The Meat Of This Story: Local Deer
by Cora Lewis | Feb 19, 2014 12:02 pm
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Dining, Food, Chef Of The Week
The most recent experiment out of Meat & Co.‘s sandwich lab included a rare ingredient in an urban setting: the freshest possible venison sausage.
“Composing” the sandwich one recent afternoon (Meat & Co.‘s creations are all “compositions”), chef Aerin Zavory placed the delicacy onto a pretzel bun layered with red-onion jam and Landaff cheese.
The deer responsible for the venison was shot through the neck on a nearby farm, according to “sandwich artist” Zavory (click the video to watch her at work), which meant the sausage was of the best quality.
When the animal is hit there, it bleeds out most quickly, “so there’s no old blood hanging out in the body to damage the meat,” she said.
To make the sandwich’s sweet jam, the chef simmers onions in red wine vinegar for about an hour until they are soft and spreadable.
The cheese, a savory foil to the sugary mush, is a form of Swiss, also sourced from a local farm.
And the main event, the deer, arrived recently at 116 Crown (the restaurant next door, whose full-service kitchen is shared with Meat & Co.) whole. Zavery and other chefs “broke the animal down” to use all of its parts.
“A deer’s especially hard to butcher because it’s lean, leapy and muscular—like a giant rabbit,” she said. “Pigs are fat and have more rolling muscles.”
Zavory (pictured) learned to handle full animals working at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, called Nostrana right after culinary school, she said. She’s comfortable working with pigs, lambs, and deer, but said she’d like to work on a farm sometime in the future to learn even more.
Zavory, who majored in art history in college, said one of her favorite parts of being a chef has been learning about animals’ anatomy and physiology to use each part as well as possible, which reminds her of the importance of anatomy to accurate figure drawing. After school, she decided to become a chef when she had difficulty work in galleries. “There’s also no money in art,” Zavory said.
Once the sandwich was partly compacted by a panini press, Zavory added some squirts of malt vinegar “to cut into the fat” of the deer sausage and “meld all the flavors.”
She gave it some more time in the heat under pressure, then slid the masterpiece across the counter. One other plus cooking has over the art world: instant gratification.
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OMG the interview was kinda awkward, the Sandwich Artista was busy creating a piece of delicious edible artwork while simultaneously being interviewed.
I must say, I have eaten at Meat & Co. somewhere around a dozen times already since they opened. They are now open late nite, which is something New Haven needs desperately! All the other college towns that have good nightlife and are small to medium sized cities all have plenty of late-nite food options (late-nite meaning open around last call, 1-2 a.m. on weekend nights) whereas The Elm City has but a few choices, and while they are terrific, it gets tired choosing between Louis Lunch (if they are open), Mamoun’s, and Pizza at the Brick Oven.
If you know anything about 116 Crown, you will then realize the exacting attention to detail for every little tiny aspect of Meat & Co.
I remember the first or 2nd time I went to 116 Crown, I was amazed that even the disposable paper towels in the restrooms were 5* quality! It is attention to detail like that which makes 116 Crown and Meat & Co. true Crown Jewels of not only Crown Street, but New Haven entirely.
You would have to travel into NYC to get a high-end, gourmet, exotic lunch spot like Meat & Co.
If the $10 pricetag seems too steep, then go for lunch on Mondays and get the soup of the day, bag of chips (small batch from a local CT company, of course), and a bottle of soda (all unique, sometimes exotic, stuff-you-don’t-really-see-much-of-anywhere-else type of beverages) and the sandwich for $10.
No I don’t work there, but when a place really makes a perfect bullseye when it comes to a small business, I will always champion them.
Seriously….every ingredient is either sourced locally, or created in-house. WTF?! Where can you find a restaurant that can claim that? The only other spot I can think of is next door, 116 Crown.
The crowd is usually quite hipster-ish, but I was treated kindly even though I don’t wear plaid, suspenders, or a moustache.