Wednesday, April 11, 2012
I had the good fortune to be invited to a party to mark the opening of The Real Meat Society (a.k.a. Day's Custom Meats), the new butcher shop run by my friend, chef Paul Day, he of restaurant Sansho fame. (So new they were still painting the sign out front when I arrived. See below.)
Paul was a butcher long before he was a chef, and he hasn't lost his love for the pleasures of the flesh. Indeed, he describes himself on his Twitter feed as a "chef, butcher, and urban meat roasting specialist."
Paul is trying to re-introduce the long-lost art of butchery to the Czech Republic. As Todd Benson recently wrote on the Prague TV website:
Paul's concept [is] simple: use local produce and help educate farmers on the raising and slaughtering of these animals...reintroduce Czech breeds of sheep and pigs that had vanished at the end of the First Republic, and move to a more localized way of production. (The farms would have their own abattoir to cut down on the stress of transportation, for instance.)
Paul's cool little shop at Náplavní 5 (boasting what have to be the city's only graffiti-covered meat lockers), not far from the Dancing Building in New Town, is small, but it offers an impressive selection -- from beautiful pork roasts and bacon and hamburger to homemade New York-style meatballs and duck and Mexican- and Hawaiian-style sausages. There's also farm-fresh eggs and homemade butter and fresh garlic and pickled mushrooms in jars that look like grandma canned them in the cellar.
Oh, and let us not forget the 9-week dry-aged beef.
I must admit to never having tasted a dry-aged steak, at least as far as I can remember. I had to do a little research to refresh my memory about what the term "dry-aged" actually means.
Basically, slabs of beef are hung for weeks in a carefully controlled refrigerator to "ripen," for want of a better word. Dry-aging is a tricky, expensive, but ultimately rewarding process that intensifies the meat's flavors while also acting as a tenderizer.
It's such a laborious and costly process that it's rare to find a restaurant or butchers even offering dry-aged steaks for sale.
Sadly, I was off to a squash game after Paul's party and couldn't buy anything to take home. Rest assured, I will be going back for a few dry-aged steaks and I'll report my findings here.
All the best to Paul in his new venture. You can find the shop's website, including opening hours, by clicking here.