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.
Tags: denver, Marczyk Fine Foods, niman ranch, pork | Post Your Comments »
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.
Tags: all natural meats, denver, Marczyk Fine Foods, natural meat | Post Your Comments »
- Korean Style BBQ
- Southwestern Style
- Garlic Rosemary
- Balsamic Herb
Get all up in Our Grill!
Burger Night is Back!
11th Anniversay Weekend
Sunday Pancake Breakfast!
Tags: all natural meats, burger night, denver, Marczyk Fine Foods, Niman, pancake breakfast | Post Your Comments »
Here are some exciting Irish cheeses for you to try this St. Patrick’s Day. We’ve got Cashel Blue, Dubliner, a classic Irish cheddar, in addition to Cahill’s Porter cheddar and a Kerrygold cheddar aged with whiskey. Cheers!
Tags: cheese, denver, irish cheese, Marczyk Fine Foods | Post Your Comments »
The only bad news about the new Jax opening is that the Terminal Bar is finally, completely, erased. R.I.P. juke box with Johnny Cash, and welcome to LoDo beautiful, shiny, delicious Jax! Pete, my sister Mariah, and I went to the grand opening and had really really good food, interesting food, well priced food in a happy setting. The bar now runs the length of the room, and the dishes are bigger than a starter but smaller than a dinner, so you can eat more things. More things like this:
Iceberg lettuce and fresh shrimp
Sturgeon with creamed turnips, maitake mushrooms, and pinot noir fumet. Order a small or large serving.
This was just so damn good. texture, taste, it was all going on!
All your fave seafood in a sauce. Excellent.
The scallop serviche was also amazing. Soft scallops in a bath of grass green fruity olive oil. No picture, too busy eating.
Tags: denver, Jax Denver, marczyk, Marczyk Fine Foods | Post Your Comments »
Thank you Jax!
Loch Duart Scottish salmon, spinach, feta, pine nuts, nutmeg and other spices, rolled in the same dough we use for our pies. Egg wash and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
“Listen. I ate that thing, and it was beyond delicious.”
Tags: denver, Marczyk Fine Foods | Post Your Comments »
“All natural” Beef
All natural refers to the meat after it has been processed. The USDA defines it as a product that does not “contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, or chemical preservative.”
Marczyk all natural beef: In addition to the USDA requirements, we require that animals are raised humanely and sustainably, never given hormones or antibiotics, and fed a vegetarian diet. And it tastes great! For more info: http://www.nimanranch.com/Index.aspx
“All Natural Pork”
All natural refers to the meat after it has been processed. The USDA defines it as a product that does not “contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, or chemical preservative.”
Marczyk all natural pork: In addition to the USDA requirements, we require that animals are raised humanely and sustainably, never given hormones or antibiotics, and fed a vegetarian diet. Our pork is raised outside and allowed to root and roam. It tastes like pork used to!
For more info: www.nimanranch.com.
“Free Range” Chicken
USDA definition: “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”
Marczyk free range chickens: We search for farmers who practice the highest definition of the law, and actually provide a natural outdoor space for the birds, not those who follows the letter of the law, and opens a door to a concrete patch so the birds can go outdoors.
Antibiotic free, all vegetarian feed.
First let’s clear up the hormone question: it is illegal to give pigs and chickens hormones in the US. Antibiotics are allowed, and plenty of them: “The proportion of antibiotics sold in the United States each year that go to animals…is 80 percent. 28.8 million pounds.” Maryln McKenna, Wired Science. Not good for you, or them. All vegetarian feed means the animals were not fed any animal by-products: beaks, bones, etc. This helps reduce the spread of disease.
Prarie foraged chickens.
From farmer Dallas Gilbert in Bennett, CO. They are outside and inside, pecking around in the dirt in addition to their feed. These chickens are a little smaller, and have a very meaty texture.
What’s the difference between Marczyk’s turkeys and conventional?
Annually, the U.S. produces 220 million conventional turkeys that are raised in dark and cramped conditions within high density confinement barns. They are bred for large breasts and often grow so large in as little as 2 months that their legs buckle under the pressure of their own weight. They are continuously fed a diet that has an added antibiotic designed to promote “health” within the flocks. No growth hormones are allowed in the use of poultry production per USDA regulation; however, these added antibiotics can mimic the growth hormone function. These turkeys are typically injected with water and sodium phosphates to provide flavor and enhance tenderness. Marczyk’s birds are none of the above.
Do they really taste differently?
We say the truth is in the taste, and these birds are no exception. You’ll find Marczyk’s all-natural classic turkeys to be free of the slightly chemically taste of supermarket birds. If you want to go one step further, you can brine the bird in a salt and sugar water mixture. The heritage birds have a rich, deep turkey flavor, not gamy like a wild bird, but “turkeyer”.
Do I need to cook the Heritage turkeys differently?
Yes. Heritage turkeys are leaner and smaller than broad-breasted whites, so cook them fast at higher temperatures. Heritage turkeys should be cooked at 425-450 degrees F until the internal temperature reaches 140-150 degrees F. Butter or oil can be added under the breast skin to add moisture during roasting. We have also had great success with confiting the legs and roasting the breast, which of course requires taking them apart.
You won’t need to cover the breast with foil to keep it from drying out while the rest of the bird cooks. The smaller breasts on the heritage birds create a better balance between the dark meat and white meat, which means roasting a bird to perfection is much easier since white meat cooks quicker than the dark meat.
What do those terms on the turkey label really mean?
Here’s a guide from Bon Appetit 2006.
Free-range A turkey with access to the outside. According to Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, many free range birds do not take advantage of their outside opportunities. So does it really make a difference? We feel the general protocol of raising a free range bird vs. a confinement bird goes far beyond whether they step outside or not. The fact they have a chance says a lot about how that bird is being treated.
Fresh Technically, a turkey that’s never been kept below 26°F. Most Thanksgiving birds are processed in September and October but are still labeled fresh in November.
Frozen A bird that’s stored below 0°F.
Natural A bird that contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is minimally processed. Amazingly, this doesn’t mean it hasn’t been treated with antibiotics.
Organic A turkey that has been certified by a USDA-accredited agency. The term organic ensures that the bird was raised on organic feed, was free-range, and wasn’t treated with any antibiotics.
What if I don’t want turkey? Marczyk’s offers a wide range of other birds: Pheasant, Quail, Duck, and Goose are all available by pre-order by calling 303 894-9499 to order.
Other things to consider:
Tags: all natural meats, denver, food, heritage thanksgiving turkeys Denver, recipe | Post Your Comments »
- Do bring a nice bottle of wine to the host’s house. And if they do not use it that evening, don’t take it back with you. No lie a girl I know does this.
- Don’t eat the crispy turkey skin when you think no one is looking. A - Some one is always looking. B - Everyone else is doing it and you’ll end up with a bald bird.
- Do offer to clean up afterwards.
- Don’t call the host the night before with a list of your allergies unless it is an allergy that will kill you. If there is something you are suspect of (oysters in the stuffing?), spread it out on the plate and it looks like you ate some.
- If you are doing the cooking and you tell people dinner is at 4:00, then serve dinner at 4:00. If the wine continues to flow and there is no food, you may be looking at a holiday version of “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Day Do’s and Don’t:
It’s fall and the cheese staff is excited about Gouda this month - from young to old, we brought in something for everyone.
- Beemster XO — amazing deep flavors of butterscotch, whiskey, and pecan.
- Lamb Chopper — born to be mild. Buttery in color and flavor, this sheep’s milk cheese is smooth and dreamy.
- Midnight Moon — aged a minimum of six months, this goat gouda produces prominent caramel notes, with a slight graininess of a long-aged cheese.
- Wijngaard Chevre Affineur - handmade goat gouda produced by a small artisan cheese dairy. Matured for 10 months in special caves for the “affinage”
- Truffle Gouda - amazingly smooth and begging to be mixed with risotto. Melts lusciously.
- Marieke Gouda Burning Melange - The cheese buyer absolutely loves this small farmstead cheese maker from Wisconsin. Burning Melange is a flavorful cheese with stinging nettle, chives, celery, parsley, dried onion and garlic.
- Parrano - unforgettable cheese with a distinctly Italian temperament. A staple on any Gouda cheese board.
- Prima Donna - a Marczyk favorite, our go-to cheese after all these years. Nobody doesn’t like this cheese.
- Smith’s Farmstead Smoked Gouda - Massachusetts’ original farmstead gouda. Unpasteurized, farmstead smoked gouda from the Fatherland. Smooth and creamy, and the perfect balance of natural smoke.
Other new and exciting stuff to look out for:
- Carmody from Bellwether Farms in California. Highlighting the buttery flavors of Jersey milk. Carmody is the road that runs adjacent to the farm where this little beauty is made.
- Battery Park Brie, the flagship cheese of Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse. Strong mushroom and earth notes, with a touch of bread, grass, and fruit. Firm center, and intense soft outer paste. We are loving this right now.
- Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses. We have a great mix to choose from. Because of their precious and delicate nature, our cheese buyer carefully selects limited quantities of Neal’s Yard cheeses to ensure you get the absolute best quality. Our next shipment of Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses will arrive December 14, just in time for Christmas.
Our Current Selection:
- Keen’s Cheddar
- Hawes Wensleydale
- Harbourne Blue
- Colston-Basset Shropshire Blue
- Colston-Basset Stilton
- Red Leicester Sparkenhoe
- Whew that’s a mouthful!
Five Marczyk specialties to pair your cheeses with:
Primitivizia pastes - Eleonora Cunaccia selectively gathers herbs, berries, pine buds, and roots in the early Italian Spring.
Marchessi di San Giuliano - Absolutely stunning. Estate bottled - the fruit utilized takes place entirely on the San Giuliano estate.
Cotognata Quince Paste - dark, ruby red fruit paste made in a traditional slow process under the watchful eyes of Maria Grammatico, the Italian authority on sweets.
Dagstani & Sons - Local company that we are really into right now. Fruit is sourced locally, organic, and wild whenever possible. Delicate, small batch jam-making that will make you miss your grandmother.
Olympic Provisions cured meats - Buyer’s pick. Christopher recently brought this product in, and the staff are quickly falling in love with the quality of the salumeria’s products. Portland, Oregon based, using the highest quality local ingredients. The perfect complement to any cheese.
Join us for a cheese tasting next week at 17th Avenue from 4pm to 8pm; and on Saturday at Colfax Avenue from 10am to 1pm, and 3pm to 6pm. We will be featuring a variety of our new arrivals.
Tags: cheese, denver, holiday cheeses, Neal's yard | Post Your Comments »
« Previous Entries
My first experience with Green Chile (caps intentional and used out of reverence) was about 20 years ago. I had moved to Denver from Massachusetts; the only chili I knew was the red kind with lots of overworked finely ground beef and kidney beans. It was my first autumn in the southwest, and I was captivated by this new scent of roasting chilies wafting from the roadside stands with giant signs proclaiming: “Hatch Green Chile War!” Instantly, I was like a dog on point. I could smell chilies being roasted from a mile away. All of a sudden I was pursuing Green Chiles and Green Chile stews of all kinds, and they were everywhere. It was like hearing a new word for the first time. Among my friends there was much discussion and debate; I quickly joined the fray…thick or thin, tomatoes or tomatillos, potatoes, or flour, oregano or cumin, loin or shoulder. How could I have lived twenty-some years without even a hint of such an exquisite and complex thing? Such was the plight of a turtle-necked New Englander. I quickly developed a self-proclaimed sophisticated Green Chile palate, and, being a hands-on guy, I set out to make the perfect Green Chile. What I really learned over the last fifteen or so years is that Green Chile is as individual as driving, sex, or grilling…everyone has an opinion, and if you ask them they’ll tell you that theirs is the best. Here’s my opinion (with variations on the theme).
This so-called master recipe is the basic core of a traditional (my opinion again) southwestern Green Chile Stew sometimes referred to as New Mexico Green Chile Stew, or Pueblo Green Chile Stew. The recipe has as many variations as there are stars in the Taos night sky. I always serve mine with plenty of freshly browned warm tortillas. This is comfort food at its very best.
This recipe serves 6 with great leftovers
The Pork: I use pork shoulder (another name for this is butt) cut into 1 inch cubes. I use shoulder because 1) the price is right, and 2) it has far superior taste to loin cuts when cooked in this method. I use Niman Ranch pork from Marczyk Fine Foods which comes from heirloom breeds of pigs which are raised outdoors: not in confinement conditions. This yields a superior tasting pork (yes it even matters in a stew) and more highly developed connective tissue which lends an unmistakable pleasing texture.
The Green Chilies: I always opt for a milder Chile like Anaheims or Big Jims for this recipe, because the longer you cook the stew the hotter it gets. Plus, you can always add heat with crushed red pepper or cayenne, but you can’t take it away. I have had many Green Chile stews that were simply too hot to enjoy because someone tried to perfect the heat with their choice of Chilies. My opinion is that you should enjoy a slow steady gentle burn in your mouth–which makes you want to eat more.
The Recipe: (remember, this is peasant food, so don’t stress)
- 2 pounds pork shoulder cut into one inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium yellow onions: coarse dice
- 3 cloves finely minced garlic
- 1 pound peeled and diced tomatillos OR the juice of one lime
- 2 pounds flame roasted Green Chilies peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 pound very ripe tomatoes of any color: coarse dice (canned is fine)
- 4 cups pork, chicken, or vegetable stock, or water
- Kosher salt, pepper, and heating agents such as CRP, or cayenne to taste (add toward end)
Classic additional ingredients/variations:
2 pounds cubed potato or 2 tablespoons corn starch blended in ½ cup water or 3 tablespoons AP flour blended in ½ cup water.
Season pork thoroughly with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy shallow skillet until it just begins to glisten; add pork in small batches and brown deeply on all sides. The pork must not be crowded-we use a shallow skillet for the same reason-a deep one will steam and not brown the pork. Take your time and complete this step correctly-it makes all the difference. Reserve browned pork and save a bit of the rendered fat for the rest of the recipe. In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven gently sweat onions, garlic, and tomatillos in a some of the rendered pork fat (mo’ fat mo’ flavor). Cook until all vegetables are soft. Add the rest of the ingredients including the pork and cook until the pork is fork-tender…usually about 1-2 hours. About 45 minutes before you want to serve the Green Chile Stew add potato or other thickeners if desired also, and season to taste. Serve with warm flour tortillas.
Tags: all natural meats, denver, Green chiles, Marczyk Fine Foods, niman ranch | Post Your Comments »