09 March 2008

New Butcher in Town

The Vine GroceryEver since I came home from China, I have been on a quest for fresh meat. In China, I got used to eating fresh local animals, and I took for granted the fact that these delicious creatures hadn't been mass produced and processed and stored in the freezer for months before they finally made their way to my plate...

I imagined the bliss I might experience if I could combine my husband's distinctive cooking abilities and the comforts of home with the extreme freshness of ingredients I had only seen in the developing world.

It didn't take long to completely eliminate the meats in my local supermarket chain from consideration. Now that I knew better, I couldn't stomach the over-processed, chemically and hormonally altered monstrosities they labeled as beef, pork, and chicken. I would rather become a vegetarian.

I knew it was possible to get good tasting beef locally, because we had bought a delicious 1/2 cow from a cattle farmer in Southern Missouri last summer. However, it takes a lot of planning (and a large freezer) to buy your beef by the cow rather than by the pound.

It tends to be more expensive to buy fresh, natural, local foods. So, as I set out on my quest, I decided I would pay whatever it cost to get good meat. If it was too expensive, I would just eat it less often. I started shopping more at Whole Foods, which was a step above my local mega-supermarket. Unfortunately, the high-priced meats were only marginally better tasting, and I had to drive 30 minutes to get there.

I was excited to hear about a new grocery store in my neighborhood, called Local Harvest, which carries natural meats from Missouri farmers. However, I was shocked to pay $15 for a frozen chicken! Even at those prices, the chicken was nothing special.

Now for the happy ending to the story. A small Mediterranean grocery store has just opened up less than a block from my house. They carry Missouri-raised beef, lamb, and chicken that is natural, fresh, and delicious. The lamb has a lovely flavor without any gaminess, and the chickens are the most delicious chickens I've tasted in this country in more than 5 years! As an added bonus, the prices are comparable, and sometimes even lower than what you would pay for the barely edible equivalent at a major grocery chain.

Although there are always some pre-packaged meats in the cooler (all labeled "meat" because they haven't figured out how to use the label feature on their new meat scale), Ali the butcher is happy to pull out a leg of lamb or side of beef and cut anything you want.

The Vine Mediterranean Grocery (314.776.0991) is located at 3171 South Grand in St. Louis, directly across from Jay's International grocery store. They have locally-raised beef, lamb, chicken, and goat, as well as prepared foods and sandwiches, and high-quality imported olives.

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