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.
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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.
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- 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!
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.”
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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.
Honey from near and far.
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.
Ummm, olive oil.
And last but not least, chocolate! We’ll let this picture speak for itself.
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