-4 days) then shipped in trucks and “aged” in the bag, aka “wet-aging”. In the dry-aging process, approximately 20-30% of water weight is lost as the meat hangs in a cold room. The result of dry aging is a densely flavored (less water to dilute flavor) extremely beefy and tender piece of meat. This is the meat you will only find at the very best of the very best steak houses and markets. Like Marczyk’s! We get all our Niman Ranch rib roasts in late November, and age them in our cold room. Then our butchers cut them to your specs.
Tags: Denver all natural meats, Denver dry aged meats, Denver prime rib, Marczyk dry aged meat, Marczyk Prime rib, Niman Ranch Denver | 10 Comments »
“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” ~Alfred E. Newman
Pete was asked an interesting question the other day: “Why is your meat more expensive than so and so’s? They’re both all natural, right?”
WRONG. “All natural” on a label refers to the meat after it has been processed. Many retailers call their meats “antibiotic free” meaning that when tested, there are not residual antibiotics—it doesn’t mean that the animal was raised without their use. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, “natural” can be used on a label as long as a product does not “contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, for example).” Under these guidelines, CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation—the source of most meat in the USA) beef, pork and chicken can be labeled all natural. Under these guidelines, it includes animals that have received antibiotics and hormones to promote rapid growth.
So what does Marczyk’s “all natural” mean? All our meats are raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones by family farmers within the Niman Ranch company. None-Ever. They are naturally raised, outside, with room to roam. The chickens come from Boulder Natural Meats, raising chickens naturally since 1990. “We are concerned with husbandry and genetics, vegetarian feed and supporting family farms,” says Paul Marczyk. “but most of you don’t need a story… the proof is in the taste,” he says. Marczyk meats and chickens are antibiotic free, hormone free, and free range. If you ever wonder, come ask us at our Denver Store!
Morning Fresh Dairy/Noosa Yogurt.
The Graves family in Bellvue, CO has been in the dairy business for 116 years. These days, the Graves and their 5 children work the dairy daily, providing fresh, non-homogenized milk in glass bottles to homes and businesses like Marczyk’s.
Modern milk is usually homogenized and pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heating process that kills bacteria and homogenization breaks down the molecular structure of the fat cells, which makes the milk more stable and increases its shelf life. Morning Fresh sells cream top milk, whole milk, 1% and 2% milks, chocolate milk, and seasonal eggnog. The taste on all their milk is richer than homogenized. Heavy cream is their stand-out product - it can be whipped by hand, holds together for days once whipped, and hardly needs any sugar.
And to keep up with the times, they have added Noosa yogurt: an Australian style yogurt in several flavors. Imagine…a thick, not too sour, not too sweet yogurt that our customers swear is the best yogurt we carry. (A yogurt with its own Facebook page?)